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28 January, 2018

Nurse Yo-Yo

Becoming Nurse Yo-Yo

My arrival in London on Friday morning May 31, 1963, was softened by the presence of my brother Toivo and my sister Mary. They met my travel mate Sinikka and me at the Liverpool station. Toivo had to go to work, but Mary was our guide the rest of the day as there were numerous things we had to get done before the weekend.

Mary had checked out what train we should take to Carshalton Beeches station. The handle of my new suitcase had broken, and we had too much luggage to carry. We took a taxi for the short drive from the station to the hospital.
Carshalton Beeches station

Route map to the hospital. Hospital area at the bottom.

Immediately on our arrival at the Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children in Carshalton, Surrey, the Nursing Home Sister took us to the Needle Room to get our uniforms. Mine was a long-sleeved pink-striped dress with white removable cuffs, a starched white apron, and a starched piece of cloth which I had to learn to form into a winged headgear.

Me with little Amanda, a patient on Ward A1

Nurses Home

We had a quick lunch at the hospital, and then rushed back to London by train to get some official registration documents. 
After several other errands, we returned to the hospital. Only late that same evening we were shown our rooms at the Nurses Home. We were surprised that we each had our private room. I described every detail in my letter to my aunt.

After an early breakfast the next morning we went for our first visit to the Matron’s office in the Administrative block. The Deputy Matron, Miss Bullock, was charming.  She looked at my documents and said,

“Oh, you’ve come all the way from Finland! 
I’m sure you will want to take a holiday to go home while you are here. That is no problem. We can arrange it for you. 
Usually, you will have four weeks holiday a year, divided into two separate periods. But as you live so far away, any time you like, you can ask to get your four-week holiday in a single period.”

I had just arrived at the hospital 
and had not even started my studies. 
I had not thought about going back home 
during the three years of study. 
I had lived even further away from Finland twice, 
seven years at a time, 
so what was three years? 

The thought of a possible visit to Finland was sown in my mind.

My course would start July 1. I was to work on a babies’ medical ward for the first month. Sinikka on an orthopedic ward. 
Miss Bullock showed us where we would start working the next morning.

The walk through the hospital grounds was like walking through a park. Oaks gave shade along the roads leading to the wards.  The lawns were well kept.
The Hospital grounds as seen from the air.

The first week, even though I worked full hours on the ward, I spent all my free time with Mary and Toivo, learning to find my way around, finding new friends, using trains, buses, and the Underground.  They both returned to Finland the following week.

 My other two brothers, Samuel and Emmanuel, had returned to Finland for a short visit, leaving dad alone on the ship. I was all alone in England, except for Sinikka.
I enjoyed caring for the babies and toddlers on Ward E1. 

The Ward sister had some problems deciphering my surname. 
How was it to be pronounced? 
Nobody used the given name of a nurse. 
Another nurse on the ward solved the problem.

“Oh, you can’t pronounce a name spelled Y-R-J-O-L-A! 

We just call her Nurse ‘YoYo.’”

That was my name the three years at Queen Mary's.

 Older kids had fun with my new name.

20 January, 2018


At the top of my file of letters written from the three years I lived in England, June 1963 to June1966 are two letters written by my father. He was the only member of our family at the time on the “Ebeneser” gospel ship in Ernakulam in Kerala, South India. The first letter was a birthday greeting. In the second, written three days later, he thanked me for making him happy with the good news I had written to him. Something had happened in the past few weeks, giving me a new perspective on life.

My relationship with dad was strained ever since a trip on the ship made me miss celebrating my twelfth birthday and forced me to miss several days of school. Every year after that I protested having to go to the ship for our holiday. The only way we could be together as a family was to stay on the “Ebeneser” during our school holidays. Those holidays were no pleasure trips. Dad’s missionary work, and especially the work on the Gospel ship kept him away from his family far too much.

The cabin on the ship was hot, tiny and cramped. If I wanted to go anywhere, someone had to take me by boat to the shore. There was nothing to see but the market with just cabbage, beans and pumpkin and slivers of fly-covered meat.  Before sunset, we swam around the ship. There was not enough fresh water to take a shower each day. I think I made life miserable for everyone.

The green hills and the multi-colored sunsets reflected in the river flowing behind our house at 1060 Peradeniya Road were my daily joy. 

I could ride my bike and borrow books from the British Council Library as often as I liked. The weather was never too hot.

The final blow came when I finished my General School Certificate exams. We had to leave Ceylon (Sri Lanka) the country that I had adopted as my home. I did not belong anywhere else.

Dad left the Ebeneser in the care of two of my brothers, Samuel and Emmanuel in Ernakulam. 

The rest of us, my parents, Toivo, Mary and I took a 50-hour train journey from there to Bombay (Mumbai). Hot winds blew soot and dust into our third-class carriage. I rebelled against the thought of ever following the path my parents had chosen for their lives.

I would NEVER be a missionary. I would NEVER return to Dad’s ship. I would NEVER marry a missionary. I would NEVER have children who would be just as rootless as I felt just then.

The train was passing through a bleak arid landscape. I missed the lush green hills of Kandy. 
How could any place so close to Ceylon be so different?

I added one more NEVER to my list.
If God wants me to go somewhere again, please, never send me to India!

In Bombay, we boarded the S.S. Stratheden, a P&O passenger liner, for London. 

Three weeks later we disembarked at Tilbury on my seventeenth birthday. The rainy, foggy weather matched my feelings. I had no future.

We stayed a few days in London. Before we continued our journey across the North Sea and Sweden to Finland, a young Finnish girl came to meet us. She had worked at a Children’s Hospital south of London.

I began asking questions. I thought I could stay in London right away with Toivo. He was not going to Finland yet. His correspondence course in Accountancy had led to his decision to continue his studies in London and find a job there. If I could work at the Children’s hospital, I would not be all alone in England. I thought there was nothing to go “home” to Finland for.

I called the hospital. The answer was,

“You are too young. Contact us again when you are eighteen.”

17 January, 2018

Journal of an Uprooted Life

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Yesterday I began reading my letters from 1963.

I left my home in Helsinki the day after my 18th birthday to study nursing in England. Just one year earlier I had been the most miserable seventeen-year-old who saw no hope for her future.

My journal-type letters from the overland journey through Stockholm, Copenhagen, Holland to London overflow with gratefulness to my maternal aunts and grandma who had given me the healing feeling of being “at home” during the short year I spent in Finland.

What had made the change from the blinding darkness of misery to a hopeful joy and willingness to face a new journey into an unknown future in such a short time? How long would that joy last? Were the wounds of a devastating uprooting of a sixteen-year-old healed that soon?

I’m trying to find out by reading the stories of my life in old letters.

My aunts Göta and Elna and my Grandma Sofia listened to my stories of my beautiful homeland I left behind in Ceylon. It was especially aunt Göta with whom I could share the beauty and the pain of the upheaval. She was fifty years old. Her friends became my friends. Her church became my church. She had been intensely involved in my life since I was born, though we lived continents apart throughout my childhood. Letters my mother wrote to her family in Finland from wherever our family happened to be around the world, and the letters they wrote to her formed a strong lifelong bond between us. 

11 December, 2017


 You have so many names
 Child in a Manger...
 Refugee child ... street child
 You are outcast ... unwanted
 Exploited… abandoned
 Fatherless, motherless
 Beloved, awaited
 Child in the Manger Who are you?

You once said:
 "Whoever receives one of these little ones
 in Your Name Receives You..."

 You want to live in our homes
 You want to open our eyes
 You want to enlarge our hearts

 You are no longer the Child in the Manger
 You are a child without a home
 You cry with hunger while scavenging
 the garbage cast from the rich man’s table
 You are tortured, you are whipped
 You are forced to satisfy adults' desires

 And yet you are the Love come from Heaven
 You still give hope to the world

If we let you live in our homes
 If we let you open our eyes
 If we let you enlarge our hearts