Look at that: little Finland is all grown up. For countries that happens when you can add three digits to your age. It all started in 1917 when the country tore itself off the flank of Russia and the shadow of Sweden and declared its independence. Borders were drawn and redrawn. To keep its sovereignty during WWII, Finland had to even play a dirty game, letting in the Germans to attack Russia from Finnish soil. As a loser in that game, we paid war reparations for nearly 10 years, delivering hundreds of ships, engines, and ready-to-install houses to Russia. Finland was the only country that managed to pay its WWII war reparation debts.
Since then one could write a sweeping anthology of free university education for the masses, the rise of the middle class, membership in the EU, adoption of the euro, female presidents and prime ministers, and the status of a neutral diplomat between East and West.
And I completely forgot dear Finland’s 100th birthday when I accepted the invite to go give a talk in Tartu, Estonia. While others dined, danced, and watched fireworks, I celebrated with a little piece of cake in the lounge at Helsinki Airport. How very inconsiderate of me.
(Helsinki, Finland; December 2017)