‘Cos I’m a Survivor’

Narratives of coping and resilience in recollections of difficult childhood in post-war Finland


In post-war Finland thousands of children experienced poor upbringing, neglect and abuse, and had to deal with their experiences without social support from adults. In this article we study how difficult and bitter experiences related to childhood crises are remembered, reinterpreted and reframed in later life and in contemporary Finland. As research material we use both oral and written reminiscences of childhood in the post-war years collected in the period 2014–2016. We argue that in the recollections of difficult childhood coping and resilience emerge as major narrative themes. Although informants in their childhood were forced to suffer in silence, they remember themselves as being resilient and capable of surviving in adverse environments. In their late adulthood public collection of childhood memories has offered them a suitable medium to remember and reframe their experiences as meaningful, by exposing the ‘culture of silence’ which prevailed in the post-war Finland.

Keywords: childhood memories, postwar, trauma, oralhistory, survival, resilience
Dec 25, 2018
How to Cite
Hytönen, K.-M., & Malinen, A. (2018). ‘Cos I’m a Survivor’. Ethnologia Fennica, 45, 55-78. https://doi.org/10.23991/ef.v45i0.65535