Tornedalians foreword

There is a Facebook Group /a kind of a network /virtual home for people having their roots  in Torne river valley Sweden Finland You are very welcome to apply for a membership of the group.

The Purpose of the network

In many cases our parents and grandparents were too busy trying to make a new life for themselves in America to tell us much of anything about the country from which they came.  Some didn’t talk about it for another reason, homesickness or painful memories in the old country.

There is a culture that exists in a band along both sides of the Tornio River.  If you look at a map of Sweden and Finland, find the Tornio River whose mouth is between Haparanda, Sweden, and Tornio, Finland.  Follow the river and valley on both sides of it as it goes northward.  That’s the region called Tornio Valley.

Until 1809 the Kingdom of Sweden included what is Finland today, and there was no division between the two countries along the Tornio.  The culture was the same on both sides of the river, and they spoke the same language.  In 1808 Sweden and Russia went to war, and the Russians won, taking Finland as their prize.  The border was the Tornio River, right in the center of an existing culture!  About 80 % of the people became part of Sweden, and the other 20 % became part of the independent Russian duchy of Finland and later when Finland became independent in 1917, part of Finland

Our relatives in this area spoke Meänkieli, a language with the same origins as Finnish.  Many words are the same, but there is enough difference that it isn’t mutually understood.  The Swedes in the area had some influence on the language.  For instance, in Finnish “address” is “osoite”.  In Swedish the word for “address” is “adress”, in Meänkieli the word for address is “atressi”, which is more similar to Swedish than to Finnish.  Finnish is a Finno-Ugrian language.  If “adress” looks familiar, there’s a reason for that.  Swedish and English are Germanic languages and thus related.

The people who left the valley in years past have spread all over the world, and our group would like to have us all come together again, at least in spirit.  Besides the webpage there will be a computerized emigrant and cultural center.  We are all encouraged to send things or copies of things we have at home to this center, things like letters, photographs, and other items that can be mailed.  By doing that, our place in our homeland will be a place of welcome, peace, and family.

The vision of the founders of the first version of the network, Herbert Wirlöf and Sture Torikka, was to work for uniting of all Tornedalians in the world. We would like to solidify our identity. And with Tornedalians we mean even their descendants.

The founders start out with the understanding that we are now in a modern multicultural society, not the culture and language of our heritage. The network works to unite the people from the Torne River Valley. They will with pleasure remain as contact persons  to our group.

We in the group are taking over much of their visions and goals of the initial founders and develop new ones in the future.

The network

The groupwill work in accordance with the visions of the founders and the proposals and views that come out from members.

The main office in ....... itself will be a network for collecting info to the museum to store some of our artifacts and display our cultural uniqueness.

Become a member in our world-wide network, with ideas and friendship going both directions.



Recruitment Area

An important thing to remember is that both the eastern and western sides of the Tornio River are defined as the same region. As you look at a map of the area notice on the Swedish side the names Haparanda, Övertorneå, Pajala, Gällivare, and Kiruna. Theses five are municipalities, divisions that center around the larger towns in the area.  A municipality is a lot like a “township” in the United States.

In Finland the municipalities are Tornio, Ylitornio, Pello, Kolari, and Muonio.

We hope to find the descendants of the immigrants from the Tornio Valley.  If you aren’t sure about the village where your family came from, please contact our secretaries, and we’ll be glad to help.

Objectives and Background

There is a personal place for the Tornedalians.  There was a huge loss to the region and to us as descendants when the Swedes and Finns denied our distinctness and forced us to change our language and when so much of the population moved away to the United States and Canada.

We want to try to repair that loss. People who moved lost their ability to communicate with other people from the same area and in many ways lost the culture of our ancestors.   

We want to fill in the gaps that emigration and forced change in culture have caused.  We want a quiet home where some of our people can express in writing and art their feelings.  For the immigrants’ children and grandchildren they will be able to see some of the culture that they would have had if their ancestors had stayed at home. And people in the region and the decendants to the emigrants will have a view of our their ancestors lives in their new counties.

Lastly, the association will be focused on the future, asking itself what will happen to our culture if we do not try to influence our people's future in a positive way, keeping our culture and growing with that cultural base.

We all want everyone to feel at home and hope to establish connections all over the world.


The initial founders are wishing us Good Luck!

Vivian White