“Veikko Pöysti, a fighter, a communist” by Artturi Rönnqvist

Source: SKP – taistelujen tiellä III (1947). Translated by ML-theory blog.

It is doubtful if the life of any Finnish communist, with the exception of the life of Toivo Antikainen, has become so legendary in the minds of a large part of our nation as that of Veikko Pöysti, a fighter and communist, who died at the age of 33 in a ferocious battle against Finnish fascists in December 1942.

Veikko Henrik Pöysti was born on June 26th, 1909 in Hamina. His parents were actively involved in the workers’ movement. His father was part of the red guard in the revolutionary civil war of 1918, has been imprisoned twice due to his political activities and even now is an active member of our party. From his mother Veikko got a great warm heartedness towards the cause of the oppressed, and from his father a strict clear intellect and fighting spirit. Already since his childhood in his home Veikko experienced poverty and hunger, persecution and white terror, which served to turn him into a determined and strong fighter, who after becoming conscious of his mission, joined the struggle of the oppressed masses with all the enthusiasm of his energetic mind. At age 17 he joined a Timber workers’ union [puutyöväen liitto] chapter in Käkisalmi, even working as the chairman of the chapter and beginning his involvement in the athletic societies at the same time. But soon Veikko Pöysti took a more decisive step. His enthusiastic nature, full of fighting will, led him to the illegal communist movement in 1927 and he was a loyal party member since then.

That led Pöysti, like so many others, to the jails and prisons of the Okhrana [secret police]. He sat in prison for more than 10 years, but that didn’t defeat him. His time in prison he spent in determined study, and there too, fought against oppression and tyranny, developing into a principled fighter.

Veikko Pöysti got out of prison on the eve of war, May 25th, 1941. After he fell sick with pneumonia his comrades delivered him to a hospital, but learning that the Okhrana was coming to arrest him, Veikko fled and thus avoided being sent right back into prison. But he didn’t run from his pursuers out of fear of prison. He wanted to retain his freedom, to fight, to organize and to lead our people in the struggle against the criminal war. When the war began in 1941 there was widespread disgust towards the war among the workers. The time after the winter war had opened the eyes of many to see in the Soviet Union a friend of our country, and a joint war alongside Hitler’s Germany was loathsome.

But even with those who were unhappy, the resistance was often mere passivity. Although, there were many soldiers who didn’t follow orders to be drafted, masses of men escaped into the forests to avoid being drafted in the war, the forest guards were born, but even many of them didn’t know what to do. Those conditions required principled determination. It was necessary to understand that the only solution was merciless battle against fascism, the savage and ruthless enemy. And conclusions had to be drawn with uncompromising clarity. In many cases solving this question was influenced by the person’s own life being on the line. In that context the admirable clarity and great heroism of the actions of Veikko Pöysti become even more striking. The author of this text had a chance in those days to talk to Veikko. I remember well, how brilliantly he explained a solution to the problem that was difficult even for many class conscious workers. The only solution was to join the active resistance against the war, he said. And Veikko Pöysti had personal bravery and most of all, the practical intelligence to apply this conclusion to real life. “War must be answered with war” was his slogan. But Veikko didn’t embark on his fight as an individual. As a member of our party leadership, he began organizing the forest guards to activity, to build organization among them, made contacts, inspired people to fight and explained why it was necessary. Our party saw as the main objective, to paralyze the fascist war machine, and Veikko Pöysti acted accordingly. The enemy knew the significance of Veikko’s work. It began a frenzied search for him. When the resources of the okhrana [communist slang for Finnish secret police] were not enough to find him, regular police and military were ordered to join in, and they ceaselessly combed the forests and carried out surprise raids on houses. A quick ability to assess the situation, courage and cool-headedness saved Veikko many times from difficult situations.

During those times Veikko Pöysti didn’t allow himself to ever rest idly, and all those who ended up within his circle were seized by enthusiasm for work. When someone was about to become too tired or become apathetic, Veikko Pöysti found the words to inspire them with new enthusiasm for work and to be ashamed of their weakness. He was helped in that by his clear sightedness and understanding of people. Veikko Pöysti, if anyone, was a man of the people. He was always ready to discuss, advise, made jokes even in the most difficult situations. After long journeys and difficult battles, when the men were tired, Veikko remained tireless and always ready to help others. Those who lived in the same dugouts as him, reminisced how he helped exhausted comrades, prepared food for them and slept in worse places to allow others to rest better. Veikko was also physically surprisingly strong and tenacious. Once he escaped encirclement while still fighting and carrying a wounded comrade on his shoulder.

Indeed, strength and determination was required in that difficult fight Veikko Pöysti and his forest guards were waging. Persecutors didn’t give even a second’s respite. On his travels Veikko often had to stop by peasant’s houses to get food or help. Soon he made friends, good and courageous friends, who were ready to help in difficulties and provide shelter, though by doing so they exposed themselves to danger.

Veikko Pöysti was a loyal fighter of our communist party, fulfilling the party’s assignments surely and reliably. But he also had initiative and even when communications were severed he didn’t remain inactive, but carried out his work and managed to reestablish communications.

Until December 1942 Veikko succeeded in avoiding the traps of his persecutors. The day before Christmas in 1942 he fought his final heroic battle. That battle was fought in Hiekkaharju in Tikkurila, in a two storey building where Veikko had hidden to be closer to the rest of the party leadership and to instruct comrades under his responsibility. The photographs which Veikko Pöysti’s father has given to our use, tell effectively about this battle. In this last battle the balance of forces was extremely uneven. On one side was Veikko Pöysti alone, while on the other there were the police forces, reinforced with machine guns and other weaponry. Even so, the fire fight lasted for many hours. For two hours train traffic on the nearby railway was halted. After the leader of the persecutors fell in the battle, and ammo was starting to run out, they called for reinforcements from Helsinki. Veikko also ran out of bullets, but instead of surrendering, attempted to escape through the police encirclement, which is when he was hit by a burst of machine gun fire. Veikko Pöysti died as heroically as he had lived.

In his death our party and the people lost a brave fighter and a tireless defender of the oppressed. But the memory of heroes like Veikko Pöysti will never die, for the cause for which he gave his strength and his life, the cause of peace, democracy, and socialism, is a cause which never dies.


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