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“If Someone Attacks Finland, I’ll Be Here”: Dual Citizens Explain Why They Volunteer for the Army

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Finnish dual citizens told Yle that carrying out their Finnish military service was a way of strengthening their ties to the country while improving language skills.

Eighteen-year-old Andreas Peter Twisttmann Jørgensen wanted to carry out his military service in Finland, even though he could have been exempted from it because he lives abroad. Andreas has lived in Denmark for half his life, and when he was younger, his family lived in Sweden.

Finland grants exemption from military service for men who have lived abroad for at least seven years and are still living outside of the country when called up.

Nuori varusmies sotilasvarusteissa katsoo suoraan kameraan.
Andreas Peter Twisttmann Jørgensen said he wanted to carry out Finnish military service to learn more about Finland while learning the language. Image: Ville Välimäki / Yle

“I could have chosen not to do anything, but I still chose to come here,” he told Yle, saying he could also have opted to carry out his service in Denmark.

He arrived at the Armoured Brigade in Parolannummi, near Hämeenlinna, straight from Denmark. Although Andreas speaks good Finnish, he said that during the first few days, he had some difficulties with Finnish vocabulary.

“You don’t learn a lot of new words when you’re basically just talking to your mother in Finnish, saying things like ‘the food is ready’,” he explained.

Andreas said the opportunity to improve his Finnish language skills was a main motivator for taking up military service in Finland.

“Young Finnish people talk really fast and then there’s army slang, which I didn’t realise. Here I’m learning new words every day,” Andreas said, adding that the first one and a half months of service had been tough, but exciting.

“I’m born in Finland and I feel more Finnish than Danish, which is why I’m prepared to defend my fatherland if necessary.”

No figures

The Finnish Defense Forces said they don’t maintain statistics on the number of dual citizens performing military service in Finland.

Last year, Finland called up some 31,400 individuals for military service. Roughy three percent of this group were exempt because of living abroad, amounting to around 1,000 people.

Of the 1,300 who arrived at the Armoured Brigade in July, between 20 and 40 are dual citizens.

“A person’s other citizenship doesn’t impact training. Language plays a bigger role. Some dual citizens can speak fluent Finnish, while others only know some words. But everyone learns the commands quickly,” Niki Virtanen, a trainer at the brigade, told Yle.

Johannes Saarinen, a 20 year-old dual citizen of Finland and Sweden, said he received conscription letters from both Finland and Sweden. He filled out the necessary paperwork for both countries.

Nuori varusmies sotilasvarusteissa katsoo suoraan kameraan.
Johannes Saarinen, who lives in Sweden, said he wants to become mentally stronger while improving his Finnish. Image: Ville Välimäki / Yle

Sweden reinstated compulsory military service only recently, and there aren’t enough spots for everyone. This was also the case for Johannes, who didn’t get a place. He did, however, receive a call-up from Finland to report to the Armoured Brigade.

“I think this is an amazing experience. My father and grandfather have talked about it, and I wanted to continue on with that experience. I want to learn to be a soldier, improve my fitness and self-confidence, learn better Finnish and become mentally stronger,” he told Yle.

In my father’s footsteps

Max Kasteniemi, 21, is a Finnish and British citizen. While born into a Finnish family, he has spent his whole life in England.

He told Yle that things have changed a lot for him recently. A little while ago he was at university in Leeds. Now he’s living in Parolannummi, home to the Armoured Brigade.

varusmies tähtäämässä rynnäkkökiväärillä.
Max Kasteniemi was born and has lived his whole life in England. Image: Ville Välimäki / Yle

“I couldn’t have declined military service because I’ll always be Finnish. My father, grandfather and uncles have done their military service. They all said, ‘you have to go to the army in Finland.'”

Max said that the first two weeks were rough because he said his Finnish language skills weren’t very good.

“But it’s getting better here. I’m always learning something new. If I don’t understand something, I use English. But I want to learn Finnish. Now I can actually speak Finnish with my grandparents who don’t speak English. They’re happy about that.”

The dual national conscripts who shared their stories with Yle all associated military service as part of their Finnish heritage.

“This is my family’s country. If someone attacks Finland, I’ll be here,” he added.

Source: Yle

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