The Finnish Center at Saima Park
Antti Oskari Tokoi
Compiled by June Ilona Rantanen
memorial at Saima Park is written
1873 – 1963
Statesman ~ Journalist ~ Speaker
|Words to describe him:|
adventurer, a stubborn fighter for human rights, an able
leader of men, a skillful politician, a trustworthy
statesman, a courageous journalist, and a persuasive
speaker. A man of wisdom, compassion, and not least,
of courage.” John I. Kolehmainen, PhD
At the dedication of Tokoi’s memorial May 21, 1989
At Saima Park
“You are fulfilling the wish of President Urho K. Kekkonen who, in his 1970 speech in Fitchburg stated,
‘I would urge you to build and maintain cultural bridges between the United States and Finland, and, thereby, preserve the roots of Finnish tradition.” Edwin E. Kaarela, Esq., Consul of Finland
“We are reminded that this memorial to his achievements stands as a proud recognition not only of Tokoi’s own life but as proof of the enthusiasm with which Americans of Finnish descent have cherished and preserved their heritage in the new homeland.” Spokesman for the office of New York’s Finnish Consul General, Antti Lassila
“Mr. Oskari Tokoi, Vice-president of the Imperial Senate of Finland that was Finland’s first national government, was a significant national leader in those difficult years prior to independence. He has a permanent place in the political history of Finland, not only as one of the founding fathers of the nation, but also as a great champion of the labor movement.
In the United States he has an outstanding record of achievement as a long-time editor of Raivaaja, and a great champion for the cause of his fellow countrymen, both in the new country during World War II also in the old country.” Mauno Koivisto, President of the Republic of Finland
The Oskari Tokoi Memorial that is outside of our function hall at the Finnish Center at Saima Park was dedicated on May 21, 1989. The program was the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Finnish Cultural Center at Fitchburg State College. Aili Walsh, president of the FCC (now united with the Finnish Center at Saima Park) presented welcoming remarks. Spokesmen’s quotes are noted above.
Antti Oskari Tokoi was born in Perho, near Kannus, Finland, on May 15, 1873.
His formal education consisted of Grade School. In 1891 he traveled to the USA and toiled as a miner in the Midwest. In 1900 he returned to Kannus, Finland, where he supported himself as a farmer and as a merchant.
In 1905, he was elected Kannuksen työväenyhdistyksen puheenjohtajaksi, the speaker for the Kannus united workers.
In 1907, Tokoi was elected sosiaalidemokraattien edustajaksi eduskuntaan, delegate to the parliament for the Social Democrats.
His political involvement in Finland included
Member of Finnish Parliament -- 1907 to 1918
Speaker of Finnish Parliament -- 1913
First Vice Speaker -- 1914
Prime Minister of Finland -- 1917
President of Finnish Federation of Labor -- 1910 to 1928
During the war in 1918, he served on the red side and was "kansanvaltuuskunnan elintarvikekomissaarina," commissioner of foodstuffs for the people of the democracy. He served as an Officer -- British command "Finnish Legion" – from 1918 to 1920.
After the revolutionary war with Russia, which led to Finland’s independence, Oskari Tokoi, being on the side of the Reds, had to flee to exile in Canada. In 1921 he moved from Canada to the US, living first in Fitchburg MA. He became a key member of the editorial staff of the Finnish Daily "Raivaaja" in 1922, and maintained that position until 1950.
At the end of World War II, he became an activist among Finnish-Americans in aiding Finland. In 1944, Tokoi was pardoned by the Finnish government for his involvement in the side of the Reds during the revolutionary years, when they admitted how valuable his contributions were to the achievement of Finland’s independence from Russia.
In 1949, as a guest of the Finnish government in Finland, Tokoi was asked to address a full session of Parliament. Tokoi was honored with an Aaltonen sculpture, at the Social Democrat party head quarters in Helsinki Finland. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth, Oskari Tokoi was honored with a memorial in Kannus Finland in 1973.
Tokoi lived much of his life in West Townsend, MA. He was a family friend and frequent sauna guest of Lyyli and Antti Linna, parents of Sirkka Linna Hoglund, the creater of his monument at Saima Park.