In its 100th year of independence, Finland is presenting medals to war veterans living abroad.
It's not just any medal, either. It's the First Class medal of the Order of the White Rose, and receiving one brings high honours in Finland, said Vesa Lehtonen, Finnish ambassador to Canada. There are 38 medals being handed out in Canada alone.
Lehtonen was in Greater Sudbury this weekend to take part in Finn Fest. It was the perfect opportunity to present a medal to Viljo Virtanen, 92, who fought for his country's independence in the Second World War.
Virtanen is a resident of Finlandia Village for the past four years. He immigrated to Canada in 1965. He came here for work, because finding employment in Finland at that time was difficult. He knew Canada would provide a more comfortable life for him and his family, said his son, Ray Virtanen.
“Finland appreciates his efforts in those very difficult years,” Lehtonen said. “Finland has been living in peaceful times for about 70 years – the longest period in the country's history — and it's thanks to its war veterans.”