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Finland’s Heikinpaiva 2020 launches with screening of film about Sirkka Tuomi Holm

Sirkka Tuomi Holm was born just days before women earned the right to vote in the United States, a point her father considered vitally important and reminded her of it frequently. Her activism hasn’t stopped since.

Holm, who turned 99 last summer, is a walking, talking, living history book. From her grandfather fighting for the Reds during the Finnish Civil War, to her immigrant parents’ involvement in labor strikes, to being trailed by the FBI and being the first woman on the East Coast to be subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Sirkka has led a fascinating life — as she’ll reveal in her own words during the Upper Peninsula premiere of the biographical documentary film “Sirkka: Past and Present” on Thursday, Jan. 9 as part of the Nordic Film Series at the Finlandia University Finnish American Heritage Center. Showings will be at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., and series organizers anticipate having Sirkka being part of the screenings live via electronic communication.

This screening also serves as the kickoff to Heikinpäivä 2020, which takes place throughout the month of January. For a complete schedule of events, visit Finlandia.edu/heikinpaiva. It’s also the launch point for a year of special events across the Copper Country honoring the centennial of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. Sirkka’s story is truly one of female empowerment, and serves as a tangible, gripping and uplifting example for women of any age.

A veteran of the Women’s Army Corps, of the Finnish-American stage and press, and of numerous progressive and liberal causes, Sirkka’s vivid recollections will captivate viewers as she whisks them back through the decades, sharing stories of her countless life experiences, including her testimony on live television during the HUAC hearings, her stories from the picket lines during labor strikes, her many performances on the stages of Finnish-American halls, and her decades of service as a feature columnist in the monthly newspaper “The Finnish American Reporter.” Her monthly tales, appearing under the headline “Past and Present,” have appeared in that publication without fail since the paper’s launch in 1986.

Sirkka’s newspaper column is the basis for the title of the documentary, which was produced by the Finnish American Heritage Center (FAHC) at Finlandia University in Hancock, Michigan, in conjunction with filmmaker Kristin Ojaniemi of Bruce Crossing, Michigan. DVD copies of the film are available for $20 per disc, with all proceeds supporting programming at the Finnish American Heritage Center — a place dear to Sirkka’s heart.

The FAHC is the repository for many significant Finnish-American archival collections, including Sirkka’s personal papers and effects. To learn more about how you can donate materials to the Heritage Center, or how you can financially support projects like “Sirkka: Past and Present,” call the Center at 906-487-7347, or email joanna.chopp@finlandia.edu.