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The father of our national epic

He is still considered to be one of the great men of Finland.

Elias Lönnrot lived from 1802 to 1884. He wasn’t only a writer, but also a doctor, a scientist, an explorer and a professor of Finnish language and literature. Lönnrot also did a lot of important work for the Finnish language, he reformed the language, translated many psalms into Finnish and he was the publisher and a journalist of the first Finnish magazine.

Between the years 1828 and 1834, he traveled around Finland. On those travels, he gathered a lot of poems from different poem performers. From those poems, he made Kalevala, our national epic. So, Kalevala is basically a huge book of poems, which all together make one big story. The first edition of Kalevala was published in 1835. It was the time when Finland was an autonomous region of Sweden, and Kalevala was a big part of the increasing Finnish identity.

The story is a bit confusing, full of battles, death, and love. Shortly, the storyline goes like this:

The world is formed from an egg of a bluebill. Main character Väinämöinen is born from Ilmatar, who is like the Mother Nature. When Väinämöinen is an adult, he literally sings one man Joukahainen to the swamp (they battle by singing). To get out of the trouble, Joukahainen promises his sister, Aino, to Väinämöinen. Aino doesn’t like the idea and commits suicide by drowning. Louhi (the Queen of the North) promises her daughter, the Lady of the North, to the one, who will make Sampo. Sampo is a machine, which produces countless quantities of gold, grain, and salt. Väinämöinen has a friend, Ilmarinen, who is a smith and he makes it. After Louhi gets Sampo, she doesn’t fulfill her promise and keeps both Sampo and the daughter. Many men in the story make different deeds to win the Lady, and finally, Ilmarinen is the one who gets to marry her. One man, Lemminkäinen, who also wanted the daughter, gets mad and ruins the wedding.

Later Ilmarinen buys a slave, Kullervo. But his new wife doesn’t like Kullervo. She bakes a bread, which has a stone inside and of course, Kullervo gets mad. So, he curses the Lady to death. Ilmarinen is sad and he goes to the North with his friends to steal the Sampo back. They have a huge battle and the Sampo gets broken.

In the end, a girl named Marjatta gets pregnant from a lingonberry, and she gets a boy. Väinämöinen wants to kill the fatherless boy, but the boy wins the battle. Väinämöinen has to leave this world, but when he is leaving, he’s telling that one day he’ll come back.

So, the story is basically everything that happens in Finland every day. Lönnrot did a lot of work to gather this book, and people in Finland do appreciate it because it’s part of our culture. For example, I had to read this book at school when I was sixteen.

Short bio of the volunteer:

Karoliina Nissinen, 21 years old volunteer from Finland. Loves new languages, cultures, coffee, nature and colourful clothes.


Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing for a diverse and rich Europe.

Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.

In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3, which is for the support of reformation policies.

European Voluntary Service

Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.

We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.

Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.