In 1939 Russia invaded Finland in a conquest for land but the Finnish
people were up for the fight. Finland had previously been under control
of the Russians but they had won their independence from them years
before. The occupation of Finland gave them a clear understanding of
exactly what the Russians were capable of and they were not about to let
this happen again. If the Russians were to win the war with the Finns,
the people of Finland would be enslaved once again by a godless and
cruel people. They were very determined to not let that happen again and
put everything they had into the fight.
At the Russian front, just outside of Suomussalmi, Finland, two Russian
soldiers kick in the door of a little country house. Inside the house a
twelve-year-old girl was standing in the corner of the room playing with
her dolls. Startled and afraid, the young girl attempted to run toward
the front door in an effort to get away from the soldiers but one of
them quickly stepped in front of her and slapped her across the face
knocking the girl to the floor.
The girl’s lip began bleeding from the blow to her face and she began
to cry from both pain and fear. The soldier picked the young girl up
from the floor and throws her on the table. The little girl kicks and
screams as she is crying, trying to get away from the Russian soldier.
The soldier easily overpowers the young girl and turns her over facedown
on the table with her legs hanging over the edge. The soldier pulls up
her dress, then pulls his pants down and grabs the little girl by her
ponytail pulling her head back.
A shot rings out in the room and the Russian soldier falls to the floor,
his head pumping out blood to the rhythm of the last beats of his heart.
Hans Gruber stands at the door with his rifle in hand. Hans is a Swedish
volunteer with the Finnish army and has a burning hatred for the
communists. The second Russian soldier in the room reaches for his rifle
and takes aim at Hans. He shoots at Hans and the round hits Hans in the
side of his chest. Hans fires at the Russian soldier as he falls to the
floor and bullet from his rifle hits the Russian dead center in his
chest, killing him instantly.
Hans staggers over to the little girl, weak from his wound, and comforts
her. Hans says to the girl, “Go to your mother and hide with her.”
The girl runs out the door and Hans faints from his wound and falls to
the floor. Hans wakes up in a Finnish hospital confused not knowing
where he is. Hans asks a nurse walking past his bed, “Miss, where am
“You are in a hospital in Oulu, Finland,” she answered.
“How long have I been here?” Hans asked.
“Three days and don’t worry, you are going to be fine.” The nurse
said. Relieved at knowing where he was Hans relaxed and put his head
back down on the pillow and quickly falls back to sleep.
Two weeks later an officer in the Finnish army presented medals to the
wounded soldiers in the hospital for their heroism in combat. Hans
received two awards for valor in hand to hand combat on the Russian
front. Hans didn’t know it but these two little medals would later
save his life. Due to his wounds Hans was released from duty with the
Finnish army. Hans went back home to Sweden and was celebrated as a
hero. Though Hans thought the praise was great, he was just happy to be
home and away from the war.
Hans had seen a lot of cruelty in the days he had been fighting the
Russians. He had come to know them as a cruel and ruthless people that
would kill and rape innocent women and children just for the thrill of
doing so. The brutality he had witnessed ignited a burning hatred of the
Russian communists and it gave him a great desire to fight them again,
if he ever got the chance. Little did Hans know that he soon would.
In Germany, Hitler became chancellor in 1933 and had steadily been
building his military into one of the largest in the world. In the late
1930s Hitler marched to Rhineland and acquiredthe Sudetenland on the
border of Czechoslovakia then annexed Austria into the Fuhrer’s Third
Reich. In 1939 Hitler made a pact with Russia not to go to war with
Germany if they invaded Poland. On September 1, 1939, Hitler, and then
sixteen days later, Stalin, invaded Poland and divided the spoils
between Germany and Russia.
A declaration of war from France and England for Germany’s invasion of
Poland soon followed suit. On May 10, 1940,Hitler invaded France using
his blitzkrieg tactics. The German Army pushed the French army and the
English expeditionary force in to the sea at Dunkirk, conquering France
in just weeks. All Hitler had left to do was defeat the English and the
war would be over, but Hitler had bigger fish to fry. The conquest of
Russia was more important and England would have to wait. Hitler said,
“We have only to kick in the front door and the whole rotten Russian
edifice will come tumbling down.” He would find it to be a greater
challenge than he expected.
On June 22, 1941, Hitler with four point five million troops initiated
Operation Barbarossa—the invasion of Russia. Hans read about the
invasion in the paper, he became excited with the prospect of finally
destroying the communist regime once and for all. Hans wondered to
himself what he could do to be a part of this great and noble crusade.
He walked into the kitchen where his mother was sitting and asked her,
“Mom, did you hear about Germany invading Russia?”
“Yes I did, that’s all they are talking about down at the market,”
Hans’s mother replied.
“I am thinking about joining the German Army to go fight the
Russians,” Hans said.
“Why would you go and do that, the Germans are just as bad as the
Russians, fascists and communists, what’s the difference?” Hans’s
“The Germans are trying to create a better world, the Russians just
want to enslave it. Besides, there is no work here and the Germans pay
their soldiers well, at least more than I can make here.” Hans said.
“You are a grown man now,” Hans’s mother said. “You can do as
you wish. Just be careful son, I love you.”
Hans wanted to enlist in the German Army but he wasn’t sure he wanted
to do it alone. He went to his friend Sven Eriksson’s house to see if
he would be interested in joining him on this great adventure. Sven had
fought with Hans against the Russians during the Winter War of 1939 and
like Hans, would love to get the chance to fight the communists as well.
Sven had a great distain for the Bolsheviks and wanted to kill as many
of them as he could, that is if he ever got the chance.
Hans got to Sven’s house and knocked on the door, there was no answer.
Hans knocked again this time harder and yelled, “Sven! Get your ass
Sven slowly made it to the door and opened it. “What the hell do you
want at this hour of the morning?” Sven asked. Hans could tell that
Sven had been drinking all night, he does it quite often. Hans told Sven
that he needed to talk to him so they went into the kitchen and sat at
the table. Sven, holding a bottle of vodka asked Hans, “Would you like
Hans said, “No, we don’t have time for that nonsense now we need to
have a serious talk. The Germans have invaded Russia.”
“Really, I thought the Germans and the Russians had a pact not to go
to war with each other?” Sven said.
“It’s true,” Hans said. “Do you want to go fight? We can enlist
in the German Army. All we have to do is to travel to Norway and enlist
“That sounds like a good idea,” said Sven. “My family could use
the money.” “Let’s leave this following Monday,” Hans said.
“That will give us time to say goodbye to everyone.”
There is someone in particular Hans wanted to make sure and say goodbye
to, his girlfriend Carina. Carina and Hans had been a couple since
elementary school and had planned to be married next spring. This would
now have to be put on hold if Hans is going to war and Hans hoped that
Carina would understand that he had to do this and that she would have
to wait for his return before they could marry.
Hans walked down the dirt road to Carina’s house, kicking stones along
the way talking to himself, trying to figure out what he would say to
her. “I have to plan out how I am going to tell her,” Hans said to
himself. “I will have it all together when I talk to her and hopefully
she will understand.” Hans reached Carina’s house and knocked on the
door. Carina answered. “Well, what a pleasant surprise. Come in and
sit with me and have some tea.”
“Carina, I must talk to you about something that is very important to
me,” Hans said.
“What is it?” Carina asked.
“The Germans have invaded Russia and I think I want to join the German
Army to be part of this. It will be a chance to finally rid this world
from communism,” Hans said. “The Germans will pay me well and you
know I haven’t been able to find work here in over a year now and we
desperately need the money.” All the while he is explaining Hans is
thinking that he couldn’t wait to kill some of those communists but he
would dare not say that to his Carina. Hans didn’t want her to think
he was cruel in any way.
“When would you leave?” Carina asked.
“We will go first thing Monday morning. Would you wait for me?” Hans
asked her. “It will only be a few months and I am sure the war will be
over soon and I will have a little money to get a place for us.”
“Yes, I would wait for you but don’t make me wait too long,
buster,” Carina said. “Don’t be afraid, Sven is going with me,”
Hans said. We can keep each other out of trouble.”
“I am more worried about Sven getting you in trouble. It’s getting
late, why don’t you spend the night,” Carina said. Normally it would
not be acceptable for a young man to spend the night with an unmarried
young woman but Hans has occasionally been staying the night there since
they were both playmates in elementary school. Carina’s parents
didn’t mind, he was already like a son to them. It was just a matter
of formality to make it official.
The following morning Hans rose early to get started on the day. He
kissed Carina on the cheek as she lay sleeping leaving her a note on the
pillow. Hans got dressed and slowly creeped out of the door and walked
down the road towards home. Hans needed to grab a few things for the
trip and say goodbye to his mother. When Hans got to the house and
opened the door, his mother was sitting in her rocking chair knitting a
sweater for Hans. “Mother, I need to tell you something,” Hans said.
His mother said that she already knew that he was there to say goodbye.
“How did you know?” Hans asked.
“A mother knows these things, my love.”
“I love you, Mamma, and I promise to come home soon,” Hans said. He
went to his room and grabbed a few things to take with him then went to
the kitchen and took two apples a half loaf of bread and some butter for
the trip. Hans went to his mother and kissed her on the cheek. “I love
you, Mamma, and I will be careful.” Hans took his mother by the hand
and walked to the door with her and his mother said, “I love you too,
sweetheart. Please be careful.”
“I will, Mamma, I promise.” Hans walked out the door, as he did he
yelled back, “I will be okay, Mamma, don’t worry. I will send
money.” Hans blew his mother a kiss and was on his way.
As Hans walked away his mother fell to her knees sobbing knowing that
this may be the last time she ever sees her boy again. She had gone
through this nightmare before when he had joined the Finnish army in the
Winter War of 1939. She prayed, “God, please take care of my son.”
Her hands grasped together in front of her as if she were begging her
master and sat there crying as she watched her baby boy walk off to war.
Excerpted from "The Swede" by R W Nichelson. Copyright © 2017 by R W Nichelson. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.