THE SAUNA IN FINNISH IMMIGRANTS' CULTURE IN THE UNITED STATES (Sauna w kulturze imigrantów finskich w Stanach Zjednoczonych)
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'If sauna, tar and vodka do not help, then death is near' says the Finnish proverb frequently seen at the entrance to a sauna. This small, wooden hut has accompanied Finns during the most difficult periods of their lives. The sauna existed during hunger waves, giving respite to tormented souls; the sauna's attributes were valued by soldiers who fought in the Finnish Winter War and suffering, for whom, the sauna was the cheapest clinic. The Finns believe in its healing and magical power that transform confusion and chaos into order and harmony. This is the place, where body, soul and mind transform, thus bringing us closer to the Creator. With this certitude, the Finns forged for centuries their own destiny on the hostile Finnish land with its unfriendly northern climate, and with the same conviction emigrated, looking for a better place to live in exile. Similarly to millions of travelers, Finns were drawn by the fertile soils of North America where dreams of their own piece of land represented their 'American dream'. The road to their own farm led mostly through the mining basin on the coast of Lake Superior, the forests of Oregon, and the fishing villages of Washington. But whatever path they were to choose, it was always accompanied by the traditional sauna. Not only was it a source of goodness in a spiritual dimension, but it was also a genuine help in everyday activities. It gave shelter, allowed the body to be maintained in a good condition, it served as a pantry, a drying chamber, and it introduced a sense of order into immigrants' lives. However, for Finns the sauna, has an even greater value. It is the bond that binds them to their home country and is the most recognizable symbol of their being Finnish.
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