Veli, sisko (Brother, Sister)
[Finnish lyrics & English translaton below]

        “Veli, sisko “ (Brother, Sister) is the name of possibly the best known Finnish anti-war song. The lyrics were first written by poet Elsa Rautee in 1936 for the chorus of the Social DemocraticYouth League in Nokia, Finland, which is near Tampere. They were the best known of Rautee’s lyrics. The song was inspired by crucial world events of the 1920s and 1930s, especially the Spanish Civil War which started in 1936, the Italian invasion of Ethiopia (1936) the Chinese Civil War (1927) and the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931. The theme resonated with the Finnish left and labor movements, with the alarming growth of fascism leading the world toward war.

Reijo Frank popularized Veli Sisko around 1969-70.

        With the advent of the brief Winter War when Soviet Union troops assaulted Finland on Nov. 30, 1939, almost the whole country united in its defense. It was a time when Arvo (Poika) Tuominen, secretary of the Finnish Communist Party-in exile, then stationed in Stockholm, broke with the Kremlin and urged all members of the outlawed Finnish Communist Party who lived in Finland, to join and defend the country, a call to which they mostly responded. So the Finnish anti-war movement fell into an eclipse for a time and “Veli, Sisko” was virtually forgotten as Finland became engulfed in the larger World War II.
        The Finnish antiwar movement was revived after WWII, when new conflicts, many Cold War- engendered, raised concerns. The Vietnam War in particular sparked a large, active, politically diverse peace movement in Finland during the 1960s and 70s. “Veli. sisko” came back into prominence when popular Finnish labor and folk singer Reijo Frank was introduced to the song by Elsa Rautee’s nephew. Frank with his magnificent baritone made the song the centerpiece of his vast repertoire of songs, with which he has delighted Finnish audiences for decades. He recorded the song in 1969. Born in July of 1931, the much beloved Frank still continues to perform at age 79.
        The Finnish words ring beautifully in expressing the anguish of war and its causes. With what’s going in the conflicts of empire in Afghaniistan, Iraq and elsewhere, it’s as relevant today as it was in 1936.
        Following are the original Finnish lyrics to “Veli, sisko”, as well as a 2006 English translation, “Brother, Sister” by Tuomas Kaikkonen (slightly modified by Harry Siitonen). — Harry Siitonen, July, 2010.


Veli, sisko, kuulet kummat soitot
Ympärillä kaikkialla soi.
Rummut jyskää taantumuksen voitot
Luokkataistoin myrskyt salamoi.

Afrikasta, päiväntasaajalta
Vierii voihke hurmekenttien
Idän mailta myöskin Aasiasta
Kuulet sotaratsuin korskehen.

Sivistyksen etuvartioissa
Missä kulttuurilla kerskutaan
tiedekin vain kehitellä koittaa
Uudet keinot joilla surmataan.

Tykit, pommit, kaasut kaikenlaiset
Kylvää tuhoa ja kuolemaa
Isät, pojat työläiskotienkin
Taiston tanner uhriksensa saa.

Miksi kansat toisiansa surmaa,
Työmies työläista toisen maan?
Kuka voitot korjaa murhetoista,
Milloin verivelat maksetaan?

Sotiin johtaa riistoherrain kiistat
Heidän eduistansa kamppaillaan
Sotasaalis minka herrat voittaa
Työläispoikain verin maksetaan.

Työläiskansat, nouskaa kaikkialla
Sodan julmaa vaaraa vastahan.
On jo aika ihmisyyden voittaa,
Sodan julmat kauhut lopettaa.

Sota torvet kaikkialla soittaa,
Kansat nouskaa vaaraa vastahan.
On jo aika ihmisyyden voittaa,
Sodan julmat kauhut lopettaa.


Brother, sister, hear the strange music
Around you playing everywhere,
Drums beating victories of regression,
Thunderstorms of class conflicts.

From Africa, the Equator
Roll the mourning of gory battlefields,
From the Eastern countries and in Asia
You hear the neighing of war horses.

In the frontline watch of civilization
Where they boast of their culture,
Science is trying to develop
New ways to kill your fellow man.

Cannons, bombs, poison gases
Seed death and destruction.
Fathers, sons from working class homes
Battlefields claim as sacrifice.

Why do people keep on killing each other,
Workmen killing workers of other lands?
Who collects the loot from all these murders
When the debts of war are paid back?

War is fought for quarrels of oppressor lords,
For their interests these struggles go on
The war loot these lords collect
Is paid with the blood of the working class.

Working people, arise everywhere
Against the cruel dangers of the wars,
It is time for humanity to win,
Put an end to the horrors of war.

Horns of war are playing everywhere,
People arise shouting against them,
Oppression caused by the wars,
Shall fade away some day,