Maria Elvira KoskelaX

Born: June 27, 1889

Location: Laurium, Michigan

My baptized name was Maria Elvira Koskela. I was born in Finland on June 27, 1889. I was one of eight children and life was very hard in Ilmayoki at that time. Due to a potato famine, food was scarce. We had to make soup from the bark of birch trees to fill our bellies. My job in the family was to spend my days in the field, where a small shack provided me protection from the weather, as I watched to insure none of our herd wandered off. We all dreamed about the great land of America. One day my father made the offer to provide a ticket for those of us who wanted to immigrate. When the time to leave arrived, I was the only one who chose to make the journey. I was 16 at that time and the trip was a nightmare. I never made it up on to the deck and to the fresh air, as I was on my cot, sick with fear, with excitement and with motion sickness. We landed in NY and I didn’t linger. I headed straight for the U.P. of Michigan where I was told Scandinavians were settling. Life in America for me began in Laurium. Some of the residents there referred to us a “fishheads”, but that was the least of my troubles. I worked from morning til night for a family where my duties included laundry, mending cooking, cleaning and watching the children. I was always hungry as I was only allowed to eat the leftover scraps from the family’s meals. I questioned myself. What had I done? I was still hungry but at least in Finland I was surrounded by the support and love of family and friends. I was lucky to escape that job and to gain employment with a kind and good family. My life turned in a happier direction. Saturday nights were free and were spent gathering at a local club to socialize. I met a wonderful man there from Sweden, named Sakris Oscar Erickson. We married and soon had five children. He worked in the local copper mine, where he lost his arm in a mine explosion. Our life together was a blessing, but was cut short. He was stricken and died when the great flu of the 20’s swept across America. I thankfully was able to keep my family together as I was a midwife working with Dr. King and I had cows. I sold the milk and my children helped with milk deliveries. Additionally I had to ask my eldest son to leave school, to take a job. He worked for a local butcher, where he told stories of hungry folks coming in to beg for bones so they could make soup for their families. These were vey had times. Fortunately God was a big part of my life and the Almighty provided. I clung to Psalm 146:9, where the Lord promises he will provide for the widows. My children all married and I had a wide circle of grandchildren and even great grandchildren. Additionally I made may friends in America. My home was sort of a local gathering point as I loved to bake and folks loved to drop in and chat and enjoy my coffee and cake. Life was good again. I was even blessed to return to my homeland in 1966. My eldest son Arthur Sakris Erickson and wife, Virginia, too me back to Ilmayoki. God is good. Ellis Island "Americanized” her name from Maria and her husband’s name from Erikkson to Erickson) died on July 2, 1972 and went to Heaven to meet with Sakris again – a day she often spoke of and longed for.

Contributed by: Sandy Wright, Roswell, Georgia