Wuolijoki, Hella

Wuolijoki, Hella Image 1

Hella Wuolijoki as director-general of the Finnish Broadcasting Company

Hella Wuolijoki (born in 1886 as Ella Marie Murrik in Ala, Helme parish, Estonia) grew up in Valga, a small border town in South-Estonia which in those days was still under the command of Imperial Russia. Yet, the seeds of active national thought had been sown many decades ago and the Murriks with their forefathers residing in Viljandi, one of the centres of the national movement, were no exception. Wuolijoki spent her school years in Tartu, being enrolled to the local Pushkin Grammar School for Girls. She was an active pupil, kept an eye on the socio-politic movements, and held contact with local cultural and communal leaders which all led to the publishing of her first article in the Estonian newspaper Postimees already in the summer of 1903. It was difficult for girls to acquire higher education in the Baltic region which is why Wuolijoki decided to continue her studies in Helsinki, at that point – in 1904, one year before the Russian Revolution of 1905 – unaware of the fact that Finland was going to shelter her for the rest of her life.
In 1908 she graduated from the Folkloristic Department at the University of Helsinki with a thesis on an Estonian folk song called Ema haual (“On mother’s grave”) supervised by Prof. Kaarle Krohn. Further research was suggested by the Finnish Literary Society as Wuolijoki was commissioned to classify and develop a register on different types of folk songs collected by the Estonian folklorist Jakob Hurt. This project was suspended in 1914 with the breaking out of World War I.
The following years brought great changes in Wuolijoki’s life: marriage, children, and career in wood industry with a whole factory town built for economic purposes on the Karelian-Soviet border in Suojärve, first pieces in Finnish, international success with the play Niskavuoren Naiset (“The Women of Niskavuori”, 1936) as well as politically tense excursions. Already in the early 1920s Wuolijoki settled down in the estate of Marlebäck which is also where she became acquainted with Bertolt Brecht in the summer of 1940.

The central themes of her fictional works date back to the years at the turn of the century in South-Estonia where the newly arisen intellectual and economical elite constituted part of the society never been present before. Another central topic has been the conflict between duty and love. Her pseudonyms have been Juhani Tervapää and Felix Tuli. She died in 1954.