In the Winter War and Continuation War, in 1939–44, many men from Northern Häme served in forces commanded by Major General Aaro Pajari.
In the Winter War, they served in Infantry Regiment 16 in Tolvajärvi, and the Continuation War saw the 18th Division fight on the Karelian isthmus. Pajari, who was twice awarded the Mannerheim Cross, had a legendary reputation. He was a controversial and colourful character who was criticised by many of his colleagues but valued by his subordinates. An exceptionally strong bond was formed between Pajari and his men, who started to call themselves ‘Pajari’s men’ already during the war.
During the Winter War, Infantry Regiment 16 defeated a Soviet division in Tolvajärvi, in the wilds north of Lake Ladoga. This marked the first large-scale victory for the Finns, which built the Finnish army’s confidence in its abilities and, thereby, significantly affected the outcome of the Winter War.
During the Finnish attack in the summer of 1941, the 18th Division advanced from the border established under the Moscow Peace Treaty all the way to the river Rajajoki, near St Petersburg, in just one month. This is where the division remained until 1944. In the retreat in summer 1944, the 18th Division took part in the massive battle of Tali–Ihantala along the main lines of the battle. The division lost about 10,000 men in the course of the Continuation War.
In the Pajari’s Men exhibition, the soldiers’ experiences are brought to life through text, audio files, photographs, videos, touchscreen interaction, and objects used during the war. Among the objects are General Pajari’s medals, whose destiny received a great deal of attention in its time.