The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - TIME OUT - MYLES SIN­NA­MON

In Au­gust 1940, the ar­rival of a young stow­away in New York caught the at­ten­tion of both Amer­i­can and Aus­tralian me­dia. Leone Hir­mukallio, 17 ( pic­tured), from Fin­land, ar­rived on the US troop trans­port Amer­i­can Le­gion, which had ef­fected the es­cape of 879 refugees from dif­fer­ent parts of north­ern Europe flee­ing from the ever-ex­pand­ing regimes of the Soviet Union and Nazi Ger­many dur­ing World War II.

Although the US was neu­tral at the time, the voy­age to America had been fraught with dan­ger, as re­ported by New York news­pa­per the Dunkirk Evening Ob­server – “Storms, sea­sick­ness, over­crowd­ing and fright plagued the pas­sen­gers most of the way … Threats, broad­cast over Ger­man ra­dio sta­tions, that ‘only a mir­a­cle’ could save the ship and that the voy­age was ‘crim­i­nal folly’ had been picked up on pri­vate ra­dio sets aboard … ”

Hir­mukallio was de­tained at the El­lis Is­land im­mi­gra­tion de­pot as US au­thor­i­ties de­bated her fate. With lit­tle money and no pass­port, she had planned to travel on to Queens­land (she was born in Gympie and her par­ents had resided in Nam­bour for many years). The fam­ily had left for Fin­land when Hir­mukallio was five years old. Her wid­owed aunt, Ly­dia Loimaranta, still lived at Nam­bour, and when news of Hir­mukallio’s plight reached her, she re­quested fed­eral govern­ment as­sis­tance in her niece’s pas­sage to Queens­land.

In an ar­ti­cle in the Nam­bour Chron­i­cle, Loimaranta shared the or­deals of the fam­ily dur­ing the Soviet in­va­sion, as de­scribed by Hir­mukallio’s mother in a let­ter dated De­cem­ber 1939: “Are we down­hearted? No, no, no! Even though we have been bombed and fired upon by ma­chine guns … ” In the mean­time, US au­thor­i­ties re­leased Hir­mukallio on pa­role into the care of a cousin in New York. She con­tin­ued to live in America un­til her death in 1998 in Cal­i­for­nia.

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