It is hard to translate the Finnish word 'sisu' into any other language. To 'have sisu' means to have guts and perseverance. To have a capacity to face difficult challenges and endure hard times. Also, it has an almost zen-like quality of acting with integrity, honesty and humility.

The exact meaning of sisu can be deeply personal: during this trip to northern Finland and Norway I asked people what sisu meant to them. One example I got was from a man who's father built the wooden family house by himself, over a long period of time. The wood was from trees he chopped in the forest with his own hands. Another answer was from a man having to cope with the death of his son. He didn't want to go forward anymore but had to, and somehow came over it. It took a great deal of sisu.

This inspired me to discover the concept of sisu. The Sámi people keeping their culture alive, the soldiers along the Norwegian-Russian-Finnish border, the logger and his sawmill, and the annual roundup where families work around the clock to sort their reindeers:to me they are examples of sisu in everyday life.

Using Format