This is an article published in 'Aftonbladet' Sunday January 25 1942.

Swedish evening paper Aftonbladet wrote a full page about Onni January 1942.

"My running life is over now," says Finland-volunteer Onni Niskanen, Duvbo IK

Russian splinter puts an end to the active career as an athlete for the Chairman of Duvbo IK. "It will have to be 'inside duty' instead". The front at Hangö on the 4th of November 1941 ... the Russians launched one of their offensives... violent artillery showers sweep the forefront of the Finnish lines on Lapplandsavnittet, which is defended by volunteers... one of them, Warrant Officer ONNI NISKANEN. He is Chairman of Duvbo IK and one of Stockholm's best-known cross-country and orienteering runner and walker and is officer in command of a machine gun section. He has just inspected the new machine gun, which by the way is taken as booty from the Russians and has a very important task to fulfil in the defence of the left wing opposite Ekön... the Russians know it as well and preferably aim their anti-tank missiles at the strategic area.

The Russians have twice had direct hits and twice Niskanen has been forced to renew people and material... this time, the Russians obviously regard as third time lucky... the Russian anti-tank cannonade is terrifying with the drumfire of 7 canons... Niskanen, who has crept far in front of his piece of ordnance, presses, presses and presses to the ground for all he is worth... it is his only chance... crash-bang followed by as nerve wrecking "spsi-spsi" as if the air is filled with swarms of buzzing bumblebees when the splinters from the shell fire establish its wild war dance in the air... "if I escape this time, I will do it every time", Niskanen reasoned with himself, where he, metre by metre, crawled back from the target area - the inferno...

"I DID make it that time", says Niskanen to Aftonbladet's correspondent, who has looked in on the soldier/athlete in his home in Råsunda. "However, already the next day they had done it and so bad that I have to use crutches, at least for a while". He returned to Sweden at the same time as the voluntary army returned and., as he said, he returned on crutches. Onni Niskanen - the name reveals that there is Finnish blood in his veins - is an ordinary and sympathetic man, who immediately draws interest to his person. When you look at this calm and modest man with his open, frank face, you understand that it has not only been a love of adventure or a "shallow" motive that has driven him to do his part for Finland. "I wanted to make a contribution and when my two brothers, who at the time when the war broke out were still Finnish citizens, were drafted under the flags, I could not stay passive", Niskanen simply says. He was, by the way, a volunteer already in the Finnish "Winter war" and is a Sergeant in the Swedish Army.

The "death cart" waited.

"What happened when you were injured?"
"Well, it was on the 5th of November, the day after I had been so lucky to get away unharmed from the Russian artillery fire. I had finished inspecting my second machine gun group and was on my way to see the first group, the one based opposite Ekön, when, without warning, a Russian anti-tank canon started "playing". I just caught the characteristic sound of the launch and threw myself face down on the ground. A single thought kept going round in my head. It was "get away from this dangerous spot before they fired the next shots". It was not until I stood up to run that I noticed that I could not put any weight on one of my legs. At the same time, I felt a pain in my back and saw that I was bleeding from my right hand. The shell splinters had done their job. I was injured. I eventually managed to crawl over to the shelter. My friends telephoned from there for a couple of paramedics, who carried me through the forest to the road where the "death cart" waited. I will never forget that trip on a stretcher through the forest. The Russians had started an intensive artillery and mortar fire in exactly that direction where we advanced. It was as if "Ivan and his crew" had decided to do anything to bump me off. That did not work. However, I have to say that I have never felt as hopelessly helpless as at that point, when the paramedics had to put me on the ground, due to the intensity of the cannonades, and take cover themselves. When you are not able to move out of the way when the shell splinters are raving around you and the trees break like matches, it is horrible, to put it mildly. Eventually, I got to the battalion's site, where I had a bandage and an injection for the pain. After that, it was a 20 kilometres ride in the ambulance to the field hospital, where the Chief Surgeon, the Viktor Sjöström-figure Pitkäräinen, himself took care of me and removed the splinters from my back, my hand and my foot. This Finnish surgeon worked and still works with an excellent calm and amazing skill. He managed to locate and remove every splinter, except for one that had unfortunately lodged itself crosswise between the bones in my right ankle. Pitkäräinen regarded an operation in that part too risky. It could cause disablement for life for me. His advice was to leave it to, so to say, grow together. The soreness would go away in time and he promised that I would be able to manage without crutches in a relatively short time. The Swedish doctors have come to the same conclusion, but there will not be any more athletes' competitions for me in the future. I can possibly do some exercise sports sometimes.

- "Several Finland-volunteers have mentioned 'the moist snuff line'. What was that?"
- "Well, it was a huge boundary line that the Russians had cleared and that separated the Russian and the Finnish frontlines. It was a form of 'no man's land', actually. This boundary line was covered in sand and we called it the "snuff line". The Russians raked the "snuff line" every day, all the time, to keep it nice and smooth. That way they could see if any of our patrols had crossed over during the night and so they knew what to expect. Along the line, they had strong machine-gun nests. The Russian is not an attacking soldier, but he is shrewd. The Russian defence works are often ingenious - the "snuff line" is rather illuminating - and their way of setting the landmines is fiendish. Many of my friends became victims to the landmines.

Read "Fänrik Stål"

- "What did you do in your 'spare time'?"
- "We had to try to pass the time as best we could in the shelter. Above all, the main thing was to keep the spirit up and try to relax in some way. I proposed that everyone could read a poem. That was immediately accepted. I read "Fänrik Ståls Sägner" (a selection of poems by the Finnish -Swedish author Johan Ludvig Runeberg). While we are talking about my comrades, I must say that they were exceptionally good lads who fought and are still fighting for Finland's cause. They embraced and still embrace their task in the right way and with the right spirit."

When we sit like this and talk about the fight "out there", the discussion also enters the chapter about "the Finnish solder's equipment" and Niskanen wants to point out a few things. First of all, about the Finnish winter hat. It is hard to find a better-suited hat for winter in the field. Contradictory to the Swedish model (that does not protect the back of the neck where the cold feels worst, unless you pull the hat down over the eyes) you just fold down the typical leather flaps on the Finnish hats over the back of the neck and the cheeks. That way, the most exposed parts of the head are kept warm and the soldier can see properly, which is of course of utmost importance. Textile shoes, when the polar cold hits, and otherwise boots, that is the Finnish style.

About the sports

- "Well, you have told a lot about the war, but maybe we shall change the subject and talk about athletics. Will you stop, or are you forced to stop, your active participation in athletics?
- "There is no point in breaking the explicit orders from the doctors. From now on, I will have to spend more time on the so called "desk duty" within Duvbo IK, where I have been chairperson for 4 years. Previously, all board members have been active. Everyone, from chairperson to deputies could be found in the terrain or on the cinder-track. This will automatically change now".
- "Would you like to tell us about your sports career?"
- "Well, if it is of interest to someone, I started as an 18 year old in Duvbo IK. Before that, I had spent some time running cross-country for Huvudsta Sports Club. However, Duvbo IK was enticing and it has since then been my home club. After the first stumbling steps on the sports circuit, I eventually specialised in cross-country running. In 1937 at the district championship on the short track, I came in third after Frans Harry Ekman and Bratt. The next year, I came second in Class II of Vikingen's cross-country race. At the same time, Duvbo IK was actually first in all classes, a triumph that we repeated in 1939. I came in sixth in Class I on that occasion. We have won Göteborgs-Postens challenge trophy twice, but Ymer, Borås and Sundbyberg also have two wins each, so this year's competition will be tough. We do not have a chance to compete this time, though, since we have too many men drafted. I have also dabbled some in orienteering, but the real success has never occurred. I managed to come in third in Aftonbladet's and Goterna's big orienteering in 1940 in class II, a place I am satisfied with. I have done quite a few club championships in orienteering. In my spare time, I have also done some road walking. Since I am a Typographer, I have "done" the "Typo's big walking competition" at Djurgården 12 times and I won the competition in the years 1938, 1939 and 1941. Last summer, I won the "High School Walk" and at the same time defeated the previous Swedish champion Erik Wallin. My long period of military service - I have been out for two years running - has improved my stamina and made me durable. I had expected a good season this year, but, as I have said, my running life is now over."
- "It is obvious that Duvbo IK has made cross-country and relay racing the speciality"
- "That is really true!"

Fine terrain club

"As a terrain club, we will not be beaten by any of the clubs in the suburbs. What we have set as a primary goal, is to make Duvbo IK the club of good fellowship. I think and I believe that we have succeeded. By the way, the club is 22 years old today. Our big problem, however, is that we do not have an arena. Now, we have a small training area with a jumping pit and a ring for shot putters at Viken. We also have a small clubhouse. Thanks to the neighbouring Andersson family, who let us use their hot shower every training evening, we have managed rather well, but an arena - Oh yeah, were we so lucky..."