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Terttu Katka papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: IHRC1193


Papers (1950s-1990s) of Terttu Katka include photocopies, newspaper clippings, manuscripts and typescripts of over 340 poems, more than 45 articles, columns, short stories and novellas published in the US and the novel "Myllynevan Marjaana" published in Finland.


  • 1950-1976


Language of Materials



Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room.


This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.

For further information regarding the copyright, please contact the IHRCA.


The Finnish-American writer Aino Terttu Kätkä (born Keto) was born in the village of Lyyskilä in the region of Laihia, Finland, on April 14, 1916. She was the youngest child and only daughter of the Ostrobothnian farmers Elisa and Juho Keto, and already at an early age showed signs of her literary talent. She attended primary school in her home village, and later on moved to Vaasa to study home economics. She also received some instruction in the field of literature through private teachers.In 1937 Terttu Keto married Woitto Johannes Kätkä, who had been born on August 25, 1907 in Eveleth, Minnesota, but moved back to Finland when he was two years old.

The Kätkä family lived in Tampere and Vaasa, until Woitto left with his oldest son, Matti, for America in the spring of 1947. They lived in Cherry near Eveleth, until Kätkä and the younger children, Jorma and Elizabeth, followed the next fall. After living in Cherry with Woitto’s aunt and her husband, Hilma and Kari, for a year, the Kätkä family moved west to a farm in Deep River, Washington, where they lived for four years. Woitto worked as a carpenter and logger, and the children started school. Next to her duties as a mother, Kätkä compiled many poems and short stories, which she often recited at Finnish festivities. But Kätkä disliked the location of her new home, the heavily forested southwestern corner of Washington, with its wildlife and the long periods of fog and rain.

So in 1952, the Kätkä family sold their farm and moved to Forbes (called Onnela by the local Finns), Minnesota, where they bought a farm for the family, calling it “Taikaranta”. While Woitto worked at the Virginia mine, the children were able to attend the highly regarded schools on the Iron Range. Here they lived for the next ten years, and the children continued their education after high school, all three of them attending Hibbing Junior College, a 20-mile commute from Forbes. Terttu Kätkä became very active in the Finnish-American community. The family belonged to the Finnish church in Cherry and Kätkä was a member of Eveleth’s local chapter of the Knights and Ladies of Kaleva, the Valvotar Chapter No. 20. She read her poetry at summer festivals; one of them was held at Port Arthur, Ontario. But the mining economy on the Range began to fail and small-scale farming no longer paid the bills, so the Kätkä farm was sold in 1962.This time the Kätkäs moved to the university town of Corvallis, Oregon. Jorma and Elizabeth enrolled at Oregon State University, while Matt worked at a bank. Due to Woitto’s unemployment the family had to move back to the Iron Range in 1963, where Woitto found employment at an iron ore processing plant near Eveleth.

After her husband’s death on November 8, 1964, Kätkä moved in with her daughter in Northern California, and lived with them until she married Kaarlo Wuori in 1966. That year they moved together to Lake Worth, Florida, where he passed away a few years later. She began writing “Sivustakatsoja”, a column including her travel journals. She visited Costa Rica a few times when her daughter Elizabeth’s family resided there. She continued living in her Lake Worth home, “Taikalinna”, until her 87th birthday on April 14, 2003, when she suffered a fall which precipitated the end of her life on April 27, 2003.

For over forty years, Terttu Kätkä was a dedicated writer of Finnish poems, fictional texts and columns. By her early twenties she was already a published writer. Her writing career was shortly halted when she moved to the United States with her family, but soon thereafter she started contributing to the local Finnish press. She wrote columns, short stories and poems for Finnish-American newspapers such as Amerikan Uutiset (earlier published as Minnesotan Uutiset), New Yorkin Uutiset and Keskilännen Uutiset. Her works were also published in many periodicals of her time, including the Siirtokansan Kalenteri, Suomen Silta and Kalevainen. Several of her works were published in the Finnish press, including “Sateenkaaren kahtapuolen”, “Myrsky lyö yli valkaman” and “Tähkättömän lyhteen sitojatar”. In 1951 her only novel, “Myllynevan Marjaana”, was published in Finland.Kätkä’s works are all written in Finnish, although some of her works have an English title.

The Terttu Katka Collection at the IHRC includes more than 340 poems and over 45 articles, columns and short-stories. There are over 30 “Sivustakatsoja”-columns and the longest novella, “Pohjolan Pilvikki”, stretches over 40 issues of the Amerikan Uutiset. The most common theme in all of Kätkä’s writings is Christmas. This is due to the fact that the Christmas issues of Finnish-American newspapers were always bigger and needed more belletristic material than the regular prints. Therefore, over 22 of Kätkä’s short stories were published in December, although her serialized short-stories appeared throughout the year. Kätkä wrote over 45 Christmas poems, which have been reprinted on a regular basis. Many of Kätkä’s poems were composed for special occasions, such as Christmas, Easter, Juhannus or Mother’s Day. Other common themes are Finland, places in the United States, as well as poems written specifically for certain people. Further topics she frequently touches upon are the ocean, moving and the loneliness that comes with it, the different seasons, death in general and the feelings for home. As Matt Katka puts it in his eulogy for his mother:

“Mother made our home a special place, always, regardless of where we lived. She always tried to create a storybook home. A home that featured tasty food on the table. A home that was decorated by her own beautiful creations: rugs, pillows, and fancy needlework. A home that was centered on books and learning. A home where thruth was spoken. A home where compassion and friendships were cultivated. A home where work and play was learned. A home where heritage and patriotism was revered. A home where pride was focused on deeds. A home where poetry was written – poetry and stories that extolled the common man’s struggles and abiding faith in God. Those are the universal themes that run through all of Mother’s writings.”

By Tanja Aho, 2006


1 Linear foot


Collection acquired from the Katka family members in 1970s through 1990s. Processed by Tanja Aho in 2006.

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