Vetlanda church. Photo: Karin Thuresson
Lennart Hultqvist, whose nickname was 'Långan' meaning Lanky, took a bullet in the head when Russian troops stormed a position held by his company of international volunteers. His family were informed of death shortly afterwards, but never hoped to receive the body back for burial.
So when Hultqvist’s younger sister Britta Stenberg-Tyrefors, now 85, read in Sweden’s Svenska Dagbladet newspaper that a group of Russian hunters had found her brother’s remains, her heart hammered in her chest.
This Saturday, four months after she first heard the news, she finally laid her brother’s remains to rest in the family grave at Vetlanda church outside Jonköping, surrounded by her extended family.
Among the guests were a Russian couple who were part of the hunting party which found the remains in the Karelia region north of St Petersburg in August, identifying the body through the name tag found among the bones.
“It was nice and in a completely renovated church with new paintings that were incredibly beautiful,” Stenberg-Tyrefors told Aftonbladet newspaper of the service. “We had a very nice and compassionate priest who spoke some words and sang.”
Stenberg-Tyrefors was 14 when her brother left Sweden to join a regiment of international volunteers fighting on the Finnish side against the Soviet Union, which was at that time in the process of retaking the province of Karelia in the so-called Continuation War of 1944.
In the letter the family received informing them of their son’s death, Sergeant Bror Niper, his immediate commanding officer, described how he had died “an instantaneous death”.
“The Russians stormed us with screams, gunfire and grenade-throwing, and during this onslaught ‘Långan’ was killed. He was hit by a bullet in the head.”