MARTA KRISTEN: When I saw Helmi Rusanen, I believed at once that she's my mother.
|The sweet TV star Marta Kristen, who works in Hollywood, did not need a translation for Helmi Rusanen's interview in Elokuva-Aitta to know that the story of her newly found mother was true. She only needed to see the photos of Helmi Rusanen's children to recognize her step-sisters. They all looked similar to her. This is what she told first to chief editor Kirsti Jaantila, who interviewed her by phone from Helsinki to Santa Monica.|
First a lovely letter from Marta Kristen's American mother, Bertha Soderquist, arrived at the staff offices and along it came a letter to Helmi Rusanen, which started like this: "I'm the mother of your little Birgit, your daughter that later became Martha Soderquist, then Marta Kristen - her artist name - and later on Martha Treadwell, which is her present legal name through marriage."
The letter said that Marta had called her mother when she first learned of her Finnish mother's existence and her new family. Martha was first rather shocked about the news and she didn't know how to react to the news. Her American father Professor Harold Soderquist's opinion was that Marta should not have any sort of contacts to Finland, whereas her mother's opinion was that such contact wouldn't cause any trouble. After hearing the opinions of the TV company executives and her own press agents, Marta decided to be cautious on this issue and asked for additional information. Having received that information and the translation of Helmi Rusanen's interview in Elokuva-Aitta, Marta and the Soderquists were convinced that Helmi Rusanen was her real mother. "We are now quite sure that every detail in that story is true," Bertha Soderquist wrote.
A lovely letter then arrived from Marta Kristen herself with a picture of Marta and her husband, "I'm grateful for your letter and magazines. Needless to say, I was shocked at first by this astonishing news, but I've had time to think about the matter, and it's fascinating to think that I have relatives in Finland." Marta gave her private phone number for the interview, which was made on a Sunday evening.
Marta had just returned from the studio to her home in Santa Monica. She had been filming another episode of
Lost In Space, a very popular weekly show in America, shown on every Wednesday.
Marta Kristen's voice was clear and sounded like it was coming from next door. She seemed to be a very
spirited and intelligent, remarkably different from a conventional Hollywood star.
KJ: What are your feelings now, Miss Kristen? Have you recovered from your great astonishment?
MK: I'm just fine. You know, I feel so happy and relieved now that the issue is resolved. I feel like more secure, my husband says that I've changed. Maybe the question has burdened me unconsciously all these years; "who is my real mother?" and "Is she still alive?". I have lovely parents here and I will never consider anyone else as my real parents, but still, it's marvelous to know that somewhere, there is my birth mother.
KJ: How did you feel at the moment when you read the
news for the first time in my letter?
MK: First I was shocked, of course, but after pondering on this issue, I really became excited. When I saw the photos of the Keinänen children in the magazines, I was convinced about all of it. They look like me so much.
KJ: So you called you parents?
MK: Yes, of course, because they also have a connection to the issue. My father, a professor in philosophy at the University of Detroit, was first against the idea of contacting anybody in Finland. But my mother, who is a marvelous woman, kind and understanding, thought that contacts like these would not cause trouble to anybody. However, first we had to negotiate with several other people -also with my husband, of course. We thought it'd be reasonable to be cautious on this and try to find more information. When Mrs. Soderquist read the detailed translations of all the articles in your magazine, she was sure that everything was true. She called me and told that everything had happened
just as Helmi Rusanen had told. So then I decided to contact Helmi and you.
KJ: Now you have received another letter from Helmi Rusanen. How did it affect on you?
MK: Oh, I liked it a lot. Helmi wrote that their living conditions are modest. I wanted to respond to her and tell that I and my husband Terence Treadwell live very modestly, too. We live a very simple life, we don't associate much with the Hollywood circles. Those pictures that were published in your magazine were all taken in my uncle's apartment. Our apartment is so small that you can't take pictures in it.
KJ: What does your husband do for the living?
MK: He'd just completed his Master of Arts degree. He's a psychologist and works the Veterans Administrative office.
KJ: You also have a university degree?
MK: That's right, in literature. I'd like to go on studying and as a matter of fact, I have already started. I'm interested in psychology, like my husband. I'm interested in people. I'd like to learn to know man, all his good and bad sides.
KJ: Did your interest in psychology help you to recover from the shock?
MK: Definitely. As a matter of fact, I'm not an actress by nature, at least not the Hollywood style. I'm not really interested in theatre and I hope all the time, that Lost in Space will finish production so I can finally do what I'd like to do - study and learn.
KJ: How did you end up working on television?
MK: My father was given a so called sabbatical, a year of leave from work, to write a book. We came to California and I went to school here. I was in a café when a producer came to me and asked me to attend a screen test. They were desperately looking for Lolita. I agreed, because, like all young girls, I dreamed of becoming an actress and I had played some roles in at school. I didn't get the role - it wouldn't be fitting me anyway - but I got a better contract and I've been acting in various TV shows. Then came this space TV show, that's been on for several years already.
KJ: We recently saw you in "My Three Sons."
MK: I've been a guest star on many series.
KJ: You said you don't associate much in Hollywood circles.
MK: That's right. I don't even know many local actors. We never attend any public events or go to restaurants, for example. Our friends are students and artists. We enjoy our few friends company.
KJ: What do you do then?
MK: We sit and chat often. My husband and I go in for camping. I love nature and we usually go somewhere where there are not many people for the weekend. I don't like big cities. In that perspective I'm quite an ordinary Finnish girl, am I not?
KJ: You surely are. Did you know that the Keinänen sisters, your step-sisters, that is, are artistically
talented. They are musical and good at writing.
MK: Really? I've also like singing and music. I also go in for poetry. I recite poems, even though it's considered a bit strange here.
KJ: Your step-sisters also recite poems. They've been awarded in contests and your mother Helmi
has acted a little bit, too.
MK: Oh, how charming. I must have inherited all my talents from her. I'd like to meet them all. We're planning to make a trip to the Nordic countries and Finland. It's been in my plans to bring my parents to to Scandinavia and to Finland, of course.
KJ: Do you know when you'll be arriving?
MK: I shall let you know soon. I hope to leave as soon as possible.
KJ: And your father wants to see Norway, doesn't he?
MK: Yes, and Sweden, too. He has Swedish origins.
KJ: I thought he was Norwegian.
MK: No, he's a Swede. I remember clearly when I arrived to my new home (Marta was 5 then). I spoke Norwegian and my father spoke Swedish and I found it hard to understand him. His Norwegian dialect confused me. My American mother is of German origin. Did you know that? We're a very international group.
KJ: Do you recall anything from the days in the Norwegian orphanage?
MK: I recall that I was a very wild child and kept singing all the time. I also recall my first beating, but I don't recall why I got it.
KJ: Have you met many Finns there?
MK: Not many. A Finnish journalist (Matti Laitinen) visited us once and I've been talking with Mrs. von Hellens on phone. I got her phone number from you. It was she who told that Finns are reliable people who would never make up stories like these. And as I told, I was convinced about this story's reliability from the beginning.
KJ: Helmi Rusanen feels relieved now that she knows where her daughter Birgit is and that everything is alright.
MK: She must be a very intelligent woman, because her attitudes are so healthy. You know, I was frightened to read in the magazine that nobody in Finland knew about Helmi's daughter except for her immediate relatives and one friend. I thought I had caused a lot of trouble and sorrow for her. Now it's nice to know that it isn't so. We both feel happy.
KJ: Thank you, Marta, and I hope to see you soon in Finland. All your relatives are waiting for you.
MK: Please tell Helmi that I'm happy and I shall write to her again soon.
Many thanks to Teuvo Levomäki of Eura, FInland for his translation work!