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Based on actual events, Surviving Stutthof is a tale of survival, hope, and ultimately the triumph of the human spirit. Surviving Stutthof was nominated for a Northern Lit Award in 2018. Exciting news! Surviving Stutthof was translated into Finnish and is available through Docendo Publishing!  



Photo Credit: Westmount Photography

Liisa Kovala is a Finnish-Canadian teacher and writer living in Sudbury, Ontario with her husband, Michael, and two children, Mia and Kieran.

Surviving Stutthof, published by Latitude 46, recounts her father’s experiences as a Finnish merchant marine imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp in Poland. It was short-listed for a Northern Lit Award in 2018 and was translated into Finnish.


Her debut novel, for which she received a Literary Creation Project Grant from the Ontario Arts Council, explores the life of a former Lotta Svärd as she navigates a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's and her fading memories of life during the Winter War. Look for it in Fall 2022!

Liisa is delighted to receive a grant from the Ontario Arts Council for her work-in-progress, a mystery novel set in Northern Ontario during the 1930s about two Finnish domestic workers.


Liisa is a member of the Writers' Union of Canada, the Canadian Authors Association, and president of the Sudbury Writers' Guild. Her work explores her Finnish heritage and celebrates the northern landscape she calls home.



Liisa Kovala has achieved something extraordinary in telling her father’s remarkable story: she has turned living history into living art. Surviving Stutthof reads like a novel, but there is never any question that it is delivering a universal truth.

The suffering is palpable, yet readers will rejoice in each of the minor victories. In this personal labor of love, the care Kovala takes in recounting her father’s experience is evident on every page. A valuable, unique addition to the canon of survivor stories.

Liisa Kovala’s Surviving Stutthof is a poignant, lyrical and atmospheric memoir ... the book is not only filled with tension and vivid imagery, but also with the complexity and unique layers of humanity.

Wayne Grady,
Award-winning author of EMANCIPATION DAY

Kirkus Reviews

Mark Leslie,
Author & Editor



  • Jun 20, 2020, 12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
    Collège Boréal - Sudbury, 21 Lasalle Blvd, Sudbury, ON P3A 6B1, Canada
    It's the Finnish Grand Festival's 80th Anniversary!
  • Sun 03 Nov
    Nov 03, 2019, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
    United Steelworkers, 66 Brady St, Sudbury, ON P3E 1C8, Canada
    Visit the Sudbury Writers' Guild vendor table and meet the authors.
  • Sat 22 Jun
    Jun 22, 2019, 11:00 a.m.
    PACI Building, 401 Red River Rd, Thunder Bay, ON P7B 1B4, Canada
    "Finns in Fiction"
  • Jun 08, 2019, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
    Sudbury Arena, Greater Sudbury, ON P3E, Canada
    Join me and other local authors at the Sudbury Writers' Guild table at Graphic Con.
  • May 11, 2019, 9:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
    New Sudbury Centre, 1349 Lasalle Blvd, Sudbury, ON P3A 1Z2, Canada
    Join me and other local authors from the Sudbury Writers' Guild for our book fair at the New Sudbury Centre. Just in time for Mother's Day!
  • Mar 02, 2019, 7:00 p.m.
    Fraser Auditorium, 935 Ramsey Lake Rd, Sudbury, ON P3E 2C6, Canada





Isän salaisuus

Suomalainen Aarne Kovala kertoi viimeisinä elinvuosinaan tyttärelleen, mitä Stutthofin kuolemanleirillä tapahtui vuonna 1945.

Timo Kiiski, Iltalehti, September 4, 2020

Aarne Kovala (1928–2018) oli vain 16-vuotias teinipoika ja merimies, kun joutui kokemaan natsi-Saksan Stutthofin kuolemanleirin kauhut. Traumoistaan hän avautui tyttärelleen vasta viimeisinä vuosinaan.


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Thank you to the Ontario Arts Council for their support of my most recent works-in-progress. Their support of Northern writers allows us to continue sharing our words with you. To learn more about OAC grants, visit