Many presidential resignations have come as a result of great personal or political drama, but few have ended in such drama as Kyösti Kallio’s. Kallio had become President of Finland in 1937 and was still in office when the Soviet Union attacked Finland in 1939. As the leader of a small country which had been attacked by a great power, Kallio received much sympathy when he travelled abroad to plead his country’s case and when he, in a radio speech, appealed to the world to support Finland.
By then the President’s health was causing grave concerns. Kallio had suffered a major heart attack in 1939, and in November 1940 he announced that he would be resigning out of health reasons. Because of the turbulent world situation a regular presidential election was not held, but the electoral college of the previous presidential election (1937) was reassembled. On 19 December 1940 it elected Prime Minister Risto Ryti President.
Shortly thereafter, Kallio, no longer President of Finland, left the Presidential Palace and drove to Helsinki’s railway station, where a train was waiting to take him back home to Nivala. And there, on the platform, right in front of the guard of honour, the band playing a march, Kyösti Kallio collapsed and died. The photo (now in the public domain) was taken by Hugo Sundström just seconds before.