How a meth-fueled rampage saved Aimo Koivunen’s life

When people hear the word “meth,” short for methamphetamine, most think of drugs, addiction, and felony. This white odorless stimulant is similar to cocaine and is used to boost one’s energy significantly for a long period of time. However, while it can allow you to do more, it damages the central nervous system, and in many countries, is a felony to possess it without a prescription.

In the case of Aimo Koivunen, though, it was a lifesaver in more ways than one.

Aimo Koivunen saw his life flash before his eyes when he and his squad were chased by Soviet troops in the Lapland Wildnerness near the Soviet/Finland border. Fleeing on skis and racing to friendly territory, they were quickly losing steam and fatigue was quickly affecting their bodies.

For emergency reasons, Koivunen carried a type of methamphetamine that was given to him and the squadron for energy purposes. However, being in a position where he couldn’t take just one pill, Koivunen swallowed the whole bottle, severely overdosing and putting his life in peril in more ways than one. As his brain delved into fantasy land, his body continuously got him out of deadly situations.

Aimo and His Squad Flee the Soviets

Finland, like many European countries, found themselves drawn into the perils of World War II. However, after being occupied by the Germans in the 1930s, they were forced to fight on their side and used against the Soviets as part of their invasion.

The war in Finland and the Soviet Union was one of the most exhausting and brutal engagements of any in the 1940s.

On March 18, 1944, the Arctic mountains was knee-deep in snow as it endured frigid temperatures. The Finnish Army was now more than year four years into the war and had found themselves surrounded by the Soviets as the Allies gained the upper hand. It was only a matter of time before the Red Army finished it for good.

As expected, the ambush ensued, and Finnish soldiers sought shelter and safety as they were chased down by the Red Army. However, unlike the Germans, the Finnish moved on skis as they were masters of the slopes.

Aimo Koivunen was the best of the bunch and led his skiers through the snow, leaving tracks for others to follow. His hope was to cross into Finnish territory where there was shelter and protection.

Koivunen, however, grew extremely fatigued and fell behind, struggling to keep up with his squad. Trailing behind, he could see the Soviets closing in on him.

That’s when Koivunen remembered he had a ration of Pervitin, a type of methamphetamine designed to give him and the soldiers in his squad a burst of energy when needed. Koivunen had resisted using the pills up to that point since he wasn’t a proponent of taking any drugs. The rest of his troops also refrained from taking any.

However, desperate times called for desperate measures. Koivunen, frantically needing the energy, decided he needed to take a dosage.

Unfortunately, he had a hard time trying to take a single pill out when he was skiing, and his hands were filled with huge mittens, which had grown completely frozen. How was he going to take the meth? With no time to stop and figure it out, Koivunen did the unthinkable.

The Overdose

Kuivenen did the most dangerous thing, downing all 30 pills of meth in the bottle at once. Just like Popeye had his spinach, the meth allowed Koivunen to ski faster than anyone thought imaginable. He was able to not only catch up to his squad, but take over as leader of the pack.

But as the hours passed by, Koivunen kept racing past them and had distanced himself with this superhuman energy.

The pills eventually hit Koivunen brain, and he began to see blurriness and lose consciousness, yet he kept skiing at an incredibly fast pace. While his brain did one thing, his body did another.

Even when he blacked out, Koivunen kept motoring through the slopes. However, not all of his skiing was straight. He went sideways, backward, and in circles. 

The dizzied Koivunen had no idea where he was going. Finally, he regained consciousness the next day, but when he did, he found himself completely alone. Little did he know that his squad had caught up to him and had found him severely hallucinating.

Scared for his safety and for theirs, the squad took away all his ammunition and let him be. Still under the influence, Koivunen found himself in a predicament for he had no ammunition or food.

Koivunen Skis Into Danger

Despite being conscious, Koivunen was still very much under the influence and experiencing hallucinations. At one point, he saw a camp and thought it was his Finnish squad.

The next thing he knew, he was skiing right through the middle of a Soviet camp who didn’t realize at the time that an enemy had the guts to go right through them like that. They thought he was one of them.

“What a situation!” Koivunen wrote in his memoir. “The ones in the middle of the camp, the ones I mistook as Krauts, were laying in a lean-to shelter without snowsuits and when I skied by, they would only move their winter boots a little to the side, out of my way!” 

When they finally realized it was a Finnish soldier, they began chasing after him. But Koivunen was far ahead of them and still had that superhuman speed, outracing the Soviets.

A day later, Koivunen found a cabin and made a fire. Not thinking straight, he accidentally set some of the cabin wood ablaze. Koivunen, still hallucinating, blacked out, and when he woke up, he realized he was surrounded by a huge fire. He just barely escaped it before it crashed down. 

Koivunen would later find another cabin. However, this had a landmine attached to it, and when he stepped thorough it, an explosion caused Koivunen to fly into the air and into a nearby ditch.

He had lost most of his right foot to the explosion and laid motionless for almost a week in below-zero temperatures. 

Koivunen became delirious. The frozen temperatures would surely kill him, and if he wasn’t on meth, he would be lifeless and die. He also had lost some of his clothes from the explosion.

But that extra energy allowed him to get up and move around, and as the meth wore off, his appetite returned. However, he had no food and was on the verge of starvation. 

Koivunen turned to desperate measures, chewing on pine buds and even catching birds and shoving them raw into his mouth.

He was on the verge of freezing to death when a Finnish squad found him half-naked and near death. They couldn’t carry him out in his wounded state, but promised they would return and bring him to safety. Shortly after, they did and brought him into Finnish territory.

The Aftermath

As Koivunen was brought to shelter, he was treated by doctors who were able to keep him alive. They found his heartbeat to be racing at 200 beats per minute.

Incredibly, his weight dropped to 94 pounds and he learned he skied more than 250 miles in such a short time. 

How Koivunen was still alive was a miracle. Meth among the Nazi soldiers was common as they believed it would give them an edge against their enemy. However, there were soldiers who overdosed and they all died; Koivunen was the only one who overdosed and survived.

Koivunen went on to survive the war and have his own family. He lived until he was 71 years old, eventually dying in 1989. He kept the experience to himself for a long time, traumatized by the war, but eventually opened up to his son and then wrote a memoir about all he had gone through.

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