The Mental Landscape and the View from the Window – Visiting the Karelian Summer Home Salmela on a grey August Day
The Karelian people evacuated from the areas extradited to the Soviet Union during the Second World War lost a lot, but most of all they lost a landscape. Nature is the core element in reminiscing childhood, and the “key scenery” of your life is both part of your identity and a link to the previous generation. When the landscape is lost, that connection is in a way also broken.
The key element of the Karelian landscape was water. The mighty lifeline of the ancestors, river Vuoksi, the mystical, stormy but often gentle and much loved Lake Ladoga and the beaches and summer paradises along the coast of the Baltic Sea – not to mention numerous other lakes, ponds, rivers and puddles left in the hearts of the Karelian refugees. The mythical, almost stereotypical image of Karelia is a person standing on a higher place, cliff, rock or an esker (harju) with the wind in their hair looking at a wide landscape consisting of water and islands.
These were some of the thoughts in my mind when I visited the Karelian Summer Home Villa Salmela located in a former island in eastern Helsinki on a cloudy August day after being reading oral history documents of the former Karelian refugees all week.
We came with my son and my husband from the seaside to the boat dock by our friends 1950’s wooden fisher boat, so it felt like an authentic way to arrive in a summer villa in Jollas. My son was very eager to explore the slippery rocks on the seaside and was especially interested in the small patch of sand next to the water, “the beach”, as he called it as he was hustling away regretting he hadn’t taken his toy boats with him. Before we could catch up with him he was in the water almost to the waistline and was naturally soaking wet.
Luckily for us this little swimming accident was a great way to break the ice and feel the generosity and warm welcome in the villa. When we came in, there was a cosy fire burning in the stove, and the five-year-old was immediately seated next to the fire. Then the personnel went to get an ironing board and an iron, and we managed to dry up the wet socks and pants – meanwhile the boy was sitting in his underwear by the fireplace drinking juice and eating Karelian pies with a teddy bear they had also fetched for him.
After enjoying the treats from the little café – including delicious mint leaf tea – we went to explore the house. According to the website of Villa Salmela the beautiful wooden house, originally Villa Bergsund, was built in 1886 and has been rented to the Karelian associations after the city of Helsinki bought it in 1969. Although a bit shabby the villa had a very nostalgic atmosphere with old furniture, crochet blankets and different memorabilia from Karelia.
The lost “Karelian landscape” mentioned above I found upstairs in a little summer room or a balcony with large windows to the sea. Also the flowers in the garden reminded me of the detailed descriptions of blossoming Karelia in the biographies I had been reading. Downstairs we met an older woman, originally from Räisälä, who was asking about our roots and recommending getting a membership in the Karelian associations, whose membership count has been diminishing with time.
We were warmly welcomed again with a request to stay over night and use the sauna next time – the rooms upstairs can be rented, and you can use the sauna and the grill for a small fee. I can imagine the waterfront would be amazing in a warm summer day, and you could easily spend a couple of days just enjoying the nature and the scenery. The season is unfortunately closing for this year, and the villa and the café will be opened again next May.
We said goodbyes to the villa and continued our way home via Tammisalo canal. We had the luxury to dock the boat in Hakaniemi and cycle back home from Tokoinlahti to Alppila alongside the good smelling railroad tracks and through the green Alppipuisto Park. We could reach the landscape of our hearts in real life, while many people in today’s world can reach it only in their dreams. Be kind. People are anchored in places, and everyone carries the landscape of their childhood with them for the rest of their lives.
More information about the Karelian summer home see:
The destination of my Lapland excursion in this summer was the Urho Kekkonen National Park (UKK Park), especially the Raja-Jooseppi (literally Border Josef) homestead in the North-East corner of the park. The UKK Park is the second largest national park in Finland (2550 km²) which is in the Inari-Sodankylä-Savukoski region in Finnish Lapland. It has been established in 1983 and Korvatunturi (the mystical home of Santa Claus J ) is located in the area. In 2015 there was some 300.000 visitors in the park.
The Raja-Jooseppi homestead is located on the banks of River Luttojoki, close to the Russian border. The 235 km long river flows through the eastern parts of the municipalities of Inari and Sodankylä in Finland and in the southern part of Pechenga in Murmansk Oblast, Russia. The entire river was within Finland’s borders during the years 1920‒44. Behind River Luttojoki, there is a gorgeous view of the hills on the Russian side. The site has remained almost unchanged: the buildings have been renovated and the grounds have been kept open. There is also a trench dating from the war (1939‒44). I warmly recommend the site; it is really worth to visit!
A brief history: Around 1910, Jooseppi Sallila from South-West Finland and his partner Matilda Lehikoinen came downstream and onto the bank of River Luttojoki. There was a sauna that had been built by two reindeer herders Uula Valle and Arvid Pokka in the middle of wilderness, and Jooseppi and Matilda settled down in the sauna building. They made their livelihood from gold digging, pearlfishing, fishing, hunting and reindeer husbandry. They also bought cows and sheep to the farm. One sign of prosperity was the large potato field. Hay was mowed from the grounds and the nearby island.
Within ten years, a group of hand-made buildings appeared on the grounds. First they lived in the sauna building, but soon they built a new cottage with wall logs that were carved white. The cowshed was made for two cows, but at its best it housed four cows. The potato cellar, which was dug upstream, was absolutely necessary for storing food. The baking oven was set up outside. The grounds and the surrounding rail fence were completed in 1920.
See more: http://www.nationalparks.fi/en/rajajooseppihomestead
Alexander Osipov & Jani Karhu
Maria Lähteenmäki, Jani Karhu and Aleksandr Osipov took part in the 9th International Congress of Arctic Social Science in Umeo, Sweden in the last week. Largescale scientific event encompassed about 800 scholars from all the world. 22 sections proposed broad field for researchers and were dedicated to different sciences: history and archeology, languages and literature, culture and health. Maria Lähteenmäki was a chief of chair Forced Migrations and Transnational Mobility in the Artic Nations. Jani Karhu and Aleksandr Osipov participated in the Arctic tourism session.
In his presentation, Jani Karhu introduced the main ideas and organization of GreenZoneProject and gave a short report concerning his case study. In his case study Karhu is concentrating on possibilities and challenges of ecotourism in three Finnish national parks inside the greenbelt area, Koli, Urho Kekkosen Park and Petkeljärvi.
Karhu opened the problematic and politically contradictory development of Koli national park. Tourism has long history in Koli, going back to the 19th century, but the national park is founded as late as 1991. When the park was founded, the ski resort and the hotel were left inside the park. This means limited possibilities to the growing of conventional tourism. Those who supported the vast development of the ski resort were against the national park.
After the park was founded, the nature tourism started slowly find its way to Koli and there are multiple possibilities to grow sustainable nature and history tourism. The cultural history of Koli is rich and the layers of history can be found from various places. Challenge is how to recognize and materialize all those possibilities and how to create important networks between different operators inside the area. Tourism is fluctuant field of business and the risks of single entrepreneurs are high, this raises the threshold to utilize all the possibilities of nature and history tourism.
The report of Aleksandr was dedicated to problems of ecotourism in the North Karelia and it’s focused on the Paanajärvi national park case study. The history of the Paanajärvi national park, which is an important part of the Green Belt of Fennoscandia, is not yet written. This study based on the TACIS reports and materials of local press of the Republic of Karelia, which were published in 1987 until nowadays on the Russian and Finnish languages. Those sources allow to trace the foundation of the park and also fascinating discussion about two alternative projects on this area – hydroaccumulative power station and the first touristic project ski mountain center.
The park foundation in May 1992 didn’t solve the main problems: lack of infrastructure and experience in organizing of tourism and weak financing. From the other hand foundation of the park had a negative impact to the close settlement Pjaozerskiy – center of forestry of the district. Usually we talk about the human impact to the environment but in this case the influence was mutual, because reduction of logging area led to population outflow from the settlement. In the early 1990-s nature did not considered as an object of tourism and recreational using but only as object of forestry.
Participation on some TACIS projects provided development of tourism infrastructure in the park and Pjaozerskiy became a center of tourism. However, TACIS projects and financing not became to panacea to the Paanajärvi and tourism is not an effective tool of economic of the region.
Work of the section allowed to definite similar problems of tourism in Arctic region, but approaches and solutions may be different.