Kerttu Haapamäki is one of the active Finns in Sudbury who worked hard with other Finns to get a Finnish retirement and nursing home in town nearly a 30 years ago. Now, after a rather long waiting period, Kerttu Haapamäki has been able to move into that home, nowadays known as Finlandia Village. There she is closer to her husband who had moved earlier to one part of the Finlandia Village, Hoivakoti Nursing Home.
The living room of Kerttu Haapamäki’s new apartment does not look like she has moved there only a few weeks earlier: the paintings painted by Haapamäki helself with the flowers and photographs are decorating the room. Everything seems very cosy.
However, it was only the first part of June when Haapamäki moved into Finlandia-koti, an apartment building aimed for independent seniors. Although she had planned to move in a bit sooner.
– It was approximately a year and three or four months ago when I put in the application. It is a pretty long time to wait for an apartment, Haapamäki says.
– But it has been very lovely to live here.
Haapamäki believes that her application process might have gotten some extra boost from last winter’s writings in Vapaa Sana about the apartment situation and the amount of Finns in Finlandia Village.
– Lately, I have noticed that there are much more other nationalities than Finns living here, Haapamäki notes but adds that she too has some Finnish neighbours.
– Like Marjatta Salmikivi. She is one of the first residents of Finlandia-koti. Many of these first residents have already passed away or moved to the Palvelukoti supportive housing apartments. Life here goes in stages: first you live in Finlandia-koti, then in Palvelukoti and then you move to Hoivakoti, the nursing home. Once I said that we put up a cemetery as well, so that all the stages would be represented, Kerttu Haapamäki laughs.
Haapamäki’s husband, Väinö Haapamäki, is living in Finlandia Village as well. Although his address is Hoivakoti.
– He has the Alzheimer’s disease, which is why he cannot live home anymore, Haapamäki explains.
Almost 30 Years Old Village
Finlandia Village came into being in 1982, when a group of Sudburian Finns especially from the Kanadan suomalainen historiaseura decided that the Finns should have a retirement home of their own in the town.
– I heard about this idea from Aino Krats and I immediately wanted to participate. There were altogether over 70 of us founding members. I think that only Taisto Einomaa and I are still alive from that group, Haapamäki says.
She recalls how there were many obstacles in the way of Finlandia Village: the future neighbors of the village did not want a retirement home in their neighbourhood and also the Finns argued with each other about the final location of Finlandia Village.
– We went as far as to the city hall to argue about these issues, Haapamäki says.
Finally, the Finns agreed about the location and so in 1985 Finlandia Village rose near Lake Ramsey’s shores, west of the town centre.
Lately, one hot topic has been the “Finnishness” of Finlandia Village: As it is partly funded by governmental money, Finlandia Village cannot select their residents based on their ethnicity only. Therefore the Finnish seniors hanging on the waiting lists feel that they are forbidden to enjoy the fruits of the work they did in the early ‘80s.
Advocate for Language and Culture
In addition and related to Finns getting in Finlandia Village, also the language issue has been a topic of discussion in Finlandia Village – as well as in almost any Finnish-Canadian organisation. The majority of the staff is not familiar with the Finnish language and therefore the communication between them and the Finnish residents can be almost impossible. After all, when a person ages they usually forget all the acquired languages and the only language left is their mother tongue.
– Aino was very enthusiastic in promoting the Finnish language and culture. She left that mandate to me. And I am going to make sure that as long as there is even one Finn living in Finlandia Village, the language and the culture will stay here as well, Haapamäki says referring to her late friend Aino Krats.
Haapamäki adds that there are also very capable and likable, Finnish-speaking staff members in Finlandia Village too, such as Pirjo Tastula and Anne Patrakka.
– Of course I would prefer even more Finnish-speakers around here. But I understand that the Finnish language starts to disappear. Even the Finns who were born here are beginning to forget the language.
Haapamäki’s work for Finlandia Village has been acknowledged many times, which can be seen by reading through the Finland Society, historiaseura and Sudbury Finnish Rest Home Society certificates Haapamäki has hanged on her wall.
– This is a good and familiar place for me to live, since I have been with Finlandia Village since its beginning. Also, I have many friends here. I think this is what the rest of my life will be then, Haapamäki who is soon turning 88 says with a smile on her face as she looks at the sunset on the other side of Finlandia Village.