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Home accommodation life in Kerava: Carbon footprint, electricity prices and canned peas

“We were toying with the idea of providing home accommodation already in 2015 but during the war in Ukraine we started to think about it more seriously”, say Pia and Tero, middle aged couple living in city of Kerava Southern Finland.

Pia and Tero have been aware of Home Accommodation Network since the activities were started in Finland in 2015 and following it on social media. However, only the arrival of Ukrainians fleeing war and especially when the bombings of civilians increased in Ukraine, led to their first actual home accommodation. In late 2022 Ukrainian Alona and her teenage son Jenisei and year-old baby girl moved to live with them.

In addition to wanting help Ukrainians with fundraising, donations and eventually home stay Pia and Tero have been thinking about carbon footprint. As their own children have grown up and moved into their own the couple have lived together in a large house where both of them also work remotely. Still, there are extra rooms.

“In this big a house the carbon footprint per head is too much. That has been one viewpoint all along that we should bring on more people or we should move. Well, now there are more of us sharing the house”, Pia says.

In addition to the very serious situation in Ukraine, there was a bit of the couple´s banter behind the decision. When the electricity prices skyrocketed, they kept the temperature upstairs around 13 degrees and kept saying that it should be altered at the latest if any Ukrainians moved it.

”In a way we got permission to raise up the temperature” says Pia with a laugh.

The actual matching between the parties happened fast in the end. Couple of weeks after sending their first e-mail to the support association Alona and the children moved into Pia and Tero´s house. There was a meeting and conversation at the office in between.

Straight talk about practices in the house

Now the temp upstairs is comfortable 19 degrees and the atmosphere warm in every way. Alona and the baby have their own room and Jenisei his own corner in second floor of the house. All members of the household seem to be people who enjoy both each others company as well as their own time with day jobs and their own hobbies.   

Alona is a gifted handicrafts person whose room is colourfully decorated with textiles and jewelery she is making. Even every box containing baby clothes is covered with beautiful decoration paper.

Alona, who enjoys working with her hands also likes cooking and is glad that Tero and Pia also find Ukrainian dishes delicious. They happily report being “in Ukrainian foods” almost totally, even if finding the exactly right ingredients – buckwheat and barley grains and canned peas – was challenging at first. Now, even some Ukrainian products are showing up at grocery stores.  

At first Tero thought that it might be difficult to focus on work while there are new people in the house, but it turned out to be unproblematic. He says that only once has he asked to lower volume of music upstairs.

Both Pia and Tero say they enjoy having more life in the house. “It brings me great joy to see the smallest one come crawling down the floor on all fours”, Tero says.

Pia says that their household does not have strict rules and therefore it is relatively easy to receive new housemates. The house can even be messy at times and cleaning takes place when it is necessary for visitors. Electricity prices define activities, for example laundry is done when the prices are lower.

Alona says she wishes for straight talk on how things should be done. It is not easy at first to just start doing things hands-on in other people´s household and kitchen.

”We do not really argue but talk straight about things before the cup overflows”, Pia describes the communications style of the family.

There is life outside of Helsinki!

Many Ukrainians arriving in Finland are interested in home stay and aware of the possibility even before their arrival. Number one wish, or even the only wish is to find home accommodation in Helsinki. Which is totally understandable regarding the employment opportunities, but for the support association finding new home accommodation providers in biggest cities is also most challenging.

Alona used to live in a smaller town of 40 000 inhabitants in Urkaine and therefore feels fine living in Kerava instead of a metropol. However, there are no other Ukrainians nearby.

Local library has gatherings for Ukrainian women every couple of weeks which collects people even from further locations. Alona travels weekly to Vantaa Help Center for Ukrainians to meet people. For a mother of a young child that offers a rare moment of free time with the baby crawling on the floor with other kids.

Having a social life is of course important for wellbeing, especially when home sickness and thoughts related to the war circle the mind of person fleeing their country. Also, people who apply for international protection and do not yet know the language need other people as a source of information and help with the bureaucracy.

Alona says she regularly receives help from a couple of Russian speaking volunteers who help for example by interpreting and explaining the mail coming from Finnish authorities. She especially expresses heartfelt thanks for Ukrainian speaking volunteer Galina, with whom she has been in weekly contact since arrival in Finland.

Long processes and delays in the system are a difficult matter to someone navigating in a new society, especially when there are matters related to children as well. Health and social service system are completely different from the home country. Home accommodation providers are not necessarily able to help with the bureaucracy even if they were willing. 

“Of course the social life is not what it used to be, but I participate in events and try to find new friends”, says Alona.