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Human pearl that should not be hidden in the attic

”Valentyna is the kind of personality that it isn´t difficult at all to be providing her an accommodation”, says Pirkko about her Ukrainian friend whom she has living in her home in Turku.

Multitalented Valentyna is a master of preparing Motanka dolls, part of Ukrainian folk tradition. She writes and recites poetry, dances, sings and composes music.

Pirkko describes her roommate as a “human pearl”, whom she wants to help to create networks in her new home country. Through Valentyna many new people and things have come to Pirkko´s life also.

”She should not be hidden in the attic”, says Pirkko. This dawned on her when she understood how multitalented a person Valentyna really is.

Fast friends

After getting to know Valentyna in Inno Ukraina -organization in Turku Pirkko was thinking aloud to another volunteer whether she should ask Valentyna to visit her home. The response was that “why don’t you take the whole person altogether.” And this is what eventually happened. Valentyna moved to live in Pirkko´s home after being in Finland only for a short time. The home accommodation has gone on for over a year now.

Pirkko´s house has lot of space and even earlier she has had friends and her own grown-up children living with her for lengthy periods. She is familiar with sharing a home since she has been living alone in the house for the last ten years. Two-storied house is easily sufficient for two residents to have their own peace and quiet too, as one can have downstairs and the other one upstairs as their own space.

Valentyna comes from the Donbass area of Ukraine. She has been forced to leave her home twice because of the war; first inside Ukraine when she moved from her home region to Kiova area and finally fleeing the whole country soon after the 2022 war started.

Before arriving in Finland Valentyna had not ever been abroad and the only reason she even had a valid passport was because one of her grown up sons had put a little bit pressure on her mom to get one. In 2018 she thought the passport was unnecessary and that she would “never go anywhere”.   

The idea of fleeing to Finland also came from her sons who thought after the war started that this country would be safe and suitable destination for their mother. Valentyna arrived here via Poland and Estonia. Accompanying her was cat called Milka and its two kittens, who had arrived into the world just two days after the war broke out. The kittens are now both placed in the same good Finnish home – a fact that moves Valentyna almost to tears.   

Motanka doll protects and keeps up hope

Valentyna thanks her host Pirkko profusely at every juncture. Not only for providing a home but also for various kinds of practical help Pirkko has given throughout the process of her adjusting to Finland, ranging from shopping to one´s doctor visits as well as the vet visits of the cats.

Home accommodation host has greatly facilitated Valentyna´s active life in Finland, her Finnish language learning, networking and her activities as an artistic person who makes Ukrainian culture known in different exhibitions and events. Pirkko says that Valentyna is an easy personality to “market” and that she usually evokes admiration in others.

One of Valentyna´s major hobbies is making motanka dolls. Those have been exhibited and a long line of them adorns Pirkko´s living room. Valentyna has also given a course on the subject in Turku.

Motanka dolls are part of the five thousand years old Ukrainian folk tradition, which originates in Eastern European Tripolje culture. Motanka is a talisman, magical object that can be used for ceremonial purposes, for example related to certain celebratory days or it can have a protective function. The dolls symbolize hope and well-being.

Valentyna says that she is now focused on making “Finnish” motanka dolls. She collects pieces of traditional Finnish textile pieces, for example what is left over from making folk costumes and adjusts those into her Finnish motanka versions.

It is difficult to leave Valentyna without having something with you. Even the interviewer (support association´s communications person) leaves with two motankas to bring to the office. One of them named “Adviser”, who has got two keys dangling on the waist to “fix big and small matters”.

Valentyna, who is in age of retirement now has lived large portion of her life in the era of the Soviet Union. It was not allowed to bring out expressions of Ukrainian culture and it was not even known much about during that time. “I want to advance Ukrainian culture now that there is a chance to do that”, she says.  

Once again Valentyna thanks Pirkko for trying to weane her from following agonizing news and videos about Ukraine online.

Food and music

The roommates tell how often their days are started with breakfast together. That includes radio and “old fashioned” music coming from it, both of them singing along to familiar songs in their own language. Laughter and humour are part of their everyday life.

Pirkko and Valentyna share singing as a hobby. Pirkko sings in a choir and Valentyna also enjoys performing in front of live audience. Valentyna tells Pirkko is a good pianist and how her musical friends visit the house every now and then.

Both Finnish and Ukrainian parties have been organized in the house. They include music, preparing and tasting foods from both countries. Finnish and Ukrainian independence days have been celebrated this way.

Pirkko says that providing home accommodation has widened her social life.

”I have gotten to know a lot of new people. Those Ukrainian friends who have come here for the shared parties are really enriching my life. I have learnt a lot from their culture in which everything is always shared. There is joy but also sorrow, of course tears too.”

Many things are in process now. Valentyna´s goal is to settle permanently in Finland. She is waiting for important decisions from the authorities about her status in Finland, and after those they will be looking for an apartment of her own.

“Of course everyone needs their own home”, says Pirkko, even if this home accommodation has been very successful.

In the beginning the one living in home accommodation might need a lot of help from the host but Pirkko says that she is witnessing a lot of more independence nowadays. Many things that required assistance before, Valentyna is now able to take care of by herself.

Text: Sanna Rummakko

Photos: Soili Aaltonen, Sanna Rummakko