By Enrique Tessieri
You don’t need the acceptance of over 5 million people to feel welcome in Finland. Only a few exemplary people will do, even one or two persons. Even though I am a Finn with a multicultural background, these exemplary people have given me strength and belief in this society.
A situation or a person can change your life for good, even a simple sentence uttered.
I hope that immigrants and minorities who live in Finland meet and find more of those exemplary Finns. There are more of them than people think especially during these politically turbulent times fueled by intolerance, racism and hatred.
Those that encourage social inequality of immigrants and minorities are the total opposite of those exemplary Finns. They are the shameful Finns who can still learn to become exemplary.
The first exemplary Finns I met were my grandparents, mother and later on writers like Eeva Kilpi as well as many others.
I met Kilpi in 1967 by chance when I landed in front of her summer house in the middle of an open field that was hugged by a tranquil sunny afternoon forest. We still see each other and remember how we met on that special day forty-five years ago.
She wrote about our meeting in the woods of Savo in a book called Häätanhu and encouraged me to never to return to Finland as a foreigner.
I believe that our instant bond of friendship had to do a lot with displacement. She was a refugee from Karelia and I was the son of immigrant parents living in Los Angeles, California. Our common love was a home called Finland and its sublime woods.
There are many other exemplary Finns that I have met in this country and abroad as well. One matter that unites all of them is that they not only accepted who I was but encouraged me to be that person.
Just as there are exemplary Finns there are as well exemplary immigrants.