We can’t live without each other anymore

Workcamp: Piipola

Diary from a project in Finland.


Today I will make my dream come true. I will get on a plane and fly, high, to my beloved Finland. I’m not the first person who goes there, many people don’t even think about choosing the country of a thousand lakes as their destination. And yet, I have a feeling that something extraordinary is happening to me. Everything around me, Zlote Tarasy and the main train station in Warsaw, seems to be grey and painfully ordinary now…

On the plane

The pilot is Finnish and he greeted me (and twenty-something other passengers) in Finnish. To hear this beautiful language live – priceless.
The whole crew speaks the language of the elves. I am in heaven… Literally. Looking out of the window I see only clouds. I know it’s too early for that, after all the plane took off less than half an hour ago, but I still have the impression that somewhere, between those clouds, I can already see Helsinki.

In Helsinki

I have landed. I’m at Vaanta Airport, in almost three hours I have another plane to Oulu. From there I will take a bus that will take me to my destination – Piippoli.
It is 10.56 p.m. (Finnish time) and it is as bright outside as if it was 6 p.m. at the most. Now I have to wait for Katerina, a girl from the Czech Republic who is also volunteering. I cannot contact her. Either she is still on the plane or my phone is not working and I have to spend the night alone at Oulu airport. Taking advantage of the fact that I still have a few hours before departure, I went outside the airport. There, I wanted to take a picture of the first Finn I talked to, but he wasn’t too happy about it…


Already in Oulu. There was literally not a living soul at the airport. Katerina and I slept on the couches near the exit. I mean, I slept. She preferred to take pictures of me. At 6am we arrived in the city centre hoping to find a cafe open. It turned out that no cafes open before 7.30am, so we sat on a bench for over an hour and literally froze. I will never forget the taste of the maiotkahvia ilman sokeria we drank in a Finnish cafe, after a night spent at the airport without food and water….

Already in Piippola!
At the bus stop we were greeted by Heidi and Johanna. Heidi is something like our boss. We are accommodated in the school dormitory, in double rooms. Everyone has their own kitchen here, and there is also a communal kitchen, a hanging out room (as Heidi called it) where there is billiards, a big TV with karaoke, and the most Finnish highlight – the sauna!


Today was a familiarisation day, a trip to a folk festival for children.
In the evening, we visited a traditional Finnish sauna, then we enjoyed some refreshments prepared by Ansku and home-made Finnish liqueurs!


Today- Kesateatteri (summer theatre) and the play “Rikos ja Rakkaus”. In the morning the biggest breakfast in the world and again maitokahvia ilman sokeria. Mario (a volunteer from Angola, who lives in Helsinki) offered to make lunch. For twenty minutes we tried to get out of him what he was going to cook, but he only laughed. Suspicious…

2.07., in the kitchen

With Olya and Katerina we are sitting with Finnish tea, eating chocolate and talking. I speak Polish, Katerina speaks Czech and Olya speaks Ukrainian and we understand each other perfectly. Katy said that the Polish language sounds like the rustle of leaves being swept, with only “sz”, “cz” “z”, “ż”, “ź”.
Now the girls are trying to read what I have written so far. They say it’s completely incomprehensible, but that’s rather due to my lack of calligraphy…


It is 35 minutes past midnight. I have just returned from a walk with Saara, who for some reason wants to leave Finland. I can’t understand it, if I could, I would never go back.


I spent today making paper animals and cleaning the school, in other words, preparing for the festival. Well, that’s why I came here, after all. Then we went to play billiards with Alex, who doesn’t seem to really understand what we’re saying to him. But he plays very well, even though he says he has never seen a pool table in real life before.
Alex is a Russian by blood and bones. He got into Russian karaoke and seems to have made it his goal to sing us all Russian songs. So far, all attempts to take the microphone away from him have failed, but Mario and Heidi are still fighting.


Again, I haven’t noticed that it’s the middle of the night. As long as I don’t look at my watch and go to bed, I don’t feel any fatigue.

Today Saara and I made a colourful pig out of paper. Later I baked my first Finnish riisiipirakka. It is a kind of dumpling stuffed with rice. Of course, in the meantime I drank a million maitokahvia ilman sokeria!


Neglected to write a journal for the last few days, but it’s not my fault. So much has been going on that I felt bad locking myself in my room to write a few sentences.
Thursday was the continuation of preparations for the festival, we were putting up a huge concert tent and gluing colourful butterflies to the windows.

On Friday, after a day full of work, the first concert took place. First the local choir performed and then… Petra came up to me and said it was my turn. My turn for what, I thought. A moment later I landed on the stage with a guitar in my hand, a microphone was placed in front of me and I was told to sing. My legs were shaking during the performance, it’s a miracle I didn’t fall off the chair…


“Piippolan Vaarin Lastenfestivali”. A million children, lots of animals and hay. I spent most of my time in the kitchen with Makeda heating soup and washing dishes. Alex finally took a shower, to which we practically dragged him by force.

Later I was in the sauna in the most beautiful house in the world. For the first time I stepped into an icy and rushing river, which turns me into a true Finnish woman.

In the evening Olya pulled some Ukrainian cognac out of her bag. We sat down at the kitchen table and each gave a short speech from which it was clear that we could not live without each other anymore.


I am at the airport again… The way back is definitely less joyful but I expected that I would want to stay in Piippola forever.

Yesterday, the festival organizers said goodbye to us with Finnish pancakes, lots of photos and hugs. We were also assured that we would come back to Finland.

I will be back for sure!


The workcamp took place in 2012.

Finland, Piippola

The story was written for us by Ania Lachtera.