Hannu Salakka, “Since When Have I Always Lied?”

A view of the abandoned Tiuru Hospital, Tiuruniemi, South Karelia, 5 September 2018. Photo by Living in FIN

Mietin, mistä alkaen olen aina valehdellut,
keksinyt, sepittänyt, muistanut tahallani väärin,
muuttanut merkityksiä?
Sitten siitä tuli toinen luonto,
enkä enää välittänyt tietää
mikä minuun oli mennyt.

Väsyn ihmisiin helposti
enkä välitä heistä enää,
mutta heti kun olen yksin alan kaivata
jotakin toista,
seurassa nauran, juhlin, juttelen, keksin tarinoita,
mutta heti kun tuli hetkikin hiljaista
annan sijan
sisälläni asuvalle
täsmälleen itseni kokoiselle erakolle
joka on vaiti
toreilla, ruuhkabusseissa, pääkaupunkien kaduilla;
vain jossain kaukaisessa erämaan kolkassa
saattaa törmätä kummajaiseen
joka heti alkaa jutella jokaiselle kuin vanhalle tuttavalle.

En ole nähnyt paikkaa
jossa en olisi halunnut käydä, mutta vain käydä,
jotkut muistelevat mennyttä,
suunnittelevat tulevaisuuttaan,
minä elän tätä päivää,
en mieti iltaan saakka,
se kuitenkin tulee, väsyn,
menen toiseen huoneeseen, alan nukkua,
tai kävelen kadulla,
jos minut nähdään,
käännyn jostain kulmasta ja katoan,
ei kukaan saa minua elämästäni kiinni.

I was wondering: since when have I always lied,
concocted, made up, deliberately recalled things wrongly,
changed the sense of things?
It later became second nature,
I no longer cared to know
what had gotten into me.

I tire of people easily.
I don’t care about them anymore.
But as soon as I’m alone, I miss
someone else,
laughing, partying, chatting, making up stories in company.
But as soon as it has become quiet for a second,
I give way
to the loner living inside me,
exactly my same size,
who is silent
at markets, on crowded buses, in city streets.
Only in a distant corner of the wilderness
might you run into an oddball
who immediately chats to everyone like an old buddy.

I haven’t seen a place
where I wouldn’t want to go, but only go.
Some remember the past,
plan their future.
I live this day,
I don’t think until evening.
Nevertheless, it comes. I am tired,
I go to another room and sleep.
Or I walk down the street.
If I am seen,
I turn a corner and disappear.
No one catches me out in my life.

Source: Hannu Salakka, Kuin unessa viipyen (Otava, 1990), pp. 536–537. Translated by Thomas H. Campbell

The Death of Einonkatu 6

The merciless of human beings towards the natural environment, the built environment, and each other is going to catch up with them soon, I’m afraid.

The latest victim is a handsome apartment block in Imatrankoski, Imatra, built before the war (if I’m not mistaken) by Jalmari Lankinen, the then-head architect of Finland’s thriving second city, Viipuri (Vyborg).

Einonkatu 6
Einonkatu 6 in Imatra bites the dust. April 26, 2016. Photo courtesy of Inka Nordlund and Uutisvuoksi.

I still haven’t figured out why this building had to go, even though I’ve read several incoherent explanations by city planners and developers in the local daily rag over the past year.

Most everywhere in the world, city planning and the construction business are rackets and mafias, and the real reason they knock things down is just to build something else in their place, almost always uglier, taller, needlessly expensive, and much less functional.

Lankinen is one of the most victimized architects from the glorious heyday of funkis (Finnish functionalism). Out in a gorgeous spot on the Lake Saimaa shore called Tiuruniemi, which is technically part of Greater Lappeenranta but is geographically part of Greater Imatra, Lankinen built an absolutely lovely tuberculosis hospital right before the Winter War, which then served as field hospital once the war started.

Tiuru Hospital. Photo by Living in FIN

Not so long ago, Tiuru Hospital served as the asylum seeker and refugee reception center for this part of Finland, but when developers decided to turn the nearby Rauha psychiatric asylum (another place with lots of good architecture, including some fine exemplars of funkis) into Holiday Club Saimaa, a retreat for bourgeois Russians flush with cash from the “prosperity” of the era of Putin 2.0, the asylum seekers were moved to a recently closed prison south of Joutseno, out of sight and mostly out of mind.

Holiday Club Saimaa and the Lappeenranta authorities had some vague plans to do something with Tiuru Hospital, but when the Russian and Finnish economies tanked, those plans came to naught, and the hospital has been sitting unoccupied in the woods for many years now. Recently, the Lappeenranta authorities made the Solomonic decision to stop heating the building, allegedly, because it was costing them too much. So now its degradation will proceed apace, although it is a listed building, supposedly protected by the Museovirasto or some such government agency.

When the refugee crisis struck, it occurred to me it would be a perfect opportunity to fix up Tiuru Hospital and fill it with life again, but inexplicably the Finnish Red Cross and the immigration authorities chose a hotel in Imatra that had fallen on hard times to accommodate its tiny quota of refugees.

Actually, there are so many empty spaces in Imatra and other parts of South Karelia, you could probably easily house all the inhabitants of a small Syrian city here without anyone noticing.

But instead we get absolutely meaningless “renovation” and “urban renewal,” as pictured above, instead of an exciting experiment in learning to live together with perfect strangers and redefining Finnishness (and Europeanness).

Who needs it?