Welcome Home

Book and exhibition


The Nordic Institute of Åland, 2014
Nordisk Kulturpunkt, Helsinki, 2015


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WELCOME HOME

What is home?

Åland is an autonomous group of islands between Sweden and Finland. With its population of just over 28 000 the island group is home to people who speak over 50 different languages and represent nearly 100 different nations. Welcome home is about immigration to Åland and thoughs about home.

Alisa, Alloy, Jamal, Jocelyn, Kati, Bas, Lilibeth, Maria, Marina, Mischa, Nicolae, Oleg, Solvita and Stephen are a few of them who have moved to Åland and are presented in this project, through texts and photographs, in their homes.

Welcome home was published as a book in 2014 and shown as an exhibition on Åland 2014 and in Helsinki 2015. Interviews and texts are by Staffan Beijar, photographs are by me, Maria Rosenlöf. Welcome home was inititated by the Åland’s Multicultural Society and the Nordic Institute of Åland.

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WELCOME HOME

What is home?

Åland is an autonomous group of islands between Sweden and Finland. With its population of just over 28 000 the island group is home to people who speak over 50 different languages and represent nearly 100 different nations. Welcome home is about immigration to Åland and thoughs about home.

Alisa, Alloy, Jamal, Jocelyn, Kati, Bas, Lilibeth, Maria, Marina, Mischa, Nicolae, Oleg, Solvita and Stephen are a few of them who have moved to Åland and are presented in this project, through texts and photographs, in their homes.

Welcome home was published as a book in 2014 and shown as an exhibition on Åland 2014 and in Helsinki 2015. Interviews and texts are by Staffan Beijar, photographs are by me, Maria Rosenlöf. Welcome home was inititated by the Åland’s Multicultural Society and the Nordic Institute of Åland.

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Solvita Lundell, Vegetable grower. Place of origin: Latvia.

”For a while I thought that I am from Latvia, that I am different, I don’t belong to this society. It was tough, but now I don’t feel myself to be different anymore.
For me home is everything, security and family. Home is very important for me, it awakens feelings of warmth and love. I don’t need to go out and meet people so often. I feel comfortable at home, my children are here, as well as my cats and the dog. Here are flowers, here is the garden, and everybody who works with my husband and me in the greenhouses. They also belong to my family. You can have a summer cottage and a childhood home but for me my home is where I live and where I feel good.”

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Solvita Lundell, Vegetable grower. Place of origin: Latvia.

”For a while I thought that I am from Latvia, that I am different, I don’t belong to this society. It was tough, but now I don’t feel myself to be different anymore.
For me home is everything, security and family. Home is very important for me, it awakens feelings of warmth and love. I don’t need to go out and meet people so often. I feel comfortable at home, my children are here, as well as my cats and the dog. Here are flowers, here is the garden, and everybody who works with my husband and me in the greenhouses. They also belong to my family. You can have a summer cottage and a childhood home but for me my home is where I live and where I feel good.”

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Nicolae Cepeha, Lorry driver. Place of origin: Romania

Åland is my second home. My first home is in Romania of course, I was born there, I went to school there and found my first job there. I had my family there, I was married there, both of my children were born there, and because of that I can say that I feel at home primarily in Romania. But now my home is here where I have my closest family.
I left everything so that my children should have better lives. Much has changed but as long as the children feel good then I shall believe that it was for the better.
Once a year we travel to Romania to meet family and friends. When I am in Romania I say to my mother and my brother that now we’re going home, but when I talk with you I say that on the twenty-second of July I shall go home. So I don’t know where home is. I have something here, and I have something else there. Both places have their own history and you can’t compare them to each other.”

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Nicolae Cepeha, Lorry driver. Place of origin: Romania

Åland is my second home. My first home is in Romania of course, I was born there, I went to school there and found my first job there. I had my family there, I was married there, both of my children were born there, and because of that I can say that I feel at home primarily in Romania. But now my home is here where I have my closest family.
I left everything so that my children should have better lives. Much has changed but as long as the children feel good then I shall believe that it was for the better.
Once a year we travel to Romania to meet family and friends. When I am in Romania I say to my mother and my brother that now we’re going home, but when I talk with you I say that on the twenty-second of July I shall go home. So I don’t know where home is. I have something here, and I have something else there. Both places have their own history and you can’t compare them to each other.”

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Jocelyn Palmer, retired Translator. Place of origin: England/Australia

”Where is my home, in Australia, in England or on Åland? I have somewhat mixed feelings. I have lived such a long time on Åland and my three children were all born here, so it is clear that Åland is my home now. But I notice, as I’ve got older, that I have begun thinking a lot about my childhood in Australia. And England is of course my cultural home.
If I was abroad and people asked me about Åland I think I would feel like an Ålander and try to tell them about Åland. But I have also both Australia and England within me. So it is difficult to know where I really belong.
When I moved to Åland at the end of the 1940s there were not so many people from other countries here, and the Ålanders were interested in getting contact with the outside world. I also had a kind mother-in-law who taught me Åland habits; how to gut fish, how to put the inner window panes up before winter, and things like that.”

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Jocelyn Palmer, retired Translator. Place of origin: England/Australia

”Where is my home, in Australia, in England or on Åland? I have somewhat mixed feelings. I have lived such a long time on Åland and my three children were all born here, so it is clear that Åland is my home now. But I notice, as I’ve got older, that I have begun thinking a lot about my childhood in Australia. And England is of course my cultural home.
If I was abroad and people asked me about Åland I think I would feel like an Ålander and try to tell them about Åland. But I have also both Australia and England within me. So it is difficult to know where I really belong.
When I moved to Åland at the end of the 1940s there were not so many people from other countries here, and the Ålanders were interested in getting contact with the outside world. I also had a kind mother-in-law who taught me Åland habits; how to gut fish, how to put the inner window panes up before winter, and things like that.”

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Marina Jeremic, Cleaner. Place of origin: Serbia.

”My home is here on Åland, my home is where I have my family. Friends are also important. My home is a place where I feel safe and peaceful within myself, a place where I feel good and where I feel welcome. When I visit the town of my childhood then I also feel at home. I grew up there, my parents still live there and my grandmother’s house is close by. It makes me feel like I belong there, but at the same time I can feel that I don’t really belong anywhere. I don’t belong there in the same way, and at the same time I can feel sometimes that I don’t really belong here. Therefore, it is only my closest family that defines my home. 
I have tried to think what it is that makes me feel so comfortable here on Åland. It is probably because I have the same sense of security here that I felt in the Yugoslavia where I was born, before the war. It is difficult to describe this feeling, but it concerns the feeling of security that I lost during the thirteen terribly difficult years in Serbia. Having moved to Åland I have managed to find myself again. I feel more comfortable in myself and I feel that I have control of my life.”

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Marina Jeremic, Cleaner. Place of origin: Serbia.

”My home is here on Åland, my home is where I have my family. Friends are also important. My home is a place where I feel safe and peaceful within myself, a place where I feel good and where I feel welcome. When I visit the town of my childhood then I also feel at home. I grew up there, my parents still live there and my grandmother’s house is close by. It makes me feel like I belong there, but at the same time I can feel that I don’t really belong anywhere. I don’t belong there in the same way, and at the same time I can feel sometimes that I don’t really belong here. Therefore, it is only my closest family that defines my home. 
I have tried to think what it is that makes me feel so comfortable here on Åland. It is probably because I have the same sense of security here that I felt in the Yugoslavia where I was born, before the war. It is difficult to describe this feeling, but it concerns the feeling of security that I lost during the thirteen terribly difficult years in Serbia. Having moved to Åland I have managed to find myself again. I feel more comfortable in myself and I feel that I have control of my life.”

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Alloy Yee Shong, DJ. Place of origin: Trinidad and Tobago.

Alloy: ”The weather decides to a great extent how people live their lives. The cold here has made it so tough for people to go out and meet others that they have difficulty socialising when they actually do get out. I’m used to thirty-five degrees of heat and I must get used to coping with the cold climate. By doing so, rather than simply trying to escape the cold, I make this place my home. Wherever I live I make that place my home. I was the one who initiated the move to Åland. I had seen so much corruption and did not want my child to have to experience it.”

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Alloy Yee Shong, DJ. Place of origin: Trinidad and Tobago.

Alloy: ”The weather decides to a great extent how people live their lives. The cold here has made it so tough for people to go out and meet others that they have difficulty socialising when they actually do get out. I’m used to thirty-five degrees of heat and I must get used to coping with the cold climate. By doing so, rather than simply trying to escape the cold, I make this place my home. Wherever I live I make that place my home. I was the one who initiated the move to Åland. I had seen so much corruption and did not want my child to have to experience it.”

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Maria de Olivera Salin, Dishwasher and Social-care student. Place of origin: Brazil.

”In the beginning it was very difficult for me not knowing either Swedish or English, only Portuguese. In Brazil I knew many people, but here I had no friends. I couldn’t talk with anyone and I cried many times.

Now after three years, I think that Åland is a wonderful place, but I need more time if it is to feel like my proper home. Åland is becoming more and more familiar to me, but my real home is Brazil. I left five siblings, a large family and many friends and I miss them all very much. I also miss the crowd and the heat. Åland is of course also a home, but my real home is Brazil. You can still say that I have two homelands and both have a place in my heart.”

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Maria de Olivera Salin, Dishwasher and Social-care student. Place of origin: Brazil.

”In the beginning it was very difficult for me not knowing either Swedish or English, only Portuguese. In Brazil I knew many people, but here I had no friends. I couldn’t talk with anyone and I cried many times.

Now after three years, I think that Åland is a wonderful place, but I need more time if it is to feel like my proper home. Åland is becoming more and more familiar to me, but my real home is Brazil. I left five siblings, a large family and many friends and I miss them all very much. I also miss the crowd and the heat. Åland is of course also a home, but my real home is Brazil. You can still say that I have two homelands and both have a place in my heart.”

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Oleg Kasianov, Office worker. Place of origin: Soviet Union.

”When I was fifteen years old I realised that you yourself must understand who you are. Are you cosmopolitan or do you feel more at home in a certain country or within a certain religion? It was then I decided to see myself as a European Jew.
Today’s world is so small that it doesn’t make a big difference where you live. It isn’t either necessary to choose just one place, it’s possible to live in two or three different ones. It is easy to travel and there is the Internet.
Home is for me a peaceful place. Somewhere where you can sit down, alone or with your family. After I was married and had children I can say that home and family is almost the same thing. The feeling is at least similar.”

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Oleg Kasianov, Office worker. Place of origin: Soviet Union.

”When I was fifteen years old I realised that you yourself must understand who you are. Are you cosmopolitan or do you feel more at home in a certain country or within a certain religion? It was then I decided to see myself as a European Jew.
Today’s world is so small that it doesn’t make a big difference where you live. It isn’t either necessary to choose just one place, it’s possible to live in two or three different ones. It is easy to travel and there is the Internet.
Home is for me a peaceful place. Somewhere where you can sit down, alone or with your family. After I was married and had children I can say that home and family is almost the same thing. The feeling is at least similar.”

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Stephen Gitau, Nurse. Place of origin: Kenya.

”My home is Kenya, Nairobi, because I was born there. But now Mariehamn, Åland is my home because at the moment I live and work here. After my wife and I got a daughter I have begun to think of home more in terms of the family. We are three now and feel that we can manage on our own. It makes us happy, we feel like a family and that we, together, can overcome all difficulties.
The feeling of having a home is really something psychological: you can feel homeless in the country of your birth in the same way that you can create a new home anywhere in the world. Home is perhaps your nearest sorroundings, where you live your daily life.”

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Stephen Gitau, Nurse. Place of origin: Kenya.

”My home is Kenya, Nairobi, because I was born there. But now Mariehamn, Åland is my home because at the moment I live and work here. After my wife and I got a daughter I have begun to think of home more in terms of the family. We are three now and feel that we can manage on our own. It makes us happy, we feel like a family and that we, together, can overcome all difficulties.
The feeling of having a home is really something psychological: you can feel homeless in the country of your birth in the same way that you can create a new home anywhere in the world. Home is perhaps your nearest sorroundings, where you live your daily life.”

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Jamal Pirzadeh, retired Machine operator. Place of origin: Iran.

”The 26 August 1981 I moved to Åland. My religion made it impossible for me to return to my homeland. There is a large cultural difference between Iran and Finland but after a while I noticed that we, as people, are very similar.
I was born by the sea and when I have felt lonely the sea has helped me. Once when I was very sad and lonely, my wife and I sat on the shore and looked out over the sea and dreamt that it was the sea back home.
My home is Iran, Bandar Abbas. I was born there, I went to school there and it is there that I have friends and many relations. But nowadays when I’m travelling around I feel that that I’m coming home when I get back to Åland. It is a feeling that is difficult to explain. All my dreams and wishes are in Iran but when I think realistically I don’t believe that it would be possible for me to return, even if the situation in the country should improve.”


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Jamal Pirzadeh, retired Machine operator. Place of origin: Iran.

”The 26 August 1981 I moved to Åland. My religion made it impossible for me to return to my homeland. There is a large cultural difference between Iran and Finland but after a while I noticed that we, as people, are very similar.
I was born by the sea and when I have felt lonely the sea has helped me. Once when I was very sad and lonely, my wife and I sat on the shore and looked out over the sea and dreamt that it was the sea back home.
My home is Iran, Bandar Abbas. I was born there, I went to school there and it is there that I have friends and many relations. But nowadays when I’m travelling around I feel that that I’m coming home when I get back to Åland. It is a feeling that is difficult to explain. All my dreams and wishes are in Iran but when I think realistically I don’t believe that it would be possible for me to return, even if the situation in the country should improve.”


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Kati Juntunen, Deacon. Place of origin: Finland.
Bas Beck, Dairy worker. Place of origin: Netherlands.

Bas: ”When we met in the Netherlands I was working as a lorry driver. Three evenings a week I milked cows. My dream was to become a dairy farmer and to be able to milk my own cows. The job at the dairy farm here on Åland is a step on the road to bying my own farm. At the dairy farm we come from so many different countries that our working language is english.
It’s here that I feel at home. It is more relaxed than in the Netherlands and I feel comfortable. I like nature and here nature is genuine. When you are stressed at work and in daily life then it’s pleasant to come to a place where you feel at home. A place where you feel secure, where you can simple close the door and forget the world outside. The place where you can relax is where you feel at home.”

Kati: ”Now my home is here because we live here together. I lived six years in the Netherlands. It took about three years before I felt at home there. I remember very clearly the moment it struck me that the Netherlands had become my home country. I drove from the harbour in toward Rotterdam and noticed that I knew every road and could find my way everywhere.
When I moved back to Finland (Åland) I knew that I must go through a certain process all over again. The language was of course a handicap for me because I couldn’t speak Swedish. I knew already during my time in the Netherlands how it felt to laugh along with jokes, of which I understood not a single word. It is easier to laugh with the others because if you’re silent then suddenly you become the focus of attention.”

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Kati Juntunen, Deacon. Place of origin: Finland.
Bas Beck, Dairy worker. Place of origin: Netherlands.

Bas: ”When we met in the Netherlands I was working as a lorry driver. Three evenings a week I milked cows. My dream was to become a dairy farmer and to be able to milk my own cows. The job at the dairy farm here on Åland is a step on the road to bying my own farm. At the dairy farm we come from so many different countries that our working language is english.
It’s here that I feel at home. It is more relaxed than in the Netherlands and I feel comfortable. I like nature and here nature is genuine. When you are stressed at work and in daily life then it’s pleasant to come to a place where you feel at home. A place where you feel secure, where you can simple close the door and forget the world outside. The place where you can relax is where you feel at home.”

Kati: ”Now my home is here because we live here together. I lived six years in the Netherlands. It took about three years before I felt at home there. I remember very clearly the moment it struck me that the Netherlands had become my home country. I drove from the harbour in toward Rotterdam and noticed that I knew every road and could find my way everywhere.
When I moved back to Finland (Åland) I knew that I must go through a certain process all over again. The language was of course a handicap for me because I couldn’t speak Swedish. I knew already during my time in the Netherlands how it felt to laugh along with jokes, of which I understood not a single word. It is easier to laugh with the others because if you’re silent then suddenly you become the focus of attention.”

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Lilibeth Weinstein, Cleaner and Musician. Place of origin: Philippines.

”My home is my body. I feel at home when I feel happy, when I feel joy and peace. Life is so difficult but you must see to it that you have the energy to deal with it, that you believe that God will help you through the most difficult trials. You must be happy for what you have just now. You must have faith and hope.
My brother was the first Filipino on Åland. He travelled all around Europe with his orchestra and he told me that Åland was the most beautiful place. He married a woman from Åland and they lived on Åland until he died. I moved here to be able to earn money for my sons, who still live in the Philippines.
In the beginning I could feel discriminated at work. Just because you are from Asia some people here believe that they can scream at you for no reason, that they don’t need to show any respect at all. But I believe that there is discrimination all over the world. And I am flexibly and adjust quickly.”

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Lilibeth Weinstein, Cleaner and Musician. Place of origin: Philippines.

”My home is my body. I feel at home when I feel happy, when I feel joy and peace. Life is so difficult but you must see to it that you have the energy to deal with it, that you believe that God will help you through the most difficult trials. You must be happy for what you have just now. You must have faith and hope.
My brother was the first Filipino on Åland. He travelled all around Europe with his orchestra and he told me that Åland was the most beautiful place. He married a woman from Åland and they lived on Åland until he died. I moved here to be able to earn money for my sons, who still live in the Philippines.
In the beginning I could feel discriminated at work. Just because you are from Asia some people here believe that they can scream at you for no reason, that they don’t need to show any respect at all. But I believe that there is discrimination all over the world. And I am flexibly and adjust quickly.”

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