Sharon OJanpa Mackey, FHM Staff Reporter

kaplanThe Finnish Heritage Museum in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, holds its regularly scheduled meetings on the second Monday of each month. Most of the meetings are held in the gift shop area of the museum, with refreshments served in the gallery. We are fortunate that our meetings are well attended by museum members, guests, and other interested individuals. Before the business meeting begins, there is usually an informative and entertaining program presented by a museum member or a guest. Anne Pohto, Event Committee chair, is responsible for the variety and organization of these programs. She does an outstanding job for us; thank you, Anne!

On Monday, April 8, 2019, Anne introduced Linda and Heikki Penttila, who talked about their latest trip to the Finnish Embassy in Washington, D.C. Kiddingly, Anne noted that Linda and Heikki are now Embassy ambassadors to the Finnish Heritage Museum, since they so often travel to our nation’s capital to visit the Embassy. Heikki shows off one of the publications available at the museum, which was produced by the Finnish Embassy.

The Finnish Embassy was first established in 1921, and consisted of office space in downtown Washington, D.C. A permanent site became available in 1990, on a somewhat problematic, but beautifully wooded slope, directly across from the Vice President’s residence and next door to the Vatican Embassy. The architects chosen to design the Finnish Embassy were Mikko Heikkinen and Markku Komonen. As an architect himself, Heikki was especially interested in these young men making a name for themselves in Finland and Europe. The construction was completed and the embassy occupied in 1994. Many of the energy built-ins predated the requirements of today’s Leadership of Energy and Environmentally-friendly Design (LEED). The Finnish Embassy is the only embassy in Washington, D.C. that has this LEED Platinum Certification.

Heikki illustrated his talk with many colorful and clarifying slides. He was most interested in promoting the architecture of the Embassy, both inside and out. The inside space is light, open, and airy, with curving staircases and abundant window areas. Several exhibits presently on display were highlighted.

The people at the Embassy were very excited to get information and photos about Amy Kaukonen, who was mayor of Fairport Harbor during Prohibition in the early 1920s. The pictures provided by Linda and Heikki will be used in a display for international women’s week at the Embassy.

There are displays and literature at the Embassy recognizing several important facts about Finnish social and political life. Examples of some of these facts about Finland:

Asylum seekers have never come directly to the Embassy. They have however, come to the borders of Finland. The country usually accepts 1,000 immigrants a year, but did accept 10,000 people a few years back when there was a crisis in Africa.

Dual citizenship can be obtained from Finland, subject to certain conditions.

Finland’s famous baby boxes can be applied for by citizens, as long as they agree to pre- and post-natal care.

The first Finnish social program was free lunch in the schools. This enabled farmers to send their kids to school to get an education.

Finland has the highest literacy rate in the world – 99.9%.

Per capita, Finns take more books out f the library than any other country.

The population of Finland is about five-and-a-half million people. More people pass through the New York City subway system in one day then live in Finland.

Finland is three times larger in land area then Ohio, but has only half the population of the state.

There appears to be no opioid crisis in Finland.

The country is trying to recruit computer coders to come and work there. Social motto – Don’t leave anybody behind.

Heikki and Linda then took questions from the group. When all had been answered, the meeting broke for refreshments. Soon after, FHM President Lasse Hiltunen called the business meeting to order.

To find out about our other happenings and events, please check our web site – finnishheritagemusuem.org. We hope to see you soon.

Text © Sharon Mackey, Photos © Jane Hiltunen 2019








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