About 2,000 km from here is a country shaped like a chicken. Compared to Finland, it is about 15 times smaller and has about half the inhabitants. Just around 40 of them have moved to Finland, according to Sasa Arhar, one of the active Slovenes in Finland. What brings them here, she says, is in many cases love. According to Arhar, Slovenes are most impressed by the way the Finnish system works in general, from regulations and limits, to enjoying pure nature and peaceful lives. As a negative they count weather, and some count “cold Finns” as well.

“A minus at the beginning of moving here is also the language, because you have to speak it if you want to work here,” Arhar says. “But, sooner or later somehow everyone learns to speak Finnish fluently.”

There are two organisations that unite Slovenes and Finns. One of them is the association of Slovenian-Finnish friendship, Slovenia-Seura, which was established in 1997 by Finnish translator and publicist Kari Klemela. Klemela translated some works by Slovenian authors into Finnish and also made the first translation of the Slovenian national anthem Zdravljica. Since 1997 they have accumulated over 200 members. These are mostly Finnish people interested in Slovenia, Slovenes who live here, Finns who live in Slovenia and friends of Slovenia in Estonia. The official language of the association is Finnish. The association organises different activities for the promotion of Slovenia in Finland and for strengthening the friendship between those two nations.

The aim is to keep Slovene culture alive here. Every year the association performs at the biggest Nordic tourist fair in Helsinki, the book fair in Turku, and sometimes gives presentations about Slovenia at the University of Helsinki.

In 2010, the former Slovenian ambassador in Finland, Tone Kajzer, established an association of Slovenian parents and their children who live in Finland, together with his wife. Their official language is Slovenian and each child has at least one Slovenian (grand)parent. The association seeks to enrich youngsters with Slovenian culture through different thematic workshops.

Earlier this year saw an Easter workshop. Here they made traditional Slovenian Easter eggs: flowers and leaves placed on eggs, wrapped in a nylon sock and cooked in water with onion peel.

Whenever they organise an event, they don’t forget to remind youngsters of their Slovenian roots, via the taste of traditional Slovenian cuisine such as nut roll “putizza”, buckwheat mush and strudel.

Monika Kern