I’m Yanika Wilen, mother of six, a social service professional and a practical nurse. I have lived in Helsinki for the past 19 yrs. but am originally from Lapland. I’m also expert by experience in domestic violence, threat of child abduction, custody disputes, mediation between parents and divorce, dealing with mental and neurological illness of a child or oneself.
I lived in London almost 10 yrs., so I spent my young adulthood there, got married, had my first child, and found Islam. More than half of my life I have been surrounded by Arabs and Arab culture. It is obvious that it has influenced my daily life and family. I think the fact that my kids say that in some cases I’m more of an Arab than they are, says a lot about how much it has affected me. I guess I am self proclaimed wanna-be-Arab. And this I say with most love and respect for Arabs.
I love sauna, the outdoors and camping. I love the “nightless nights” (yöttömät yöt) in the summer and nature. I love salmiakki, ruisleipä and rieska, also kuivaliha, (air dried reindeer). I make makkarakastike and torttu, I have gone to the avanto (ice swimming) in the winter, and I know how to drive a snow mobile and car on ice. I know how to gut a fish, and I like fried vendace (muikku). I try to keep to the agreed times as much as possible and respect all the people.
Do those things make me a Finn? Some might say yes, others no. Having mentioned some “Finnish” things, that are part of my life, I will also mention some things that are not; mealtime is not between 16-17.00 for us, sweet day (karkkipäivä) is not once a week. Getting drunk at the weekends and mumbling to oneself (or even pushing people) behind a person who does not even realise somebody is behind them, because one cannot open their mouth are also not part of my habits.
Most of the things I mentioned are assumptions and stereotypically Finns, but this list has nothing to do with Finnishness!
Some things might be normal to you, it is part of your culture, but does it mean that one cannot learn new things, change, and evolve? Why is the preference to “be like everyone else”? Why do we, Finns, expect foreigners to for example jump into sauna and like it, but we cannot adopt something from their cultures? And who says from which cultures? Only European? So, to answer what does it means to be a Finn, in my experience it bluntly means not being “different,” skin color/appearance and definitely not wearing anything on your head!
Get to know yourself and know what you want! Do not let other people tell you how to live your life. Nobody but you can determine your own identity!
First time I heard of Familia, was when I came back to Finland, maybe 2004-5. I remember reading about groups for mixed couples, but I couldn’t convince my then husband to attend. I belong to the boards of 2 organisations that Familia collaborates with, so I actually worked WITH Familia before I worked AT Familia.
The most important positive thing Familia has given me is to work with topics and themes that are my life. This is not just a job for me, this is a part of my life that I can share with others and that revolves around things that are important and meaningful to me.
Haluamme kertoa juhlavuotemme kunniaksi 35 tarinaa kahden kulttuurin perheistä
ulkaisemme 35 viikon ajan 35 erilaista tarinaa, jotka kuvastavat monia haasteita ja mahdollisuuksia, joita kahden kulttuurin perheet jokapäiväisessä elämässään kohtaavat. Haluamme näiden tarinoiden heijastavan todellisuutta ja tarjoavan vertaistukea, voimaannuttavia kokemuksia ja inspiraation lähteitä sekä lisäävän tietoisuutta kulttuurienvälisyydestä ja monikielisyydestä Suomessa.
For 35 weeks, we will be publishing 35 different stories that reflect the many challenges and opportunities intercultural families face in their everyday lives. We want these stories to reflect reality and serve as an accessible peer support, source of empowerment and inspiration, and increase awareness of Interculturalism and Multilingualism in Finland.