Monday, October 30, 2006

Fair enough

Luckily the last book fair this year is over.

It was hectic, as usual, but it was nice, too. Let me list some of the best things, the order depending on my moods.

1. The guests. The writers. The ones the fans of whom many of us are.

2. The crowds. Hundreds of eager cusiomers. No, thousands of people who don't work in the business but to whom bookfair is fun. Celebration. Audiences clapping hands and cheering after good interviews.

3. Bookfair bath. A brilliant tradition the cleverest people on earth, editors, just started.

On Friday evening, when everybody else was summing up the recent experiences at bars around Helsinki, we – a group of nine women – were bathing at an impressing and posh sauna department in a big trade union headquarters near the fair.


In sauna there was +90 degrees Celcius, and the pool was nice, too, by a fireplace, and we lit candles around it... Envious? You should be!

4. Being busy so that I don't have time to worry about things that should be ready by day before yesterday. Lost deadlines are COMPLETELY LOST at the fairs. Too bad. Hah.

5. Last but not least, a bookfair bath at home. After the gates are closed. After the money has been counted, after stalls and booths are torn down and after the foreign guests have been driven to the airport.

After Miss Funnybunny has been put to bed. Cup of tea by the side of the tub. Must be rooibos or mate. Something to make me feel relaxed and refreshed.

Enough. Back to normal.

But not just yet, I have some lovely reading to do. Fair enough.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Helsinki Bookfair 26–29 Oct

Is there ever a bookfair in Tallinn? Or Tartu? In case there are any, I would love to go. Hello, Estonia, please send some invitations over here!

I will be both working and enjoying my leasure time at the Helsinki Bookfair from tomorrow until Sunday evening.

Miss Funnybunny will be at her grandmother's, which she is already looking forward to. But I know she will miss her father and me: she is so touching when she is on the phone. "MUMMY! she will yell. "I AM HERE! WITH GRANNY! WILL YOU COME HERE, TOO? I AM HERE. GRANNY IS HERE, TOO. I AM EATING OATMEAL. WILL YOU AND DADDY COME HERE NOW?"

Luckily, she will drop by, at the fair, and visit us. (wetkisses&hugsformummyanddad, wetkisses&hugsformummyanddad...)

See you at the fair!


Ps. Tässä aikatauluni Helsingin kirjamessuilla. Näihin juttuihin osallistun aika lailla:

* torstai 26.10.

klo - lava - kuka, keitä - mikä kirja

11 Aleksis Kivi

Pirkko Saisio, Jouni Tervo, Jukka Mallinen, Riikka Uosukainen, Heidi Hautala

Vaarallinen vapaus? – Anna Politkovskajan perintö
Sananvapaudesta, sensuurista ja poliittisesta korrektiudesta Venäjällä ja Suomessa keskustelevat kirjailija Pirkko Saisio, toimittaja Jouni Tervo, Suomen PEN:in puheenjohtaja Jukka Mallinen, toimittaja Riikka Uosukainen ja kansanedustaja Heidi Hautala. Tilaisuuden juontaa Marketta Mattila.

12 Katri Vala Pakkanen, Jukka Tinasotamiehen poika
12:30 Liken os. Pakkanen, Jukka Tinasotamiehen poika
14 Suomalainen kk Mylläri, Anu Adoptoitu
15 Otavan os. Mylläri, Anu Adoptoitu

* perjantai 27.10.

13.30 Soul Food Sankarimatkailijat: Neuvosto-Tallinna, Kaakkois-Turkki, Vilna, Varsova, Färsaaret jne

* lauantai 28.10.

11:30 Kirjakahvila Hari Kunzru, Andrei Nekrasov, Susie Nicklin
How much control should a government have over what we can say? Taking as a starting point the English PEN/Penguin collection of essays Free Expression is No Offence, this panel discussion will look at key issues around freedom of speech. Tuottaja: British Council.

13 Suomalainen kk Mäki, Reijo Hard Luck Cafe
17 Soul Food Haahtela, Joel Perhoskerääjä

* sunnuntai 29.10.

10:30 Kirjakahvila Köngäs, Heidi Hyväntekijä
14:20 Katri Vala Aylett, Steve (UK) Atomi (Atom)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

That Greek salad... Bullets. Winter coming.

Yesterday evening we had a good round table wondering how to make things better in Russia.

Russia. Our favourite hobby. Main topic. Top of the pops. Neverending story.

Luckily we had a Russian with us, for a change! AN is a film director, and used to know Anna P., too. What a pity we never met when Anna was around.

Our hostess, HH, is a Finnish parlamentarian, and very interested in Russian politics. PH is a senior politician, currently working for the UN (that abbreviation equals the huge organisation the Secratary-General of which is Kofi Annan. I was not referring to any other mysterious friend of mine!)

The center item on the table, Greek salad, was there because of our journalistic friends, TN and NF, are Greek freaks. (But I am just envious: how come is it possible that some get to be interested and have energy to dig into other cultures besides North-Eastern Europe?)

KM was there too. She is a cultural journalist. Loves Russian stuff, especially theater.

Actually, all of us, including miss Funnybunny and mr HP, used to be friends of Anna Politkovskaya and always hanging around when she was visiting us.

I was thinking about that when I listened to the new piece (Uuden ajan kynnyksellä, "In the Beginning Of a New Era") for memory of Anna (and for human rights), composed by Kerkko Koskinen, and lyrics by Terhi Kokkonen. They sing:

"The one telling the truth
in an elevator she gets a bullet in her forehead.
They don't know about you yet.
They don't know about me yet."

There are more of us. But hopefully the eagle with two heads will run out of bullets soon.


It was raining today. Winter is coming. But there was some magic in the air, look: outside the railway station it was all blue. (Play misty for me.)

I like the predictable fact that there will be snow soon. Aaahhh, winter... Playing in the snow with Miss Funnybunny. The smell of food in the owen. Mulled wine. Candles everywhere, all the time, all day. Not seeing the bellybuttons of every woman under 40. Winter IS good.

I like going to work in the morning when it's dark (sure, it is dark the whole day, but nonetheless...) and lighting a candle as the first thing. Even before my first sip of coffee.

And reading Doctor Zivago. I read it in every fourth winter, and soon it will be time time time.

No more Visas. Putin in Lahti. Greek salad.

There are more and more journalists in Finland who don't get visas the Russia any more. Once, when Anna Politkovskaya (Politkovskaja) was in Finland, there were about 5-6 journalists around a tabl, of the kind. (We were in restaurant Kappeli, having blinys and wine. Lovely evening, that was!)

A (late) human rights lawyer Mati Wuori, who was with us, said it is outrageous.

So, on Friday, we went to a small, strange town of Lahti, to meet Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin. (See the previuous entry, from Thu 19 Oct.)

Lahti is located by a lake called Vesijärvi. In English, "Waterlake". Isn't that a wonderful example of the endless sources of imagination of our ancestors?

Back to the protest /vigil /demonstration. Nowadays the police are hysteric, and so are the Heads of State. You can not go anywhere near the actual meetings to protest.

BUT WE HAD ALREADY WON, in that sense that according to the news Mr. Putin had had to reply the sincere and perhaps, more than slighty uncomfortabe questions about the human rights situation in Russia. Both, our Prime Minister Mati vanhanen, as well as President Tarja Halonen had discussed with Putin. Ms Halonen had a lot a chance to talk, she went to the airport to get Putin to Lahti, and together they drove there and back. More than two hours together.

But, as all the sensible activists have concluded repeatedly, it is not the talks that count, but action. Something should change. Rule of law, at first.

* *** ***** *** *

But what on earth does Greek salad have to do with all this? Believe it or not, it has EVERYTHING to do with Putin, Politkovskaya, and politics, in these two countries, Finland and Russia.

But I will explain that later this evening, Miss Funnybunny just woke up and we are going out to the rain for a while.

To be continued...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Putin and Vanhanen in the Center of the Universe, Lahti.

Today Lahti is the Center of the Universe.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is coming to Finland, to a big EU meeting, in two hours. He will go to Lahti, Sibelius hall.

Quite a number of people are going there, like Mr. HP and Miss Funnybunny. Only 1 hour drive from here, 48 min by train.

We are there to say hi, and to demand the following. I just e-mailed this to Kremlin, too.


President of the Federation of Russia
Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin

President of the European Council
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen

October 20, 2006


Two weeks ago the highly respected and awarded journalist Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in the centre of Moscow. This brutal act of violence was yet another setback to freedom of speech, democracy and the respect for human rights in Russia.
In addition to the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, dozens of human rights activists are regularly faced by threats and acts of oppression. They are threatened by physical violence, by loss of job, by threats to their families, by politically motivated law suits and by shaming in the non-independent media.
Travel by individual activists abroad is prevented. Non-governmental organisations are increasingly facing official obstruction of their work and threats of non-registration under the new law. All the mentioned acts above are happening everyday somewhere in Russia.

The murder of Anna Politkovskaya should serve as a final opening of the eyes of those who have repeatedly denied that human rights are eroding in today's Russia. It should serve as a final opening of the eyes for us in the European Union to see what really is going on under the surface in Russia.

Anna Politkovskaya spoke loudly for the rights of those who did not have any and those who were losing their rights in the midst of the war, i.e. “fight against terrorism”, as the government has described it.
She spoke for the need for rule of law in her home country. In her last article she wrote:
"[In Chechnya and in Russia] prosecutors and judges are not acting on behalf of the law and they are not interested in punishing the guilty. Instead, they work to political order to make the Kremlin's nice anti-terrorist score sheet look good and cases are cooked up like blinys. ...
This is what a group of mothers of convicted young Chechens wrote to me: 'In essence, these correctional facilities (where terrorist suspects are held) have been turned into concentration camps for Chechen convicts. They are subjected to discrimination on an ethnic basis. The majority, or almost all of them, have been convicted on trumped-up evidence."

We appeal to you, President Vladimir Putin, that the Russian army and courts of law should respect the European Convention for Human Rights. The culture of impunity should not be allowed to live a day longer.
The Russia authorities should immediately intensify ongoing investigations and start new ones into the disappearances and deaths of Chechen civilians.
Independent observers should be allowed to visit prisons and refugee camps all over the territory of the Russian Federation to ensure that torture is not taking place.
Urgent measures need to be put in place to stop the intimidation and to guarantee the protection of human rights defenders working in Russia.
The full investigation into the murder of Anna Politkovskaya including finding out who possibly ordered the killing should be pursued vigorously and the perpetrators should be prosecuted and tried in a open and fair manner.

In 2004 Anna Politkovskaya was asked whether she believed it might take generations for her country to become truly free.
She answered: "I wouldn't ever want to say it would take generations. I want to be able to live the life of a human being, where every individual is respected, in my lifetime."

Unfortunately it is too late for her, but not too late for you, President Putin.

Prime Minister Vanhanen, we urge and encourage the European Union and especially the Finnish Government now holding the Presidency of the EU to raise these serious and urgent human rights concerns with the Russian Federation. The EU would be betraying its own core values if it failed now, when there is a momentum to take up these serious questions, to demand immediate action from the Russian government to uphold freedom of speech and to guarantee the protection of human rights defenders. This autumn you, as the President of the European Council, have several opportunities to directly address these problems with President Putin.
We therefore appeal to you that these issues be prominently on the agenda at these meetings, in particular and in depth, at the EU-Russia summit in Helsinki on the 24th of November.

Amnesty International
Finnish Section

Finnish Helsinki Committee
International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights

Finnish Peace Committee

Finnish PEN

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hockey Night. Putin on stage.

Today I walked downtown with Funnybunny, and suddenly something reminded me of the dream I saw last night. It was hilarious. I burst out laughing in the middle of traffic lights.

There we go: I was taking some evening classes, aiming at some kind of degree. (Perhaps I still feel I need more education? Though I'm just another brick in the wall.) The avuncular professor was very strict and said he demands a lot. (He was a lot like my math teacher in high school, a man who looked like raisin, without any human side.) "Only few, perhaps none" of us will pass the tests, he said, and "every day is like a test" for us. Gee. (That's what I have always felt in or outside school.) And my cousin TS was there with me. She whispered to me she wants to do "her absolute best".

So then we all were given our first tasks, with preaches: "Don't fail now, this is far too important."

TS and I went to a cafe nearby, to write our essays.

And the question was: "How would you define the on-going situation of the Finnish Ice Hockey League."

I was dumbfounded. So THIS is the question. (Given the fact that I have no idea WHAT the "on-going situation" is. Or if there is any "situation". The first round is on, yes, but that's all. I will start paying attention in spring, nearer the finals, of course.)

Pip-pip, Sir. TS took her phone and started calling Kalervo Kummola, the leading man of the Finnish Hockey League. Soon she was interviewing him on the phone. I wanted reply immediately. I wrote:

The players are extremely bad.
The managers are extremely bad.
The leadership is extremely bad.
The referees are extremely bad.
The fans are extremely bad.

(Then I started laughing and woke up. Quite negative an answer, wasn't it! But as Mr HP put it, I have to see the next episode tonight, if I passed the test or not, because else I have to start napping in daytime, too!)


Putin's Russia, a play based on a book written by Anna Politkovskaya, will be on stage again soon, in Koko-teatteri. I will invite my friends and acquaintances, everybody, to one of the evenings. In early December.

More about this later.

See you there.

I miss Anna.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Loving candles

I love candles. In the little flame there is so much comfort and warmth that it is almost unbearably beautiful.

It is Saturday, and I am working. I had to do something. Miss Funnybunny and Mr HP are visiting relatives in the countryside, I have zillion deadlines.

I went to Panihida yesterday. It was a Greek orthodox service for Anna Politkovskaya's (Politkovskaja) soul. The Greek orthodoxism was not the most exotic part of the seremony, but the fact that it was held in Swedish. And, it took place in the little church of Holy Trinity, the church wich I pass by almost daily, but in which I have never been before.

I would not have missed it in any case, because I like churches very much, and because some good friends of mine also attended.

Yes, I do like churches: The idea of a place where hatred and violence of any kind, are not allowed, is worth respecting. (Allthough the Bible is full of hatred and violence _of all kinds_. But we'll let that pass, for now...)

Many people say it is the inner though that counts, that beliving is most important, no matter where the service is held.

I think exactly the opposite: It is the church that counts. I am not at all that interested in which religion the holy place belongs to, not at all.


OKAY, okay, even if the church was one the most beautiful tajmahals in the whole world, if it was built for the honour of L. Ron Hubbard, I would dislike the place.

So let me refrase this: If the religion itself has good and unselfish ethical values, and, for example, teaches how all the human beings should love one another, and has these values in its inner core (like Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, old wild pantheistic religions, and so on), then I really don't mind to whom does the church belong.

I just want to step inside, feel the atmosphere of regret, mercy and holiness. And admire the beauty of religious arts. And be still for a while.

There will be another Panihida at the cathedral of Uspenski on Monday, at 6 pm. This time in Finnish.

We'll be there, Mr HP, Miss Funnybunny, and I. "Auntie Anna" will get three (more) candles from us, and Miss Funnybunny will send her a kiss, too.

The cathedral of Uspenski is one of the holiest places on earth. Last time we were there lighting candles, was after Beslan siege. I know that church in particular is like a mail box. Anna will hear our thoughts.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Nothing to say.

The funeral of Anna Politkovskaya. Photos from her employer, Novaya Gazeta (

Anna Politkovskajan hautajaiset Novaja Gazetan sivuilta, os. yllä.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

"We are all involved in a great tragedy". Missing Anna Politkovskaya.

Very sad news reached us in Frankfurt on Saturday evening.

Anna Politkovskaya (Politkovskaja, in Finnish), a friend, and respected, highly devoted writer, had been cold-bloodedly shot in the center of Moscow, in an elevator at her home building.

The pictures here are taken during her visits in Finland. The photos below are the ones I took today by the Soviet Embassy, in Helsinki, Finland. There was a vigil this evening, and hundreds, maybe even thousands of people came with candles.

Whatever the message of her killers was, and to whoever it was directed, the message us, her friends and readers all over the wirld should send, is that WE ARE NOT DONE. Anna's work has been much too important to be wiped away with more and more violence. And, she would hate to see that happen.

Anna demanded peace and JUSTICE. Not only did she want the war in Chechnya to stop, but also, she wanted the crimes to be investigated and war criminals punished, for the sake of the victims and their families.

She wanted someone to take responsibility of the Beslan tragedy (2004 ->), or at least to explain in public what had actually happened. Official investigations carried out by the police, would have been a good start, she said.

And the same with the Nord-Ost theater siege in 2002 – the physically and mentally severely injured victims of which were left alone without any explanation. (Anna was supposed to come to the Helsinki Book fair back then, but she had to negotiate in the middle of the crisis. The Chechens asked her to. She was very shaken and disturbed of the outcome, that the Russian Spetsnaz forces went in with so much force, and that led up to 170 casualities.)


Anna loved her children very much, and she was very proud of them. I hope they are fine, though they must be mourning.


Thie following was written in TIME Magazine, back in 2003, when Anna was chosen as one of the ultimate Heroes of the world. (

... When those missiles hit a market in Grozny, it was only prompt coverage by journalists like Politkovskaya that forced the Russian commanders to let ambulances in and refugees out. "Our work is a lever to help people as much as we can," she believes. But it also causes trouble. In February 2000, the FSB (the former KGB) arrested Politkovskaya in the Vedeno district of Chechnya. They kept her in a pit for three days without food or water.

"It was important not to let them kill me on the first day," she says. A year later, a Russian officer whose war crimes Politkovskaya had exposed threatened to kill her. Novaya Gazeta had to hide her in Austria for a while. The officer is now awaiting trial on charges of war crimes committed in Chechnya that Politkovskaya was the first to report. "But I don't feel victorious," she says. "I only feel that we're all involved in a great tragedy."

Her editors have had to stand up to pressure from the Kremlin, which is often infuriated by her reporting. Novaya Gazeta balances on the brink of forcible closure. "Well, it goes with the job," she shrugs. Politkovskaya has long since learned to keep her anxieties in check.

As she arranges yet another trip to Chechnya, she may now be too famous to be targeted by the FSB. But she really doesn't think about such things. "If you don't have the strength to control your emotions, you're of no help to the people who are in such shock and pain. You only add to their burden," she says.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Valuable reminders

It is not often that I get to meet someone who starts a sentence by saying: "when I met doctor Joseph Mengele..."

Mr. Arnost Lustig met Mengele when he was put into a long queue with others, who were taken out of the train onto the platform, at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Lustig was 17 then, and Mengele showed by a quick movement of his thumb, that he can proceed to the shorter queue on the right. Nine out of ten people were told to move to the left. These people went directly to the gas chambers.

On the next day, one of the people directed to the line on the left was father of Mr. Lustig. The basic reason for dostor's immediate decision and Lustig senior's death sentence was that he had glasses.

Very sympathetic, intelligent and charismatic Lustig visited Finland (Helsinki, and Turku bookfair) last week, as his wonderful book came out. It is a story about a young woman, Katarzyna Horowitzova, who is getting closer and closer to "the ultimate solution".

But really, it is a story about losing everything – but gaining dignity.

For a prisoner, to have dignity in Auschwitz, sounds impossible.

Sorry to be this vague about the plot, but I do not want to go into detail now, as it is something one is able to and should read herself.

I think one the most important things Mr. Lustig said, was that "Auschwitz is not over, it is happening again".

Think about that. It might not be happening is such a systematic and horribly effective scale as was the case in the Nazist Germany, but the refugee camps and torture chambers in the war zones of today certainly do have resemblance with the concentration camps of the last century. (A very good site:

Some stories have happy ends. Mr. Lustig has children (his nice son was with him in Finland) and grandchildren. Even though he said Auschwitz will be part of him forever, on his skin and in his mind, he doesn't seem to be bitter or depressed. Good.

Thank you for writing the excellent book.


The picture above is Frankfurt in 1945. That's where we are leaving for, on Wednesday. Last summer I went to the excellent Jewish museum, and now I want to visit that again, as I want to show that to Mr. HP, too.

We will meet a good bunch of friends in Frankfurt, at the biggest bookfair in the world. I am so much looking forward to that! But after the fair, I have to take a deep breath and carefully start planning my schedule for the rest of the year, and next year.

My full-time job will change dramatically, soon...