This used to be someone’s home. The odd green of the walls was very unfamiliar to us, the old items with peculiar meanings and the labels of long gone brands filled the scene with complex significances. For us this was the most unnatural place, a wrinkle in time left unnoticed, but obviously not for the person before us. For him or for her, this was a place of safety.
A simple wooden house next to a wheat field is a common sight in Finland. How many of those are actually abandoned could be staggering proportion - the prevalence of abandoned homes around us, hidden in plain sight could be surprisingly high. But this home wasn’t hiding anymore. What made us feel welcome was a broken window and the tall grass. The front door was open and spiderwebs made us aware that nobody had entered this home for a very long time.
It all began with the machines. In the middle of the the 19th century, 90 per cent of Finns worked in the lumber industry. New imported technologies, although not very sophisticated at that time, meant a decline for particular manual labor skills. The same trend continued and took place with agriculture in the middle of the 20th century, right after the Second World War. Tractors replaced horses, and modern replaced the past.
The rise of the Welfare State in the 1970s introduced the Finns with a set of regional policies. This meant an unnatural, a faux relocation of universities, government institutions, jobs and people to rural areas. It wasn’t the best idea, although we urban explorers reap this yield gratefully nowadays. The next big quake came with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many industries relied heavily on the market of the Great Bear. Over a hundred thousands jobs were lost and most of them were in the primary production, which again were located in the rural areas. These slow changes, unforeseen technologies and also sudden events has left many corners of rural homeland desolate, and these houses are evidence for reality of this transformation.
Furniture here makes me feel less unnatural. Couches, books and funny souvenirs from voyages to distant places remind me of a mundane, still unique life. Home is the safe house for our feelings - hopes, dreams and fears. Here, there, wherever we feel home, we rest and recover. Our safe haven. It almost felt like sacrilege to stand here, but then again we urban explorers visit frequently places with sad pasts. We visit them not to mock, but to explore and reveal places so they have a chance to tell their stories, or at least make us wonder what happened.
Finland is quickly turning into a desert of forgotten homes. Up north, whole villages are becoming forgotten last stands against urbanization, places which lost the battle. This is somewhat a sad but natural episode in our history. A turn of a wheel, but then again, history tells us that this development might change it’s direction because of events which hard to predict. In the meanwhile, we are going be busy exploring.
K.P / 7.8.2018