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Sari with her "pals" in her own room.

A girl from Nepal - Sari´s story

Soila Kaivanto-Juhola


“I came to Finland before I turned one and feel like a full-fledged Finn,” says 10-year-old Sari, who was adopted by a Finnish couple Päivi and Kari Lyyti-käinen when she was 11 months old. Sari has had no problems whatsoever either with her background or adapting into her surroundings. “We have been completely candid with Sari about her background,” says her mother Päivi.

Although the family has settled nicely in the little village of Mommila, there is sometimes a hitch in the locals’ basically positive way of relating to Sari. Her doll-like appearance and exotically beautiful and non-Finnish complexion give the impression that she speaks some other language than the majority of the country. “Sari’s flawless Finnish never ceases to amaze people, even those who know her quite well,” Päivi laughs. “And the teacher in the village school asked Sari if she knew when Finland celebrates its independence. Of course she does!,” Päivi says. It is the only Independence Day Sari has ever celebrated.

Lively like a ball of mercury, Sari skips merrily down the steps from the village shop, runs after me and starts to chat animatedly. Compared to the rather shy local children, she is different with regard to her openness and quite grown-up conversational skills. This may partly be a result of her being a true cosmopolitan. Because of her father Kari’s job, the family has been living abroad for years; the last stop before moving to Finland was Guatemala. A couple of years ago, the family saw a newspaper ad and settled down in the village of Mommila. They wanted to find a quiet, safe living and school environment for Sari to balance out her globetrotter childhood. Sari’s mother Päivi runs a catering business and father Kari travels around the world in the forestry business.

For a long time, there has been no need for the family to visit Nepal, but there has been some talk of taking a trip to the country where Sari was born. When the USSR was still alive and well, flying Aeroflot to Nepal was not very expensive. “But we shall travel to Nepal when Sari gets a little older,” Päivi says. “Perhaps not when she is in her teens, but later we’ll travel, the whole family together, and show her the orphanage where we found her and tour the country,” Päivi plans.

This sunny day, however, we are all living in the present and what will come, will come. Sari’s day is, in every respect, like that of the other children playing by the shop. She plays awhile with a puppy toddling in the yard, pats the shopkeeper’s cat and runs off, laughing, to play with one of her classmates. Her father hurries back home to build a half-finished shed and her mother needs to take the family’s tornado of an Alsatian puppy, Raksu, for a walk.

In other words, Sari has quite successfully found her place in Finnish – i.e. her own – society and the village milieu. She is surrounded by a loving family, a safe village community and the exemplary pupils in the village school. Despite her exotic looks, she has been welcomed with open arms.

Soila Kaivanto-Juhola, Editor-in-Chief of the Universitas Helsingiensis magazine and part-time resident of Mommila, met Sari and her family when visiting the village shop.