Life and Death on Lake Ladoga On a cold Friday evening in February, I am in a car with a man that I have never met before, on our way to the unknown. It is the year 1999. The last border barrier lifts after three hours of formalities. I feel tense. We are not travelling that far, but to be honest, I am a little daunted.
© Petteri Kokkonen 2021 Design Olli Kokkonen 2021
Petteri Photography
The subject matter got stuck in my head, and I started researching it deeper and finding contacts. All this was before Google. In May 1998, I managed to get myself to Karelia via a small charity. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as I hoped. As a non-Russian speaker living in a hotel and visiting institutions, it was hard to get in touch with the real life of the locals. I needed to find a family.
Let’s jump back two years in time. There was a one-column article in a British broadsheet about “the largest cross-border cap in living standards” that caught my eye, as it mentioned Finland’s eastern border. I made a quick call to a colleague, Jaakko “Jaska” Julkunen, in Lappeenranta. Jaska knows the area well. I wondered if the situation on the east side of the Finnish border was really that bad. Should I rush to document it? Jaska’s memorable answer was: “You have no hurry. Things will not change”. That was in 1997.
Back into the car and the year 1999: I am starting to feel more relaxed, as we leave the border further behind us. My travelling companion turns out to be an experienced visitor to the area, even though he doesn’t speak the language. It’s dark. After an hour, I have no idea where we are, but the driver knows the way. Before Läskelä, we turn off the main road. After five kilometres, I can see snow-covered Lake Ladoga looming. We take a sharp left, go down the hill and park. We continue our journey on foot, with torches, following the coastline of Ladoga. A dog barks. Luckily one of us is an old acquaintance, and the new visitor, me, avoids being bitten. In the cottage, the welcome is friendly. The driver drinks a cup of coffee, offers thanks and leaves. My lift back will arrive in a week. My” Laatokan Laidalla – Out in the cold”- project has begun.
Helped by chance and determination, I had ended up in the cottage of Maria Belozerova and her husband, Slava, on the edge of Lake Ladoga in Hiidenselkä. It was a stroke of luck that my reception was warm and open. I wasn't going to starve. Times were miserable, the ruble had crashed in August 1998, and the country’s economy was on its knees. People hadn’t received their salaries or pensions for three months. Hunger was a frequent visitor in many homes, and people missed Soviet times.
At the end of March 1999, I was sitting in the office of an American weekly magazine on the bank of the Thames. The black and white films have been processed in my bathroom, and the handmade prints are on the table. The picture editor picks out a print of Maria rinsing washing on the ice of Lake Ladoga. “I have never seen anything like this.” The feedback is making me feel warm, though the last comment of the session gives me a cold shiver: “We are only interested in this area if something like Chernobyl happens there.” I sincerely hope not.
As it was the last year of the Millennium, I decided to document the full circle of the year. Maria had told me how beautiful it was in Hiidenselkä during summer and welcomed me to return then. I had to go and see it. It could have been too late the following year, if scare stories in the press about the millennium bug causing planes to fall out of the sky and computers crashing were to be believed.
My documentation of life in Hiidenselkä continued. One year turned into two, two into five, five into ten, until we arrive at the present day. So far, I have made nearly forty trips to the village. Without Maria's help as a guide and translator, my project would have ended after the first trip. Not everybody in the village has welcomed me unreservedly. My presence has caused heated arguments a couple of times. Politely Maria didn’t translate everything, just said, “Let’s move on”.
In July 2019, Hiidenselkä felt quieter than in 1999. At its peak, the local sawmill employed over a thousand people, now the village’s total population is less. Water still comes from wells, not from a tap, even though you can access 334 tv channels in your living room. The freely wandering cows in the village centre have turned into metal ie cars. I am photographing around the village on my own. Time to go, Maria walks me to the car with her rollator, wishes me a good journey home, and waves.
Friday evening, 27.9.2019, my mobile rings. An era has ended.
Sunday morning, before dawn, I am in a car at the border with four voluntary members of Red Cross Tohmajärvi, all now my good friends. Whenever I have needed a lift in the last 20 years, they have made it possible. We are on the road early, as you never know how long the neighbour’s border formalities take. You can’t be late for a funeral. Unbelievably it took a total of eighteen minutes to complete the formalities. The seasoned border crossers in the group are even more surprised as the guard at the last border barrier says in good English, “Good Morning, Welcome!”. There's a first time for everything.
The familiar road is under repair once again. Maybe this time they are doing it correctly. I don’t know about the standard of the work, but at least the new, western-made machinery seems to be up to the job. I believe I'm not fully awake as I start seeing new signs which are easy to read “Ski Resort”, “Architectural Monument” etc. Something is going on. We turn onto the small road to Hiidenselkä and there are no more signs of change. Plenty of potholes!
Second funeral. The first one was over ten years ago. Slava smiles as Maria’s red coffin is laid into rest. You are never prepared for this. I have tears in my eyes. The vicar had visited yesterday, at home. We throw three handfuls of earth on top of the coffin, one by one. Four spades swing and soon there is a mound of earth ready for decorating. Wooden cross, artificial flowers, food - but this time no vodka or cigarettes as we did last time. Slava is still smiling, a familiar picture. On Maria’s grave, behind some flowers, I see a wooden frame with another familiar picture, one chosen by Maria herself. Now Maria and Slava are smiling together, next to each other, forever, engraved in stone.
I feel empty, even though the tables at the wake are full to the brim. Is this it? Has my “Out In The Cold”- project reached its end? The speeches have finished, the tables are not brimming anymore, people are starting to leave. One of Maria’s grandchildren sits next to me, the one whose Finnish is as good as my local dialect. Luckily we have bilinguals to translate. We look at some pictures on a mobile phone, a new fantastic house and sauna. The sauna looks bigger than Maria’s cottage. Now we need paper, where is my notebook? I can’t find any. At least some cardboard is found, and on it starts to appear a map to the house and the key safe. Thank you Maria, thank you Slava, thank you family, thank you to the whole village. We shall carry on... Petteri October 2019
Life and Death on Lake Ladoga On a cold Friday evening in February, I am in a car with a man that I have never met before, on our way to the unknown. It is the year 1999. The last border barrier lifts after three hours of formalities. I feel tense. We are not travelling that far, but to be honest, I am a little daunted.
© Petteri Kokkonen 2021 Design Olli Kokkonen 2021
Petteri Photography
The subject matter got stuck in my head, and I started researching it deeper and finding contacts. All this was before Google. In May 1998, I managed to get myself to Karelia via a small charity. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as I hoped. As a non-Russian speaker living in a hotel and visiting institutions, it was hard to get in touch with the real life of the locals. I needed to find a family.
Let’s jump back two years in time. There was a one-column article in a British broadsheet about “the largest cross-border cap in living standards” that caught my eye, as it mentioned Finland’s eastern border. I made a quick call to a colleague, Jaakko “Jaska” Julkunen, in Lappeenranta. Jaska knows the area well. I wondered if the situation on the east side of the Finnish border was really that bad. Should I rush to document it? Jaska’s memorable answer was: “You have no hurry. Things will not change”. That was in 1997.
Back into the car and the year 1999: I am starting to feel more relaxed, as we leave the border further behind us. My travelling companion turns out to be an experienced visitor to the area, even though he doesn’t speak the language. It’s dark. After an hour, I have no idea where we are, but the driver knows the way. Before Läskelä, we turn off the main road. After five kilometres, I can see snow-covered Lake Ladoga looming. We take a sharp left, go down the hill and park. We continue our journey on foot, with torches, following the coastline of Ladoga. A dog barks. Luckily one of us is an old acquaintance, and the new visitor, me, avoids being bitten. In the cottage, the welcome is friendly. The driver drinks a cup of coffee, offers thanks and leaves. My lift back will arrive in a week. My” Laatokan Laidalla – Out in the cold”- project has begun.
Helped by chance and determination, I had ended up in the cottage of Maria Belozerova and her husband, Slava, on the edge of Lake Ladoga in Hiidenselkä. It was a stroke of luck that my reception was warm and open. I wasn't going to starve. Times were miserable, the ruble had crashed in August 1998, and the country’s economy was on its knees. People hadn’t received their salaries or pensions for three months. Hunger was a frequent visitor in many homes, and people missed Soviet times.
At the end of March 1999, I was sitting in the office of an American weekly magazine on the bank of the Thames. The black and white films have been processed in my bathroom, and the handmade prints are on the table. The picture editor picks out a print of Maria rinsing washing on the ice of Lake Ladoga. “I have never seen anything like this.” The feedback is making me feel warm, though the last comment of the session gives me a cold shiver: “We are only interested in this area if something like Chernobyl happens there.” I sincerely hope not.
As it was the last year of the Millennium, I decided to document the full circle of the year. Maria had told me how beautiful it was in Hiidenselkä during summer and welcomed me to return then. I had to go and see it. It could have been too late the following year, if scare stories in the press about the millennium bug causing planes to fall out of the sky and computers crashing were to be believed.
My documentation of life in Hiidenselkä continued. One year turned into two, two into five, five into ten, until we arrive at the present day. So far, I have made nearly forty trips to the village. Without Maria's help as a guide and translator, my project would have ended after the first trip. Not everybody in the village has welcomed me unreservedly. My presence has caused heated arguments a couple of times. Politely Maria didn’t translate everything, just said, “Let’s move on”.
In July 2019, Hiidenselkä felt quieter than in 1999. At its peak, the local sawmill employed over a thousand people, now the village’s total population is less. Water still comes from wells, not from a tap, even though you can access 334 tv channels in your living room. The freely wandering cows in the village centre have turned into metal ie cars. I am photographing around the village on my own. Time to go, Maria walks me to the car with her rollator, wishes me a good journey home, and waves.
Friday evening, 27.9.2019, my mobile rings. An era has ended.
Sunday morning, before dawn, I am in a car at the border with four voluntary members of Red Cross Tohmajärvi, all now my good friends. Whenever I have needed a lift in the last 20 years, they have made it possible. We are on the road early, as you never know how long the neighbour’s border formalities take. You can’t be late for a funeral. Unbelievably it took a total of eighteen minutes to complete the formalities. The seasoned border crossers in the group are even more surprised as the guard at the last border barrier says in good English, “Good Morning, Welcome!”. There's a first time for everything.
The familiar road is under repair once again. Maybe this time they are doing it correctly. I don’t know about the standard of the work, but at least the new, western-made machinery seems to be up to the job. I believe I'm not fully awake as I start seeing new signs which are easy to read “Ski Resort”, “Architectural Monument” etc. Something is going on. We turn onto the small road to Hiidenselkä and there are no more signs of change. Plenty of potholes!
Second funeral. The first one was over ten years ago. Slava smiles as Maria’s red coffin is laid into rest. You are never prepared for this. I have tears in my eyes. The vicar had visited yesterday, at home. We throw three handfuls of earth on top of the coffin, one by one. Four spades swing and soon there is a mound of earth ready for decorating. Wooden cross, artificial flowers, food - but this time no vodka or cigarettes as we did last time. Slava is still smiling, a familiar picture. On Maria’s grave, behind some flowers, I see a wooden frame with another familiar picture, one chosen by Maria herself. Now Maria and Slava are smiling together, next to each other, forever, engraved in stone.
I feel empty, even though the tables at the wake are full to the brim. Is this it? Has my “Out In The Cold”- project reached its end? The speeches have finished, the tables are not brimming anymore, people are starting to leave. One of Maria’s grandchildren sits next to me, the one whose Finnish is as good as my local dialect. Luckily we have bilinguals to translate. We look at some pictures on a mobile phone, a new fantastic house and sauna. The sauna looks bigger than Maria’s cottage. Now we need paper, where is my notebook? I can’t find any. At least some cardboard is found, and on it starts to appear a map to the house and the key safe. Thank you Maria, thank you Slava, thank you family, thank you to the whole village. We shall carry on... Petteri October 2019
Life and Death on Lake Ladoga On a cold Friday evening in February, I am in a car with a man that I have never met before, on our way to the unknown. It is the year 1999. The last border barrier lifts after three hours of formalities. I feel tense. We are not travelling that far, but to be honest, I am a little daunted.
© Petteri Kokkonen 2021 Design Olli Kokkonen 2021
Petteri Photography
The subject matter got stuck in my head, and I started researching it deeper and finding contacts. All this was before Google. In May 1998, I managed to get myself to Karelia via a small charity. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as I hoped. As a non-Russian speaker living in a hotel and visiting institutions, it was hard to get in touch with the real life of the locals. I needed to find a family.
Let’s jump back two years in time. There was a one-column article in a British broadsheet about “the largest cross-border cap in living standards” that caught my eye, as it mentioned Finland’s eastern border. I made a quick call to a colleague, Jaakko “Jaska” Julkunen, in Lappeenranta. Jaska knows the area well. I wondered if the situation on the east side of the Finnish border was really that bad. Should I rush to document it? Jaska’s memorable answer was: “You have no hurry. Things will not change”. That was in 1997.
Back into the car and the year 1999: I am starting to feel more relaxed, as we leave the border further behind us. My travelling companion turns out to be an experienced visitor to the area, even though he doesn’t speak the language. It’s dark. After an hour, I have no idea where we are, but the driver knows the way. Before Läskelä, we turn off the main road. After five kilometres, I can see snow-covered Lake Ladoga looming. We take a sharp left, go down the hill and park. We continue our journey on foot, with torches, following the coastline of Ladoga. A dog barks. Luckily one of us is an old acquaintance, and the new visitor, me, avoids being bitten. In the cottage, the welcome is friendly. The driver drinks a cup of coffee, offers thanks and leaves. My lift back will arrive in a week. My” Laatokan Laidalla – Out in the cold”- project has begun.
Helped by chance and determination, I had ended up in the cottage of Maria Belozerova and her husband, Slava, on the edge of Lake Ladoga in Hiidenselkä. It was a stroke of luck that my reception was warm and open. I wasn't going to starve. Times were miserable, the ruble had crashed in August 1998, and the country’s economy was on its knees. People hadn’t received their salaries or pensions for three months. Hunger was a frequent visitor in many homes, and people missed Soviet times.
At the end of March 1999, I was sitting in the office of an American weekly magazine on the bank of the Thames. The black and white films have been processed in my bathroom, and the handmade prints are on the table. The picture editor picks out a print of Maria rinsing washing on the ice of Lake Ladoga. “I have never seen anything like this.” The feedback is making me feel warm, though the last comment of the session gives me a cold shiver: “We are only interested in this area if something like Chernobyl happens there.” I sincerely hope not.
As it was the last year of the Millennium, I decided to document the full circle of the year. Maria had told me how beautiful it was in Hiidenselkä during summer and welcomed me to return then. I had to go and see it. It could have been too late the following year, if scare stories in the press about the millennium bug causing planes to fall out of the sky and computers crashing were to be believed.
My documentation of life in Hiidenselkä continued. One year turned into two, two into five, five into ten, until we arrive at the present day. So far, I have made nearly forty trips to the village. Without Maria's help as a guide and translator, my project would have ended after the first trip. Not everybody in the village has welcomed me unreservedly. My presence has caused heated arguments a couple of times. Politely Maria didn’t translate everything, just said, “Let’s move on”.
In July 2019, Hiidenselkä felt quieter than in 1999. At its peak, the local sawmill employed over a thousand people, now the village’s total population is less. Water still comes from wells, not from a tap, even though you can access 334 tv channels in your living room. The freely wandering cows in the village centre have turned into metal ie cars. I am photographing around the village on my own. Time to go, Maria walks me to the car with her rollator, wishes me a good journey home, and waves.
Friday evening, 27.9.2019, my mobile rings. An era has ended.
Sunday morning, before dawn, I am in a car at the border with four voluntary members of Red Cross Tohmajärvi, all now my good friends. Whenever I have needed a lift in the last 20 years, they have made it possible. We are on the road early, as you never know how long the neighbour’s border formalities take. You can’t be late for a funeral. Unbelievably it took a total of eighteen minutes to complete the formalities. The seasoned border crossers in the group are even more surprised as the guard at the last border barrier says in good English, “Good Morning, Welcome!”. There's a first time for everything.
The familiar road is under repair once again. Maybe this time they are doing it correctly. I don’t know about the standard of the work, but at least the new, western-made machinery seems to be up to the job. I believe I'm not fully awake as I start seeing new signs which are easy to read “Ski Resort”, “Architectural Monument” etc. Something is going on. We turn onto the small road to Hiidenselkä and there are no more signs of change. Plenty of potholes!
Second funeral. The first one was over ten years ago. Slava smiles as Maria’s red coffin is laid into rest. You are never prepared for this. I have tears in my eyes. The vicar had visited yesterday, at home. We throw three handfuls of earth on top of the coffin, one by one. Four spades swing and soon there is a mound of earth ready for decorating. Wooden cross, artificial flowers, food - but this time no vodka or cigarettes as we did last time. Slava is still smiling, a familiar picture. On Maria’s grave, behind some flowers, I see a wooden frame with another familiar picture, one chosen by Maria herself. Now Maria and Slava are smiling together, next to each other, forever, engraved in stone.
I feel empty, even though the tables at the wake are full to the brim. Is this it? Has my “Out In The Cold”- project reached its end? The speeches have finished, the tables are not brimming anymore, people are starting to leave. One of Maria’s grandchildren sits next to me, the one whose Finnish is as good as my local dialect. Luckily we have bilinguals to translate. We look at some pictures on a mobile phone, a new fantastic house and sauna. The sauna looks bigger than Maria’s cottage. Now we need paper, where is my notebook? I can’t find any. At least some cardboard is found, and on it starts to appear a map to the house and the key safe. Thank you Maria, thank you Slava, thank you family, thank you to the whole village. We shall carry on... Petteri October 2019
Life and Death on Lake Ladoga On a cold Friday evening in February, I am in a car with a man that I have never met before, on our way to the unknown. It is the year 1999. The last border barrier lifts after three hours of formalities. I feel tense. We are not travelling that far, but to be honest, I am a little daunted.
© Petteri Kokkonen 2021 Design Olli Kokkonen 2021
Petteri Photography
The subject matter got stuck in my head, and I started researching it deeper and finding contacts. All this was before Google. In May 1998, I managed to get myself to Karelia via a small charity. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as I hoped. As a non-Russian speaker living in a hotel and visiting institutions, it was hard to get in touch with the real life of the locals. I needed to find a family.
Let’s jump back two years in time. There was a one-column article in a British broadsheet about “the largest cross-border cap in living standards” that caught my eye, as it mentioned Finland’s eastern border. I made a quick call to a colleague, Jaakko “Jaska” Julkunen, in Lappeenranta. Jaska knows the area well. I wondered if the situation on the east side of the Finnish border was really that bad. Should I rush to document it? Jaska’s memorable answer was: “You have no hurry. Things will not change”. That was in 1997.
Back into the car and the year 1999: I am starting to feel more relaxed, as we leave the border further behind us. My travelling companion turns out to be an experienced visitor to the area, even though he doesn’t speak the language. It’s dark. After an hour, I have no idea where we are, but the driver knows the way. Before Läskelä, we turn off the main road. After five kilometres, I can see snow-covered Lake Ladoga looming. We take a sharp left, go down the hill and park. We continue our journey on foot, with torches, following the coastline of Ladoga. A dog barks. Luckily one of us is an old acquaintance, and the new visitor, me, avoids being bitten. In the cottage, the welcome is friendly. The driver drinks a cup of coffee, offers thanks and leaves. My lift back will arrive in a week. My” Laatokan Laidalla – Out in the cold”- project has begun.
Helped by chance and determination, I had ended up in the cottage of Maria Belozerova and her husband, Slava, on the edge of Lake Ladoga in Hiidenselkä. It was a stroke of luck that my reception was warm and open. I wasn't going to starve. Times were miserable, the ruble had crashed in August 1998, and the country’s economy was on its knees. People hadn’t received their salaries or pensions for three months. Hunger was a frequent visitor in many homes, and people missed Soviet times.
At the end of March 1999, I was sitting in the office of an American weekly magazine on the bank of the Thames. The black and white films have been processed in my bathroom, and the handmade prints are on the table. The picture editor picks out a print of Maria rinsing washing on the ice of Lake Ladoga. “I have never seen anything like this.” The feedback is making me feel warm, though the last comment of the session gives me a cold shiver: “We are only interested in this area if something like Chernobyl happens there.” I sincerely hope not.
As it was the last year of the Millennium, I decided to document the full circle of the year. Maria had told me how beautiful it was in Hiidenselkä during summer and welcomed me to return then. I had to go and see it. It could have been too late the following year, if scare stories in the press about the millennium bug causing planes to fall out of the sky and computers crashing were to be believed.
My documentation of life in Hiidenselkä continued. One year turned into two, two into five, five into ten, until we arrive at the present day. So far, I have made nearly forty trips to the village. Without Maria's help as a guide and translator, my project would have ended after the first trip. Not everybody in the village has welcomed me unreservedly. My presence has caused heated arguments a couple of times. Politely Maria didn’t translate everything, just said, “Let’s move on”.
In July 2019, Hiidenselkä felt quieter than in 1999. At its peak, the local sawmill employed over a thousand people, now the village’s total population is less. Water still comes from wells, not from a tap, even though you can access 334 tv channels in your living room. The freely wandering cows in the village centre have turned into metal ie cars. I am photographing around the village on my own. Time to go, Maria walks me to the car with her rollator, wishes me a good journey home, and waves.
Friday evening, 27.9.2019, my mobile rings. An era has ended.
Sunday morning, before dawn, I am in a car at the border with four voluntary members of Red Cross Tohmajärvi, all now my good friends. Whenever I have needed a lift in the last 20 years, they have made it possible. We are on the road early, as you never know how long the neighbour’s border formalities take. You can’t be late for a funeral. Unbelievably it took a total of eighteen minutes to complete the formalities. The seasoned border crossers in the group are even more surprised as the guard at the last border barrier says in good English, “Good Morning, Welcome!”. There's a first time for everything.
The familiar road is under repair once again. Maybe this time they are doing it correctly. I don’t know about the standard of the work, but at least the new, western-made machinery seems to be up to the job. I believe I'm not fully awake as I start seeing new signs which are easy to read “Ski Resort”, “Architectural Monument” etc. Something is going on. We turn onto the small road to Hiidenselkä and there are no more signs of change. Plenty of potholes!
Second funeral. The first one was over ten years ago. Slava smiles as Maria’s red coffin is laid into rest. You are never prepared for this. I have tears in my eyes. The vicar had visited yesterday, at home. We throw three handfuls of earth on top of the coffin, one by one. Four spades swing and soon there is a mound of earth ready for decorating. Wooden cross, artificial flowers, food - but this time no vodka or cigarettes as we did last time. Slava is still smiling, a familiar picture. On Maria’s grave, behind some flowers, I see a wooden frame with another familiar picture, one chosen by Maria herself. Now Maria and Slava are smiling together, next to each other, forever, engraved in stone.
I feel empty, even though the tables at the wake are full to the brim. Is this it? Has my “Out In The Cold”- project reached its end? The speeches have finished, the tables are not brimming anymore, people are starting to leave. One of Maria’s grandchildren sits next to me, the one whose Finnish is as good as my local dialect. Luckily we have bilinguals to translate. We look at some pictures on a mobile phone, a new fantastic house and sauna. The sauna looks bigger than Maria’s cottage. Now we need paper, where is my notebook? I can’t find any. At least some cardboard is found, and on it starts to appear a map to the house and the key safe. Thank you Maria, thank you Slava, thank you family, thank you to the whole village. We shall carry on... Petteri October 2019