House stories

Neighbours for half a century – the original residents at Sauvatie, Vantaa, share a strong sense of community

The residents enjoying a cup of coffee in the clubroom of Sauvatie 4–6 in Vantaa have been neighbours for 50 years. They were among the first residents to move into the brand new housing company in summer 1972.

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In August 1972, Finnish runners Lasse Viren and Pekka Vasala won gold at the Munich Olympic Games, crossing the finish line 30 minutes apart from one another. Elämältä Kaiken Sain, the Finnish version of Every Little Move She Makes, played on the radio, and even the most popular TV show, Naapurilähiö, depicted life in the suburbs. The heyday of suburban living was about to begin!

These were the wild years of urbanisation in the capital region. Rental housing units were built for young working families on the outskirts of the city. The most important criteria for the new homes were plenty of space and affordability.

One of the houses built during the period is Sauvatie 4–6 in the greater Koivukylä region.

Eight of the original residents who moved to Sauvatie in the early 1970s still live in the same building. Quite a journey that has spanned almost a lifetime!

The shared moments are captured in photograph albums. In the past, the courtyard was full of children, and the adults looked after them together.

Temporary move – 50 years ago

The residents were in a similar situation in life when they moved to Sauvatie, which helped to make everyone feel at home.

“We were supposed to move to Sauvatie only temporarily. We had one child, and I was pregnant with twins,” Marja-Terttu Takoja says, sharing her memories.

Ahti and Marja-Terttu Takoja moved to Vantaa from Kymenlaakso and Porvoo. “We already identify ourselves as Havukoski residents.”

Temporary turned out to be more permanent than Marja-Terttu and Ahti Takoja could have ever imagined.

Neighbours with similar lifestyles made the place feel like home.

"Here we are still, and our twins will turn 50 next February", Marja-Terttu says.

Neighbours with similar lifestyles made the place feel like home. Exceptionally many of the residents were musically or athletically talented. The children on Sauvatie had many hobbies, and the parents served as drivers.

Nowadays, the lives of the original residents are much quieter, but there are still many activities. Pensioners’ clubs and gyms can be found close by, and Kuusijärvi lake is just around the corner.

Shared situation in life made the place feel like home

However, it took some time to get used to the new living environment. “We are in the middle of nowhere!” Pirkko Kimpari exclaimed after seeing her new surroundings.

Pirkko and Tuomas Kimpari were expecting a child, and they were offered an apartment in the building. Growing up on Hallituskatu in central Helsinki, the secluded location was a bit of a shock for Pirkko.

The nearest train station was in Rekola.

“The trains were too long for the platform. We jumped off the train wherever we could and made our own path home – in winter, we had to do it in the snow,” Pirkko says, laughing.

Anja Villberg and her husband moved to a family apartment in Vantaa from a studio in Kallio. She commuted to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare on Mannerheimintie until her retirement.

Moving to Vantaa also felt like a culture shock for Anja Villberg, who moved to Sauvatie with her husband from Kallio, Helsinki.

“I had never travelled by train before.”

“In the beginning, we didn’t even have grocery shops here, only the mobile shop van. Luckily, we still have a grocery van that delivers our shopping to the doorstep, because moving has become difficult for me,” Anja says.

Building a sense of community with 30 litres of Christmas porridge

Nowadays, trains stop at the Koivukylä station once every five minutes. In 1980, Koivukylä became the nearest train stop for the residents of Sauvatie, and the new station divided the district into two: Havukoski and Koivukylä.

As a result, the residents started actively building their identity as Havukoski people.

There was a clear need for a strong and separate identity. The people living in detached houses in nearby Rekola looked down on the rental dwellers in the area, and even the media painted an unflattering picture of Koivukylä. The residents still find it difficult to understand.

Tuomas Kimpari, the local Lumo team leader, is from Hämeenlinna. He used to play the violin in a music school with a guy called Antti Hammarberg. The rest of Finland came to know Antti as Irwin Goodman.

“My colleagues would ask me if I really lived in Koivukylä, as the papers write that people are so miserable there,” Tuomas Kimpari says.

“At the 40-year celebrations, we had eight festival tents and food for 200 guests. Umur, a film by Kai Lehtinen, was filmed in our courtyard,” Pirkko Kimpari says. The pile of albums is impressive.

Pirkko and Tuomas are among the most active residents. Tuomas is the leader of the Lumo residents’ team, while Pirkko tends the courtyard and clubroom, bakes for the residents’ get-togethers and organises events.

Children are good at reaching out to each other, even if they do not have a common language.

Someone must keep up the good spirit, also for the newcomers. Children are good at reaching out to each other, even if they do not have a common language.

“We serve 30 litres of rice porridge at the housing company’s Christmas party. Everyone loves it,” Pirkko says.

Recent move to the other side of the corridor

Airi and Timo Aaltonen decided to move to Vantaa for an oft-cited reason:

“Our family was growing.”

The four kids kept the parents busy for many years. Timo Aaltonen is one of the founding members of KoiPS, the successful local football club. Of course, all the children played and both of the parents served as coaches at KoiPS.

Airi’s job as a family day carer made it even more hectic. She spent hours on end in the courtyard with her own kids and the children she minded.

It is hard to let go of fifty years of memories and things from the old home, Airi Aaltonen says.

“One day, I was raking the yard with the children and the building manager came to thank me and said, why don’t you go and buy yourself a big bun and a pack of coffee, it’s on the house. That made me feel really special.”

“I like our current building manager, too. He was really helpful when we needed to change apartments.”

In August when the Aaltonens retired, they said goodbye to their old home and moved to a one-bedroom apartment. Luckily, their new home is just across the corridor.

However, the move still felt sad, as they had to let go of fifty years of memories and things from the old home.

Glimpses into the long history of the housing company are displayed on the club room wall.

Still one of the biggest Lumo housing companies

Back in the day, the building manager and maintenance worker were a frequent sight at the building. The residents still remember how Eero, the former building manager, patrolled the premises late into the night, picking up cigarette ends.

Naturally, the operating model has changed over the course of 50 years, but the housing company’s matters are still managed by a dedicated Lumo building manager and maintained by a reliable maintenance company.

Building manager Jani Hyrkäs pays close attention to the wishes of the original residents.

Jari Hyrkäs, the current building manager for Sauvatie, is participating in the 50th-anniversary residents’ events. He has been serving as building manager at Sauvatie for one year now.

Jari describes the 50-year-old Sauvatie property as one of the largest at Lumo. There are a total of 162 apartments.

“There is a high demand for family apartments in this area. All these houses have large rooms and functional layouts,” he says.

Renovation skills come in handy

Arja and Karl Ek have been living in the same home for half a century. We don’t think we will ever move out, they say.

Arja and Karl Ek live in the same apartment they moved into originally. At that time, the four-room apartment felt huge, even though the family had other children they minded in addition to their own.

“Now we wonder how we managed to fit in all those people and things,” Arja Ek says.

Karl Ek is a professional painter and, over the decades, he has carried out redecoration for his home himself.

Lumo residents are allowed to modify the appearance of their home as they like. The more satisfied the resident, the more satisfied the landlord.

“We offer a range of services, including free interiors paint for those who want to redecorate,” building manager Jari Hyrkäs says.

Strength in community

The shared courtyard of Sauvatie 4–6 is green and blossoming in the summer. After the construction of the house, the courtyard was a big puddle of mud but, thanks to the residents, it is now an urban oasis. The number of working hours put in by the community is impossible to count.

Every once in a while, the doorbell rings and someone who used to live in the house as a kid comes to say hello to their “grandma”. Decades on, the community is still showing its strength.

“Even their children have grown so big,” Pirkko Kimpari says, wondering at the passing of the time.

Fifty years, that is quite a while!

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