The Alanko family was spending summer holidays in Lapland when they were informed that the new home was ready to move in. The new apartment building was completed in the Kontula district in Helsinki on 10 July 1975.
“We lived on Pursimiehenkatu at the time. We considered various options, including Koivukylä. However, Kontula proved to be such a good place that we never wanted to leave,” says Jaakko Alanko.
The family of three moved into the 76 square metre three-room apartment and, in the autumn, their son went to second grade at the local school.
“He found friends at once and said that, if we move, he will stop going to school once and for all.”
Plenty of children and activities
Kontula and Leikkikuja were particularly attractive for families with children.
“Once, we counted 42 children playing outside in the yard. There was always a couple of us men watching the goings-on in the yard, so not every mother or father needed to be there watching their kids. Even without them, the kids did as they were told.”
Alanko says that the district was calm and there was not much motor traffic. However, many playgrounds were nearby. Children played games in the yard and an ice rink was always frozen in the winter for skaters.
“It was nice and easy to get skis from the storeroom and go skiing on the lit ski tracks, that started almost outside the front door.”
Well-functioning sense of community
Neighbours have lived in peace for decades, and help has always been available, particularly in the early days. People met in the club room, played table tennis and practised powerlifting. Board games were available for the children.
“The children’s common room has now been converted into a bicycle shed as there are not that many children left. We used to be one big family in the old days but, of course, help is available these days as well; for example, young people offer to do your shopping for you.”
Alanko says that 28 of the original residents are still there – they have lived in the building from the start.
“In the yard, we have a couple of grills for barbecues and tables, and people meet there in the summer. Sometimes, even former residents join the barbecue to have a chat. They remember Leikkikuja as a good place to live and say that they have not lived in a place as good since.”
The Lumo house has been renovated over the years. Paint has been available for DIY home decorators, and Lumo Homes has also renovated the house.
“There’s been painting and glazing installed on balconies, most of the kitchens have been renovated and bathtubs removed from the bathrooms and replaced with new showers.”
The free washing room is good, along with three drying rooms. Alanko hopes that new residents are advised on how to use the washing room: you must make a booking to do your laundry and the machines cannot be used whenever you want.
“The club room is full of all sorts of gadgets. We train there – no world records, but it keeps the muscles in shape. During the current situation with the coronavirus, we have agreed that only two people can be present in the room at any time.”
Alanko says it would be good to have an instructor who would take people outdoors for a walk or run.
“Many would come, I’m sure. However, you get so lazy that you just don’t find it in you to go out on your own.”
All services just a stone’s throw away
In Kontula, everything is within walking distance: the shopping centre houses shops, pharmacies, restaurants and pubs. Alanko says that, in his opinion, there are too many pubs.
“At some stage, there were 19 pubs, but not that many are left now. But the services are close by, there is no need to go anywhere else. During this coronavirus situation, I usually do my shopping early in the morning, and sometimes I’m the only one there.”
The bus stop is in front of the building and the metro is a couple of hundred metres away. Kontula has been densely built due to the metro connection.
“I’m starting to feel as if I’m living in central Helsinki. However, I don’t like it that people who have never even been here criticise Kontula. This is no den of sin, instead, it is really quiet here.”
Alanko used to go to the indoor swimming pool a lot, and it was always crowded. The library is so busy that you need to reserve books in advance.
“I prefer going to the senior citizens’ home library, where I can borrow even new books. My wife Ritva visits the home for senior citizens for gymnastics, and they have a lot of other activities on offer there as well.”
Outdoor adventures in the neighbourhood
Kontula is no longer as green as it used to be because of the new buildings. However, there are still parks and green areas left.
“Our son moved away and got married 28 years ago, but he still visits this suburb of grannies and granddads every weekend. Our grandchild loves to join him. We have our own thing and have all kinds of fun activities together.”
Last time, Alanko went Pokémon hunting as his grandchild wanted to find them with a mobile phone. Many were indeed found in Kontula woods.
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