Maritta returned to her roots and found peace in Raahe – “There are wonderful people here and I feel accepted”

We sit in Maritta’s home in the heart of Old Raahe, next to the church. This is where she moved in the autumn of 2019 after packing her favourite books and most beloved possessions in her car and driving 658 kilometres north to her old home town.

The home is perfect for Maritta: it has everything she needs, and nothing more. The setting is peaceful and cosy, and the view from the window to the church is stunning at all times of the year. As well as Maritta, her one-year-old dog Ami enjoys life in Raahe’s old town.

Right now, Maritta seems quite happy with her life. This has not always been the case: Her return to Raahe is intertwined with a great change in life and personal insights, as a result of which Maritta has learned – if not to love – at least to take care of herself. Maritta says that she has travelled a long, long journey in two years and returned to her roots.

In my opinion, the girl can leave Raahe but Raahe cannot leave the girl.

For the first eight months of her life, Maritta lived in Old Raahe, and her next home was in Saloinen, in a small farmhouse in which she spent the decisive years of the beginning of her life in a rustic environment. Little Maritta felt free, she got to go wherever she liked, and from this time she was left with a longing for freedom, which eventually led her back to her home town after decades, when life in the south began to distress her. In the background was a long succession of busy years, long days and other worries caused by hectic everyday life.

Maritta says that she actually thought she would come to Raahe to die, but it went differently: here she found life instead. The challenging period of life was resolved so that after moving to Raahe, a different environment, she started feeling better and things turned out well.

A smiling woman sitting home with a cup of coffee in her hand.
Maritta is quite satisfied with her life in Raahe. Photo: Tarmo Somero.

Health care services are exceptionally good – “I don’t dare leave here!”

Still, her new beginning in Raahe was eventful. One day, Maritta felt unwell and sensed that something was wrong. She had to call the emergency services. Help arrived quickly: an ambulance came to pick her up four minutes after the call.

At the emergency department, she was immediately received by friendly doctors and nurses. The research revealed that Maritta had general blood poisoning, which meant that she had to be transferred to Oulu for further treatment and later back to Raahe.

Contact with health care services in the area was an eye-opening experience for Maritta. She says she felt that the whole staff gave her their attention, the treatment was good and the staff seemed to know what they were doing. Communication between different occupational groups was very effective.

Health care here is fantastic, and the patient is heard in a completely different way to how they are in the big wide world. The difference was so great that I thought I had died and gone to heaven!

Maritta, who has provided training in the development and communication of large companies and organisations in Finland and around the world for 30 years through her own company, sees that what she had been aiming to achieve with her training at large IT and engineering offices works in practice in health care in this area. According to her, this is not self-evident in all small cities.

She has also had good experience of the veterinary services she has needed for her energetic dog Ami – sometimes Ami eats just about everything that Maritta has handled: pens, glasses and shoes!

The perfect environment for writing and reading – “I am a life-long student”

Maritta describes herself as a life-long student. Currently she is studying French and psychology, more specifically developmental psychology.

“I came here specifically to write and read. My family and friends are out in the world, and I can keep in touch with them online. It is effortless because the network connections work very well here.”

Maritta describes Old Raahe as the perfect environment for her and rejoices that the old wooden Raahe has been preserved and the wave of destruction of the old has been reversed.

The atmosphere here is the best. It’s wonderful to walk and sit down on a bench surrounded by beautiful plants.

In the community of the Old Town of Raahe, Maritta senses something similar to the American town of Harper’s Ferry, a historical small town in West Virginia.

“The Trade House of Lang is the crown jewel of Old Raahe. When I introduce my friends to Old Raahe, I always take them to Lang. If I could wish for something more, there would be a small shoemaker’s shop somewhere and other small shops.”

Maritta also enjoys the beautiful setting of the shore area and often stops on the rocks to admire the sea.

View from Maritta’s window to the church hill.
Old Raahe offers Maritta the perfect environment for reading and writing. Photo: Tarmo Somero.

Maritta feels very safe in Raahe – “Whatever happens, here you can find help and people who will help”

Maritta praises the service she has received from local entrepreneurs. She feels that people here are proud of their expertise and that the customer receives good service with a focus on the customer’s needs. And if they do not have a product or service in their selection, you are kindly directed elsewhere.

In many places, I’m used to unfriendly or even rude service. Here, I think the service is ideal and honest. I feel very safe here. Whatever happens, here you can find help and people who will help

Among the local services, Maritta’s favourites include the excellent flea markets and the lovely hairdresser, which is half the price of a hairdresser in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Maritta also likes many of the small shops: the fine shoe shop, the new bookshop of which she is a patron and the high-quality children’s clothing shop.

Maritta has also noticed how strangers selflessly help each other in Raahe. In February of this year, she slipped on her wintry walk and tore her ligament, so her dog Ami needed urgent walking help. One call to the animal shelter resolved the situation, and a volunteer was found, whose outdoor activities with Ami have continued even though the dog’s owner’s injury has long since healed!

Maritta also thinks the new Facebook group of dog park friends is a great thing. When you ask if anyone would like to accompany you to the dog park, it only takes a moment before someone signs up. The dog park is one of the favourite places of Maritta’s dog Ami, and they stop there all the time.

In any case, Maritta feels that the people of Raahe are nice and easy to approach. Walking around with a dog makes it easy to make new friends when people stop and scratch the dog.

“I always tell them you can talk to the dog, and you can talk to me! There are wonderful people here, and I feel accepted. I don’t have to pretend to be something else.”

“Let’s pull a Raahe” – Maritta’s life change almost became a concept

To her circle of friends, Maritta has been praising her life change and new life in Raahe. When her friends in the south talk about everyday problems, it has become a habit for them to wonder if they, like Maritta, should “pull a Raahe”, that is, go north where it is less crowded.

Maritta reminds us that it is not always so simple because of the commitments related to people’s life situations and work.

I think the good life is here. It’s safe, and Raahe is a manageable, human-sized city. Services and shops are close by. With good internet connections, the whole world is open at the same time.

Maritta’s 8- and 10-year-old grandchildren have also fallen in love with the peaceful and suitably-sized Raahe. Maritta says she can feel safe letting them go cycling on their summer holiday trips and visit the shop in the city centre or the beach ice cream stand on their own. The beach in just a couple of minutes away by bicycle, and they can easily navigate back home to Maritta following the church tower.

Attending an international school, the girls speak English as their native language, but Maritta is very pleased that Raahe has ignited the spark of learning Finnish in the girls. They have already had experiences of success in using services in Finnish, for example, when buying ice cream in the summer.

Maritta says that her grandchildren’s experience of Raahe is the same as her own: There is no suspicion of strangers here – it’s easy even for children to talk to a stranger. And it seems to work, even if there is no common language yet!

Myhrberg Park in the summer.
On walking trips, it is worth stopping in the charming local parks of Raahe. Photo: Tanja Marjala.

“The environment enabled my change”

It has been two years since Maritta turned her car north towards her old home town. She is very happy with her choice.

“I’ve been able to focus on myself here and work with myself. The peace, support and this environment have made it possible. I have come home.”

Text: Tarmo Somero, 2021.