Fortress and history

People of Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna is home to around 800 residents and 400-500 people work in the fortress all year round. Unesco World Heritage Site is visited by approximately one million visitors yearly. Suomenlinna islands hosts for example museums, artists work rooms, naval academy and open prison. Each person experiences the fortress differently. Read stories and thoughts about Suomenlinna from below.

These stories can also be found in social media with #peopleofsuomelinna.

Kuvassa tyttö Miina asuinrakennuksen pihalla

Miina is a resident of Suomenlinna

I live in Suomenlinna with my family. I have a 2-year-old little sister Nola and also my grandmother lives next to us. I like spending time with her. Here are many exciting places, such as tunnels.

In my daycare I have a lot of nice friends and we like to play hide and seek. There are many good hiding places in the fortress and in our home yard. Apart from the tunnels, Suomenlinna is also exciting because of the mystical creature Suokki-Santtu who is lurking in the tunnels and under the bushes of the island!

Salif works in Suomenlinna for ISS Cleaning Services

When I came to Suomenlinna for the first time I thought at once that this is a wonderful place. Suomenlinna is full of friendly and happy people.

Wintertime is quite cold and I don’t like it as much as summer as the fortress is so quiet. My favorite place in Suomenlinna is the ferry pier. It is a busy place in summertime reminding me of my home in Africa.

Erik Bruun is a graphic designer

Me and my wife Sinikka used to visit Suomenlinna often in 1960’s until we got a chance to apply for an apartment here. Now we have lived in Suomenlinna 47 years. I am a graphic designer and in addition to hundreds of posters and many stamps I have designed many works, where the topic is Suomenlinna. For example, King’s Gate in Finnish 1000 marks note, is my design. In that note, you can also see a flock of seagulls, where one of the birds has a fish in its mouth.

Nature has always been very meaningful to me and inspiration for many of my designs. I think Finland with its many lakes and islands is the most beautiful country in the world. Nature is always present in Suomenlinna. We live right by the sea in Pikku Mustasaari next to the Naval Academy of the fortress. It is always interesting to look out of the window and see what different bird species are up to.

Miina works as a carpenter in Suomenlinna

When I was studying to become a carpenter, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to carry out my traineeship at the Suomenlinna dock where they restore traditional wooden sailing vessels. I was able to work as a trainee on a vessel called Svanhild that had its aft renovated over the course of one winter. After graduating as a carpenter, I have spent several winters working at the dock. At the moment, my main job is to assist the shipwright in the broadside renovation of the vessel Astrid. In the summer, I work as a deckhand on board various vessels.

I also have a YouTube channel called Vapaamuija where I publish my videos once a week about the renovation progress, details and various methods used. We have a great team at work and everyone likes to come up with new ideas for my videos. As a milieu, the Suomenlinna dock is one of a kind. Early in the morning, I love putting on my warm work clothes, walking down the dock basin while snow crunches under my feet and looking at the bright, starry sky. I feel safe and at home in the tar-smelling shade of large ships.

Kaj works as a fireman

I did my first shift in Suomenlinna rescue station soon after my graduation in 2005. There are always two fireman paramedics on duty at the same time. Our equipment consists of a fire truck, an ambulance and a boat. In larger accidents, we get back up from the city fast.

The rescue station is located in Iso Mustasaari but it is quite unnoticeable. Occasional visitors often come and wonder at the fire truck if it’s parked outside the station. It is a surprise for many, that we have occupied rescue station in the fortress from May to October. During winter, we use the undersea tunnel to move between Suomenlinna and the city. Suomenlinna is home of around 800 people and we have approximately one million visitors yearly. It is great to have an operational rescue station here in Suomenlinna.

Merja and Virpi are instructors of the Saarikerho children’s club

Saarikerho club operates at the Suomenlinna day care centre, and it is targeted at children who are in home care. We come to Suomenlinna a couple of days a week, for a few hours at a time, and take the children out with us. We visit playgrounds and tunnels together, go snow sliding and examine the Trail of the Fortress Gnome in December. We always play and sing on our way.

Suomenlinna is an excellent location for children’s club activities, because there is so much to see and do on the islands. We come to the fortress in all weathers and spend as much of our time outdoors as possible. Merja had visited Suomenlinna before Saarikerho, but this was the first time she came to the island in the winter. “It’s amazing here in the winter!” We get along extremely well, and the club adds variety to our workdays. We call ourselves Stormskärs-Majas after the famous novels, because we’re not afraid of the fortress even on stormy days, but we actually enjoy them!

Jani was born in Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna is a special place for me because of many reasons. I was born here and part of my family still lives in the fortress. I am a professional pool player and I train actively in Suomenlinna. My dad, who has won many Finnish Championships in pool, suggested this game for me when I had to quit football because of an injury. I was inspired straight away and I have quite many trophies hanging on the wall of my training room here in Suomenlinna. I have for example 14 Finnish Championship trophies.

In our family, pool has passed from father to son, but in Suomenlinna pool has a long history. Finnish-Swedish Anders Byström started a restaurant in Suomenlinna in 1754 when the fortification work was in action. He got the license to play pool and was the first one to bring pool to Finland. For me it is important to keep up the tradition of playing pool in Suomenlinna in my childhood landscapes

Pekka works in Suomenlinna

My original plan was to become a farmer, but I ended up working in Suomenlinna. The first time I worked here was in 2006, so my experience of Suomenlinna spans quite a few years. I work at the family business Kari Helenius KY. The company carries out excavation and natural stone work by contract across the fortress. I operate different kinds of machines, but I also enjoy manual work. For example, repairing walls and cutting stone are interesting tasks that require a long-term approach.

Suomenlinna has its own challenges as a location. For example, we reconstructed a collapsed wall this autumn on the shore at Kustaanmiekka. The collapsed wall could only be accessed from the sea. However, even demanding tasks are safe and easy when you have a good, professional team. Although I am the oldest in our team, I learn something new from my younger colleagues all the time. The fortress is popular among visitors, particularly in the summer, which must be taken into account when working with machines. It makes me smile when people wave at us when they walk by and some even take photographs of our work.

Esa works as an artist in Suomenlinna

I ended up in Suomenlinna in 1998 when I got a workroom in the fortress and soon after that an apartment. Since that I’ve had a strong will to enliven Suomenlinna and its cultural life. For example, I am one of the founders of Viapori Jazz event and Café Art Shop Icecellar.

At my workroom, I’m currently working on different pieces of work made of nails. Suomenlinna is a world heritage site which adds a lot of value for creating art and for producing cultural events.

Seppo works as a blacksmith in Star-Welding company

My company Star-Welding operates in Suomenlinna dry dock where we have plenty of work all year round. The dry dock has become livelier during the last 10 years and I think its activity is truly significant. For example, during wintertime traditional Finnish ships are being renovated in this dry dock. I have forged thousands of bolts for these ships during my life.

I moved to Suomenlinna with my family in 1996. From the southern part of the fortress the views are amazing, but I enjoy especially, when Suomenlinna is taken over by a proper snowstorm!