Dóra and I are first cousins thrice removed. Until she found me when searching for Neuwalds on the internet ten years ago, neither of us knew of the other’s existence. In 2016, she and I, along with other newly-found cousins from England, Hungary, Israel and Germany, met in Budapest Thanks to Dóra’s efforts, I am now part of an extended family whose connections had been destroyed by the Holocaust.
Quarantine diary from Finland
by Dóra Pataricza, Espoo, Finland
Espoo is Finland’s second-biggest city, with 280,000 inhabitants. Here we have been living for the past eight years. We moved to Finland eight and a half years ago from Hungary with three children, and we got the fourth child in Finland.
Today, I am starting my seventh week with my family at home. Seven weeks ago, my four kids and my husband suddenly occupied my quiet home office, where I have been researching several projects as a post-doctoral researcher. I have been working from home since January 2020 entirely, and now I have to share with my family the dining table where I usually work.
Three of our four children attend the Helsinki Jewish School, while the smallest is still attending the kindergarten. Finland’s schools have closed down on 18th March, daycares and kindergartens are still open for all the children, and parents can send their 1-3 graders to school if the parents’ jobs are critical to the functioning of society. All other kids — including my three children — receive tuition remotely. They have at least one online lesson every day. They receive assignments that need to be done individually and specific tasks they do together. Again, the Finnish school system has not let us down.
All children in Finland are entitled to receive lunch every day for free. We have decided that for us it is worth driving a total of 40 minutes so that we can pick up our children’s warm (and kosher) lunch for free every day. It includes a warm meal, one or two different kinds of fresh salads and bread. For us, this means less shopping, less preparation of meals. I feel an immense gratitude towards the chef and the kitchen workers of the Helsinki Jewish Community who prepare these lunches. This is the biggest help I receive nowadays.
I don’t mind staying at home. But now, with all my projects, I feel that I cannot proceed as efficiently with my work as I could if I did not have my children at home. What makes me most tired by the end of the day is the amount of talking to my children. Listening sometimes to all four of them at the same time is exhausting.
A forest surrounds us with a run track and a nature trail where one can walk around on rocks or duckboards. We go every day for long walks. The forest is a little bit more crowded than usual, but this only means that we meet 10-15 people, while on a typical day we would not meet anyone. Finland is the third most sparsely populated country in Europe, and even in Helsinki and its surroundings, life is calm usually, now even more so. Every day,, Helsinki looks like a dreary Sunday morning. There are no people on the streets at all. The health care system has been doing well; most of the people are disciplined. Anyway, it is nothing strange for Finns to keep a distance from each other. Thus it is not stressful to go to the grocery stores either.
As long as I can spend this time with my closest family surrounded by nature, where I can walk safely and freely, I do not think that I have a reason to complain.