Tellervo Kylä-Harakka-Ruonala: "From the Winter War to poetry"

It was the 80th anniversary of the end of the Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland. The national commemoration was cancelled due to coronavirus, but bells were ringing at 11 a.m. in all Lutheran, Orthodox and Catholic churches across the country. I went outdoors to listen to their chimes and saw Helsinki almost desolate.

The Winter War lasted 105 days - and so did my self-isolation, which began on its anniversary. Even though I enjoy my own company, isolation was sometimes tough. I then asked myself: my parents coped with the appalling conditions of the war, my father fighting on the front at 30 degrees below zero and my mother at home alone with a new-born baby, what do I have to complain about?

Actually I was lucky, as I was able to go out at any time. And I made use of this opportunity by walking hundreds of kilometres - mainly along the coast.

My background organisation followed the situation in enterprises very closely and provided the government with proposals on how to save businesses and jobs. The short-term outlook was very gloomy, and the future is still blurry. But when company leaders began to plan the necessary measures to enable a responsible exit, a new hope started to emerge.

Together with colleagues, I prepared the proposals of the EESC's Employers' Group on tackling the coronavirus crisis: how to help European businesses survive and retain jobs, and how to boost the recovery of the EU economy. Thanks to digital tools, my work at the EESC continued almost normally despite the exceptional conditions. It was nice to see my library soon become one of the meeting points for my colleagues from all over the EU.

The lockdown also brought me something new at a personal level. I had the honour of becoming a remote muse and receiving poems – each more delightful than the last. I would like to share one of them with you to illustrate the spirit of encouragement and support that I hope we can all offer to each other:

I don’t offer a weekday, I offer Sunday.

I don’t offer everyday chores, subjects of big efforts.

I offer Sunday, with its high sky that carries over the everyday life.  

(freely translated from Finnish to English)