Natalia Jeskanen is smiling from ear to ear! Jeskanen, who moved to Finland from Sortavala in 2002, is working in her dream job as the sales assistant for women’s fashion in Kekäle. She enjoys customer service and praises her work community as the best in the world. Learning the Finnish language required perseverance. Now she also has Finnish citizenship.

– I spent the first three years in Joensuu staying home with my children. I could only say a few words in Finnish: terve (hello) and kiitos (thank you), not much else. Luck was on my side and I got into a language school, first a beginner course and then an advanced one. Everything turned out great and I passed the required language test for getting Finnish citizenship, Jeskanen rejoices.

Jeskanen studied to become a teacher of early childhood education and psychology and a nursery school teacher in the pedagogic state university of Karelia. She worked as a nursery school teacher in Russia for 13 years.

– In Finland, I should have complemented the Russian university degree with ten more credits. My Finnish language skills were non-existent, so I thought that I would continue my studies a bit later.

Later on, the studious immigrant began her studies in the adult university of North Karelia to become a practical nurse. After passing the first phase, a three-month break loomed ahead. The compulsory break felt far too long for the hard-working woman.

– I could not imagine sitting at home for three months! Therefore I began asking companies about practical training. I went from door to door, and in the end dropped by Kekäle – and wow, a miracle!

Soon after the practical training period, Kekäle offered Natalia Jeskanen a permanent job. Now it has already been five years since that lucky day.

“Wonderful co-workers”

Jeskanen radiates joy and amiability. She enjoys meeting different kinds of people and is in her element in a service occupation. She describes her job at Kekäle as a dream come true.

– The women’s fashion department has a wonderful working atmosphere and community spirit. Our teamwork is seamless and we help each other every day. When an English-speaking customer enters the store, my co-workers help me with the difficult language. When a co-worker needs help serving a Russian customer, I rush to help. The service runs smoothly as we help one another and work together.

Language proficiency is a topic that Jeskanen brings up repeatedly. She is sorry that studying English was not seen as necessary during the Soviet era. Now Jeskanen is glad that her daughter, who is in upper secondary school, can communicate in Finnish, English and Russian. Jeskanen speaks Russian with both of her children, including her adult son.

– I think of language as an enriching gift that I have been able to give my children. I know that Russians living in Finland are sometimes ashamed of speaking in their mother tongue. I am not shy – I am Russian, and it is thanks to the Russian language that I can now work in my dream job.

“It is all about the attitude”

Falling in love with a Finnish man brought Jeskanen to Finland. Studying the language persistently and getting a permanent job has made life in Joensuu run smoothly. After Sortavala, Joensuu is a city of just the perfect size.

– Joensuu is a safe, comfortable and beautiful city. I am not yearning after a metropolis. I appreciate being able to walk and ride a bicycle around without necessarily needing a car or a bus.

When spring arrives, the energetic woman immediately digs up her bicycle and rides the way to work from Rantakylä to the city centre. Few commutes are as beautiful as the cycle track by the side of the Pielisjoki river.

– Adjusting to a new culture is definitely mostly about the newcomer’s attitude. When you have a positive attitude, good things come to you. I am happy and pleased with my life in Joensuu!

Text: Sirkka-Liisa Aaltonen/Viestintä-Ässä, Photo: Jarno Artika