Santahamina is known for its soldiers, but the island is also home to 300-400 inhabitants.
Hevossalmen in front of the bridge is a military police officer asking to see a pass. The bridge takes you to a neighborhood you can’t just get around.
Only after checking the permit does the military police open the gate that separates Santahamina from other parts of Helsinki.
The garrison island of Santahamina is known for its soldiers, but there are also 300-400 inhabitants behind the access control point. Each of them has at least one thing in common: Only a Finnish citizen working in the defense administration gets an apartment on the island. Thus, only them and their family members live on the island.
HS went to see what it was like to live on a garrison island.
In area an island of just over four square kilometers can be roughly divided into three parts: a garrison area, a shooting range, and a residential area. The latter is located in the northern part of the island and the journey from the access point to it folds along Santahaminantie and Kadettikouluntie in just a few minutes.
There is a kindergarten and a playground in the middle of the residential area, which is not surprising when you hear how many children live in the area. They make up about a third of the island’s population.
“An average of ten new children are born in a residential area in one year,” Santahamina club president Petri Jokinen says.
Jokinen himself lives on the island with his wife and two children. Both Jokinen and his spouse work in the defense administration.
Islands Jokinen praises the ideal growth environment for children, as the residential area is safe and communal. Children can be happily allowed to walk in the yard when the distances are short and most residents know each other.
“Movement is very limited, but children are taught to move around the island from an early age. They know which areas to get and which not to go to. That makes the island safe. ”
There is virtually no vandalism. That is why the old climbing frames and swings in the yards are also in good condition for their age.
Santahamina is in many ways a special district.
On average, people in Santahamina are younger than anywhere else in Finland. The average age of Santahamina is about 28 years – all over Helsinki the average age is just under 41 years and throughout Finland for a little over 43 years.
Youth is not only affected by the fact that there are many families with children living in the district. Former members of the defense administration are no longer allowed to live in Santahamina, so they must move outside the island at the latest when they retire.
This also explains why mortality in Santahamina has been pure zero for several years in the 2010s.
Travel from the kindergarten and playground continues a stone’s throw to Santahamina Primary School. The clock on the school wall shows noon. Because we are living in late July, there are no children in the yard.
Both Santahamina Kindergarten and Primary School have just over a hundred children. Both are maintained by the City of Helsinki. In primary school, students study until the sixth grade, after which they move outside the island to upper secondary school.
The nearest upper secondary school is located in Yliskylä, Laajasalo, and here lies one of the shortcomings of the residential area: with the exception of kindergartens and primary schools, the services of civilians are mainly on the nearby island or mainland side.
“In terms of services, the situation is bad. In the past, there have been shops, a café, a bank and a post office, but over the years they have moved to Yliskylä and Herttoniemi, ”says Jokinen.
The nearest health centers serving civilians are also located outside Santahamina, as the island’s own health center only serves conscripts and defense personnel in terms of occupational health care.
This also explains why the island doesn’t just meet other townspeople. There is no shop to pick up hot ice cream or a café to sit on.
“One of the special features of the island is that it is quieter from eight in the morning until four in the afternoon when the residents are at work. Now many are also on holiday, but when schools start in August, there will be hustle and bustle here again, ”Jokinen says.
From the island away and back can be moved at any time, regardless of the time of day.
However, you must always pass through an access control point. A bus runs between the mainland and the island, but the passes of bus passengers are also checked.
In addition to the access control point, residents must be prepared to show their passes when moving on the island.
“This way, we ensure that the right people move in the right areas,” Jokinen says.
Jokinen also has a pass in his neck when he presents the residential area.
Guests may be admitted to the island, but must be notified in advance in order to be granted temporary passes. Surprise guests who have not been granted time must be picked up at the Hevossalmi gate.
“Some people think it can be awkward, but for us it is such a basic practice,” Jokinen says.
“But let’s just say that relatives can’t come to the door for a surprise visit, at least.”
Santahaminan all apartments are rental apartments owned by Senate properties under the Ministry of Finance. When a new resident moves to Santahamina, he receives a rent subsidy for the first four years. When the rent subsidy ends, many will move elsewhere.
“We originally only came here for a while. But after living here for a while, we decided not to go anywhere from here as long as possible, ”says Jokinen.
Now the family has lived on the island for 11 years and is doing well. The diverse nature of the island in particular is a family attraction.
In Santahamina, nature is close by, and when walking in a residential area, attention is paid especially to the high-rising pines, which can be seen in every direction. The bark on their surface reveals that the pines are up to hundreds of years old.
Major some of Santahamina’s civilian dwellings were built in the 1950s and 1960s. The smallest of them are studios and the largest are squares.
In one direction you can see white houses resembling a sugar top, in the other gray, resembling the Great Wall of China. Buildings are also called by these names.
“Many live here very cramped. It may be that three to four children live with their parents in a triangle that is not necessarily very large, ”says Jokinen.
Despite this, Jokinen describes the apartments as cozy. Everything around exudes the atmosphere of a village community.
After the round the residential area has come to an end, nor is the island about to leave its own time. Jokinen takes visitors to and from the Hevossalmi gate.
The village community on Varuskuntasaari will be left behind as the journey continues north on Laajasalontie.