Summary

The Hakkinen family migrated from Finland to Australia in 1960 on board the SS Strathaird.

Motivations for Emigrating

Sirpa Sinikka Tynkkynen (Hakkinen), born 1952, left Finland at the age of eight with her parents Taisto Kalervo and Marjatta Hakkinen, five year old brother Ari and family friends (a girl age six and her parents). Sirpa’s father was a house painter and found work to be scarce during winter. The family were hoping for more opportunities in Australia. They had considered America first but decided on Australia motivated by the other family (the father also a house painter) who could speak some English. Sirpa recalls there was a lot of publicity in Finland about Australia. They left by ferry in early September 1960 for Sweden and from there travelled on trains and ferries to London. During the trip Sirpa's parents purchased a doll to replace the very large doll she had been forced to leave behind. The families boarded the P&O liner ‘Strathaird’ which left Tilbury on 13 September 1960 for Australia.

The Journey

They could not speak English but had Finnish-English dictionaries and their family friend had some knowledge of the language. On board were about 20 or more Finnish people. Sirpa met an English-speaking girl on the ship and they communicated with each other with the use of the dictionary. There were two activity rooms for children to use, one for younger and the other for older children. Sirpa attended both classes depending on which friend she was with. Sirpa regrets not having written down the English-speaking girl’s name and at which port she disembarked so has never been able to contact her.

The ship sailed through the Suez Canal stopping at Malta, Bombay and other ports. Sirpa and her brother were given mechanical toys purchased at one of the ports and she recalls the dreadful poverty in India. When the ship crossed the Equator there was a ceremony at which the children were painted with ice cream and then dunked in the swimming pool. Sirpa recalls being very sea sick at times and that the milk that was served with meals tasted awful. The journey took five to six weeks and Fremantle was the first stop in Australia. She remembers going ashore at Fremantle and buying some milk and liquorice. The ship stopped at Adelaide and then Melbourne where the family disembarked and were immediately put on the train to Bonegilla Migrant Reception Centre.

Life in Australia

After a few weeks they were then transferred to Maribyrnong Hostel in Melbourne where they also stayed for a few weeks. Taisto (Vic or Vikki as he was known) found a job painting with a local company and the family moved as tenants to a two storey boarding house at 68 Alma Road, St Kilda. It had separate living quarters and a shared bathroom. Marjatta found work for a period at Peter’s ice cream factory. The children attended local schools (St Kilda Park and Caulfield North Primary schools and Caulfield High) and their teacher at St Kilda Park Primary School taught them English which although hard, they learned quickly.

The family remained in the Alma Road boarding house for about one and half years before moving to a rental house in Alma Road and then Glenhuntly Road before finally purchasing a block of land in Glen Waverley around 1967 on which their home was built. Vic painted the house himself. A few years later when they applied for a council permit to build a sauna at the back of their garage, the local paper, the 'Waverley Gazette' came to get a story but the sauna had not been built yet. It would be the first sauna in Glen Waverley. Vic went into a business partnership with his friend from Finland and then struck out on his own. The couple had another child, Susan Christina in 1964.

Sirpa worked in a bank and met Paavo Jukka Sakari Tynkkynen (born 1952), also a migrant from Finland, at a Finnish youth community club. His family (parents and five children) came to Australia, flying from Helsinki to London by Finair and then on Qantas from London, arriving in Sydney before catching a train to Bonegilla and then to the Eastbridge Hostel in Nunawading. They married in 1972. They have four sons who understand some Finnish but they don’t speak the language.

Sirpa’s family were happy they migrated, they have returned to Finland on holidays, particularly motivated by her mother missing her sisters. Sirpa recalls a Finnish community hall in Altona at which her parents attended social dances. The family spoke Finnish and English at home. Sirpa and Paavo and their children returned to Finland in 1981 and twice since.

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