Who are they? Where did they come from? What are they doing here? In 2007, unfamiliar people sat down on the streets in Helsinki and some other Finnish cities. People like these had not been seen in the Nordic periphery before. The newcomes were greeted with bewilderment, pity, questions – and what often comes out of facing the unknown – fear and hatred.
For ten years, photographer Heidi Piiroinen and journalist, author Kimmo Oksanen have been following the life of Romanian Mihaela Stoica and her family and siblings in Finland, Romania, Greece, Estonia and France.
Stoica came to Helsinki as a street beggar in 2007 from the village of Cetatea de Baltă, Romania. On her 17th birthday, in February 2008, she gave birth to her first child in Helsinki. Now she is a mother of three living in Helsinki. Mihaela herself has not been to any schools and cannot read or write. Her firstborn now goes to school in Finland. Is there hope for a better future for him?
Through the personal story of Mihaela, the exhibition deals with larger societal issues, Romania, Europe and the reception of Romanian beggars in Finland. With photographs and texts, Oksanen and Piiroinen dig into the reasons for street begging, the living conditions of families in Transylvania, and the phenomenon of Romanian people leaving their homes and becoming street beggars in Western Europe.
The project will also be published as a book Ohikuljetut – erään kerjäläisperheen tarina (WSOY) in February 2018.