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”Bloody-Toppila” is a different Toppila, this is Meri-Toppila

Posted 21/11/2018

The following text is written based on thoughts raised by the Helsingin Sanomat article headlined ”Kenenkään ei tarvitse esittää, että menee hyvin, jos ei mene” – ”Veri-Toppilassa” näkyy rikosten koko kirjo, ja se voi nostaa Oulun räikeisiin otsikoihin, published on November 4, 2018.

meri IPA: [ˈme̞ri] = sea

veri IPA: [ˈʋe̞ri] = blood

Meri-Toppila is a suburb that genuinely has its own identity and an exceptionally accepting atmosphere. Area has a lot of architecture of great historic significance, designed by Alvar Aalto.

 

“Yeah, you can see that people are struggling. But it’s honestly hard. Here nobody has to pretend like things are going well, if they aren’t,” opined local resident Pia Olkoniemi to me a couple of years ago when I interviewed her for the Meri-Toppila All Stars -video. What Pia meant by her comment was that one can share their worries and sorrows, even with a neighbor. What is exceptional about Meri-Toppila, is that here it is perfectly okay to exchange thoughts with passers-by. Nobody is going to turn and look, wonder about the sociable behavior that is abnormal from custom.

Perhaps because this area is genuinely international.

Meri-Toppila is inhabited by people from dozens of nationalities, and although internationalism is highly visible, racism is conspicuously absent. To me, that is exemplary even today, despite the right direction being taken at a reasonably solid pace all over Finland. Meri-Toppila is no longer at the stage of tolerance, but much further – living together. Nobody is better than the next person and there is nothing strange about it. People from all over the world come to Meri-Toppila and the common denominator is a certain meri-toppila-ness.

As the name suggests, proximity of the sea adds its own flavor to the atmosphere of Meri-Toppila. Nearly every local resident is proud of the magnificent seaside area, something many inhabitants consider a resource. Hopefully this resource will remain, as right next to Meri-Toppila a new housing area is being built, called Ranta-Toppila and referred to by some as a posh neighborhood. Park by the shore also houses a disc golf park, hosting international disc golf tournaments.

 

Even though reality of today is different, many residents feel Meri-Toppila’s reputation still suffers badly from events 15 – 20 years ago. During the 90s and early 2000s the area had a lot of abandoned industrial buildings, gathering places for youth revelry. Among others this created its own problems. In those days, stealing and burning cars was commonplace. Today it is rare.

“These stories ride on reputation from 20 years ago,” says local resident Marko Hummastenniemi regarding the ‘Bloody-Toppila’ article written by Hesari. Many people are also wondering about the ‘Bloody-Toppila’ name, nobody seems to have heard it. Not local residents, not people elsewhere in Oulu.

Why are crimes and comfort of living being written about in the Helsingin Sanomat now, when the topics should have been brought up a long time ago? What has raised Meri-Toppila’s comfort of living is the formation of many communities in the area, all working to improve the neighborhood in one way or another – these days the communities are working in co-operation and it is really bearing fruit.

Area has a lot of families with children and things to do for children. Toppilan Tohinat, a free event for the whole family organized in co-operation by operators in the neighborhood, brought together several hundred satisfied visitors just a few days ago. This Halloween-themed event featured, in addition to a masquerade, among others yard games, community painting, music, obstacle course for kids and a Tulikukka –fire show. Half a dozen operators from the area took part in organizing the event. Toppilan Tohinat is these days held twice a year and it is still just a small part of all the events held in the area. They are all really free of charge, low threshold events, focusing on doing and being together.

Meri-Toppila also has a lot of club activities for children, art club, media club, girls club, with a science club planned for starting early 2019. In addition to clubs, the local playgrounds receive praise from the parents.

For more grown-up tastes there is the senior club, sewing club and art workshops, from the last one worth mentioning the creative drawing evenings, with the Sound and vision –concept created in them being taken all the way to the Oulu Museum of Art. Meri-Toppila has exercise activities hosted by Toppilan Tornadot, Mannerheim League for Child Welfare PerhePesä –activities, an active parents’ association, residents’ house Alvari, as well as city of Oulu Youth Services youth center. Additionally, the Oulu Climbing Center, which has received recognition for its works from the Alvar Aalto foundation, operates in Meri-Toppila. Nor must one forget Toppila Center, maintained by the Pentecostal Church of Finland, providing all sorts of substance to the area.

I claim that none of the above takes place in an area whose name one can twist into a veri –prefix with no valid justification.

Just tarnishing any area’s reputation is enough to create prejudices in those people who have no knowledge of the actual truth. Prejudices easily poison our thoughts and restrict us. I hope that people react to Meri-Toppila and its residents without prejudice, because the area and the people have truly earned it. Many who moved in for temporary residence, have decided to stay because Meri-Toppila has proved to be completely different to what their preconceived notions were. Those who have moved away say they are longing to be back.

It is egregious to blame, with no justification, the people of Meri-Toppila for crimes committed on the other side of the city at Kaukovainio pharmacy. We in Toppila have our own local pharmacy, but nobody made inquiries there. Nor is anybody at Kaukovainio pharmacy pointing fingers at Meri-Toppila, rather, these connections have been made by a completely different set of people.

Of course Meri-Toppila shares the common concern for crimes in Oulu, but those is not the fault of the residents of Meri-Toppila or Kaukovainio by any means. These problems won’t get solved by pointing fingers. The causes are rooted so much deeper. Sickness from which the crimes mentioned in the Helsingin Sanomat article stem from, all of us bear responsibility.

To me, the culture of Meri-Toppila serves more to reduce crime than to add to it. Here we know how to support one another, even at times when others take no notice of us. Here there is no finger pointing. Here, if a buddy is in trouble, they are helped.

 

Below are some comments from local residents, written in Facebook’s Toppila-group when the Helsingin Sanomat article came out. Also worth pointing out that not a single comment was posted attesting to the validity of the article.

 

For more on local residents’ thoughts and doings, you can also check out the Meri-Toppila All Stars -video, produced by Kulttuurivoimala – Culture Power Station ry.

 

“Here we have amenities close by and truly magnificent outdoors possibilities!”

 

“I’ve lived in Meri-Toppila for over six years in the same apartment. No matter what time of the day I’ve taken the dog for a walk, I’ve always had my peace. Rents stays reasonable, I like living in Meri-Toppila, no complaints. Good outdoors paths for walking the dog. I like and enjoy Meri-Toppila more than Kaakkuri.”

 

“I’ve lived in Meri-Toppila with my son since 2012, we’re in our fourth apartment and every one of them has been peaceful to live in. Now I have a backyard with all sorts of things out there, they’ve been left alone, meaning thieves have not taken them. It’s also good that because of its reputation, rents are lower here in Toppila than elsewhere. My son has been able to move about Toppila in peace, as have I.”

 

“People living here are your ordinary tax-paying working citizens.”

 

 

Sami Hänninen, vice chairperson

Kulttuurivoimala – Culture Power Station ry