In the corner of the barber shop in Savonlinna, a micro is poking on the shelf.

Hairdresser Sisko Nykänen, soon to be 63, says she doesn't use it very often, as she usually works to avoid sandwiches.

It is a matter dictated by law. The same law, under which a bus leaves a treadmill to a stop in front of a rushing nose, stipulates that the customer must step in the door to inquire about free time as soon as the barber has started eating his lunch.

That is why sandwiches are the most convenient snack. They do not cool down.

It’s Monday, April 27th, and Nykänen would have had time for many days to eat a hot lunch.

The loss of customers dropped Sisko Nykänen's monthly income to close to zero. He says he usually didn’t even have time to eat lunch before the corona when either the phone rang or the customer walked in. Now there is enough space in the booking calendar.

Photo: Joonas Salo / IS

The fear of the coronavirus crept into the customer base suddenly, says Nykänen.

When Finland's first case of infection was confirmed at the end of January, attitudes towards the disease were mostly indifferent. After all, it kills the flu, we all leave here sometimes.

- It was a bit like this doesn't apply to me.

Then came the day when President Sauli Niinistö spoke on television. On March 12, journalist Sakari Sirkkanen asked over the president in Yle's A-Talk how concerned he was about the coronavirus situation.

- Pretty concerned, as surely everyone is, Niinistö replied.

The fact that the true president said he was “pretty much worried” had a greater impact than if someone else had shouted the devils were off and now shooting in the streets.

People started canceling their barber shops and no new bookings came. Panic began to strike.

- One customer just peeked through the doorway and asked if I could suddenly mix the hair color and give it to him, says Nykänen, laughing depressingly.

- Fortunately, I can cry and laugh at the same time. Life hurts and happens - and especially at this age it hurts everywhere.

There are about 11,500 hairdressers in Finland. Although they were not ordered to close, like restaurants and bars, people stopped visiting without a state order.

The work continued, but mainly at the level of theory. Hair cannot be cut remotely and permanent making cannot be digitized.

Nykänen's monthly income collapsed to almost zero. Nykänen, who started as an entrepreneur in 1987, has never experienced a similar sudden drop, not even during the recession of the early 1990s.

- And then I still had an outstanding loan, because when I was young and crazy I took out a loan of FIM 250,000 to buy this shop.

- Now I still have savings. I would have been - if I were going straight now - completely fucked up without them.

Nykänen says he has never been a waste. She was born into a poor family and did all sorts of shredding jobs before becoming an entrepreneur: she was, among other things, a “running girl” at Sankar Puku Oy's factory, a hairdresser and make-up artist at the Savonlinna Theater and a magazine distributor.

One winter morning, he returned home from the distribution round with his eyelashes frozen and decided not to distribute the leaves for the rest of his life but to go on an entrepreneurial course. That decision made Nykänen's life and income more regular.

At the beginning of 2020, Nykänen had more than a year to retire. If someone had then said that he would move to a student apartment before his 63rd birthday, Nykänen would have considered the words to be a mess.

However, that was the case.


 Fortunately, I can cry and laugh at the same time. Life hurts and happens - and especially at this age it hurts everywhere.

Nykänen starts leaving work at home in the early afternoon. He fumbles at the ends of his fingers with a disposable vinyl glove, which he wears just in case at the bottom of his pocket whenever he goes out.

- I'll put my gloves on if I go to the store, for example. I’m afraid to touch the door handles these days, and I don’t want to do it with my bare hands.

Nykänen says that in the work of a barber, you have to be able to listen to the customer. It is as important as mastering technology. It is not uncommon for an elderly person who is lonely to set aside time for a haircut just to tell someone they belong.

And Nykänen listens, almost always. There is one only exception: drunk. Nykänen does not accept them as his customers.

While it may sound strange that drunks crammed into a haircut, those drunk in previous years were a constant nuisance. They were picked up from a travel bar at the other end of the house, which no longer exists.

- And, of course, there was no problem with that other than that a drunk man would not stay in place in any way! Try to cut your hair in it now when the other one is just swinging and spinning and is going somewhere.

- Less often, but every now and then someone went to ask for a loan. I always asked if my door reads a bank or a barber shop?

Customer worries must be left inside the walls of the barber shop. They must not be taken home with them - especially now that the remaining customers have wanted to talk more about death than usual.

It is not a general reflection on disappearance, but a practical arrangement: making a will to care, a ban on resuscitation, wills.

In a bit like the car repair list, you start going through it when the inspection date is near.

Nykänen says that he made the will to care for himself years ago. It was affected by the fact that her own sister became ill suddenly and died under the age of 40.

The sister had not had time to express any wishes for her treatment. Therefore, the other siblings, as their closest relatives, had to decide how long to prolong their ailing life.

- I do not want my own daughters to have the same responsibility. I know that no matter what the situation, I would not want to give it up to my loved ones.

- I'm also thinking about the recovery of the ban, but the fact I have not yet made a decision.

On the wall of the barber shop, right next to the entrance, hangs the certificate of Suomen Yritysvaliot Oy, proven to be one of the most satisfied customers. It was awarded in 2017.

“The customer survey interviewed 275 randomly selected people from Savonlinna,” it reads. That, too, has run into financial difficulties - that is, the company that issued the certificate itself.

Nykänen opens the door to the street, and the line blowing from Saimaa bites like a water-scared dog.

Jerky smiles. He explains the fan to him like a factory whistle telling him the end of the workday. It flushes the headgear empty of the day’s worries and the brain clicks into a different state.

- I already have dreams of what I will do when I retire. But I dare not talk about them yet.

The old apartment is almost completely emptied. The sister misses the lake view.

Now Nykänen has two more homes, old and new.

The old one is located in the Heikinpohja district. Moving cleaning has been done and the apartment emptied, but he has left there still toiletries. He plans to visit the steam room of his home sauna in the evening when there is another opportunity. The keys will be handed over tomorrow.

The new home is located in a concrete apartment building called Malakias 4, near Savonlinna Central Hospital. The rental apartment of more than 40 square meters acquired there is 20 square meters smaller - and half cheaper - than the previous one. Rent saves four hundred euros a month.

In the stairwell of the house, a reminder taped to the wall from the Savonlinna Student Apartments greets you.

“A message has come to our housing office that one of the residents is listening to music with the bass beating all over the house. Please pay attention to the others living in the house and give them peace to study and live. ”

- Yes, I think many times about which university of life I still have not attended, when I still had to become a student, says Nykänen.

He makes no secret of the fact that moving was a difficult experience.

- I wouldn't have been able to talk about this until recently. For the first two weeks I just cried. When packing the goods, it felt like I had torn my life to shreds at the same time. I closed like a seashell and didn’t talk to anyone, but cried and washed the walls of the apartment and packed.

- I thought I would never survive this.

Nykänen's partner Arto Hamina brings tea water to the living room of the new apartment.

One of the reasons why Nykänen survived is at the door of the apartment.

It is a male friend of Arto Hamina, 59, whom Nykänen met eight months earlier.

- She got my head on the bike like the city of Hamina, says Nykänen and gently crunches her husband.

- Even though I'm not from there at all! I was born in the UK's only Finland, Hamina says.

He means Hartola in Päijät-Häme, which, as a result of special coincidences, declared itself a kingdom in the winter of 1987. Today, Hamina lives in Lahti.

Inside the apartment, it becomes clear that the move has been a logistical miracle. One room has a full wooden display case, coffee table, two armchairs and a flat-screen TV with TVs. The second room is dominated by a wide bed.

They have christened the former student apartment a “mini home”. Nykänen says that he is a little quietly used to the change, even though he misses the view of Lake Saimaa from the balcony of the old apartment.

A row of old spruces can be seen from the windows of the mini-house. They grow right next to the house so that the branches cover all the windows of the “mini home”.

- They're actually pretty beautiful. When you wake up in the morning and look out, you can imagine sleeping in a forest house, says Nykänen.

- I've come to love this little cabins.

Both love nature. They jog a lot and last Christmas they also spent in the shed.

During an epidemic, on the other hand, it feels safer to stay in the city, as there is less congestion on the street than in the sheds.

Hamina says she strives to live as ordinary a daily life as is possible in these circumstances.

- It is not possible to make plans for the future, but we have talked about moving together when Sister retires.

- Artsi! sighs Nykänen to her husband using her nickname.

- I only told them a moment ago that I dare not talk about it yet!

A month later, on May 26, Nykänen answers the phone just before the start of his working day. He says he woke up at five in the morning and went for a walk on the beach, photographing nature.

Customers are back, a little quiet. Nykänen has acquired a protective visor to be able to work more safely.

- The phone has rang a lot when people have asked if I still do these things. I guess they imagined that I had already gone bankrupt, Nykänen says with a laugh.

- On the other hand, in the darkest moments, I wonder if I can even survive this. Now again feel that I have not had to give up remark and little, when I have so much to replace.

Nykänen says that he is in the middle of moving again. This time, however, not his own, as Arto packs his goods. He is moving from Lahti to Savonlinna.