Memories of Ainola

The family

Jean Sibelius

"Many people would say that my home is humble, but it is good enough for me. I am not like Verner von Heidenstam, the Swedish poet, who built a wonderful villa by a lovely lake and then complained that he could not do any decent work since everything around him made him ashamed of what he had written. I have been cleverer. I built a house in surroundings which were not too beautiful. So, when I write my music, it is possible for me not to be ashamed of it!"

Read also The occupants of Ainola: Jean Sibelius

Aino Sibelius

"The children sensed instinctively how they should behave, out of respect for their father's work. And just as instinctively they all felt a kind of relief at the moment their father started to write. It meant that the work had matured into its final form, that its moment of birth was at hand. (...) At that moment it is always as if the sun were blazing away after long cloudy period; it is as if the whole house were filled with a kind of springtime joy; the children became so happy. On days like that my husband could sit for 48 hours without leaving his desk.

"In those days they [the children] had such fun in summer! There were so many companions of the same age: the Halonens, the Paloheimos, the Hjelts, the Järnefelts. (…)

I remember well how a painter was whistling when we were renovating the house. I very humbly had to ask him to stop so that he would not disturb the Professor. The man did not quite understand, but I came up with a good metaphor. What would you say if you had just painted the wall and someone came and slapped a brushful of paint over it and destroyed the whole work? The man got the point. (…)

"I am happy that I have been able to live by his side. I feel that I have not lived for nothing. I do not say that it has always been easy - one has had to repress and control one's own wishes - but I am very happy. I bless my destiny and see it as a gift from heaven. To me my husband's music is the word of God - its source is noble, and it is wonderful to live close to such a source." 

Read also The occupants of Ainola: Aino Sibelius

Eva Paloheimo

"When we children were small, we felt that Ainola, our home, was a ship which was sailing alone on the open sea: nothing was secure outside it. Nobody could be sure that there would be money coming in: father had no job, so there was no payday either; nobody could be sure whether Vecsey would give a good performance of father's violin concerto in Berlin, or whether Henry Wood would include the fourth symphony in his repertoire in England, since everybody considered it so difficult and chaotic, although it was quite clear to us, so long as it was played clearly."

"Nearly every day there were bad reviews: a German agency cut them from the newspapers of the world and sent them to papa. I would have liked to go and meet the post lady and ask her to give me those letters, so that papa would not have received them and become first irritated and furious and then downhearted, and that mama would not have cried. But it would have been even worse if they had not come, for papa would have felt that his works were passed over in silence. You just had to suffer and endure.

"At night, when we had been sleeping for a long time, we could wake up to papa playing: it was warm, the moon was shining from another direction than it usually did, it would have been quite a spooky feeling, but papa's playing was safe, comforting: papa was our father, he was steering the ship of Ainola through the dangers of the world, through the storms, and maybe one day he would be famous. (…)

"Today [in 1935] life at Ainola is in many ways different from what it was in our childhood; there are no financial problems anymore nor as many bad reviews as before. Admiration, interest, understanding is flooding in from the outside world. Nowadays the public is not just talking about Valse Triste or Finlandia; countless music lovers have access to Sibelius's orchestral poems and symphonies on gramophone records."

Read also The occupants of Ainola: Eva Paloheimo

Ruth Snellman

"I was nine years old when we moved to Ainola. From Ainola you could see about a kilometre of the main road. Our life was very much centred around that road.

"The Paloheimos and Halonens lived in Tuusula, Eero Järnefelt's family at Suviranta, Juhani Aho's family at Ahola and many of Archiater [Senior Physician] Hjelt's grandchildren and great grandchildren lived at Lepola. Many young people came to these places too. Sillanpää [the future Nobel prize-winning author F. E. Sillanpää] often visited his good friend, our cousin Heikki Järnefelt at Suviranta. The academician Eino Kaila and Matti Kivekäs also lived in Tuusula when they were young students.

"Everybody was interested in each other and each other's friends. There were little love affairs and some full-blown romances, three of which ended up in a wedding. (…)"

"Perhaps it brought some glamour to our lives that nearly all of our friends came from artistic families. Our whole existence was haphazard. No-one had a regular income. Everyone did what he or she could do best.

"For example my mother did a great deal of transcription work for Juhani Aho, who was translating the Bible.

"Our parents participated in our activities a great deal. I remember that I sometimes wondered how these old people could be so energetic, but of course they were not at all as old as they seemed to me – me being so very young."

Read also The occupants of Ainola: Ruth Snellman

Katarina Ilves 

"In those days [of the move in 1904] Järvenpää was not even a village, in fact there were only five houses: there was the shopkeeper, the station, the post office, the inn and the bakery. The rest of the lands there belonged to the manor and there weren't many people living on them. The fixed points of our lives were a sand pit which served as a meeting place for young people, and near home the barn and the sheepfold, and they still serve as reference points for us sisters, even if they do not exist any more.

"When father was at home, he filled the whole house. There was somehow a very safe and pleasant atmosphere. When he was away, we children were more free, we could play and sing. But there was an emptiness. His personality radiated everywhere and he gave a tremendous feeling of security. (…) Mother got up at half past six. She sewed with her sewing machine and worked in the garden, if father was away. Father got up late and went out for his morning walk to the spruce hedge. The children were served gruel. There was also coffee. Lunch was at twelve o'clock. Once when I came to the table with my hair in a mess, father said: 'Your hair looks like a magpie's nest. Only the eggshells are missing.'

"During the day we did various chores and in the afternoon there was coffee. Dinner was served at six o'clock and evening tea at nine o'clock . We kept regular hours. (...)Father was both playful and understanding. In the early days he used to walk along the main road, where he met the men of the village or farmers or Uncle Erik [Eero Järnefelt]. Pekka Halonen kept to himself, but he visited Ainola often. Father had quick, lively gestures. He walked quickly. With old age his walking naturally became weaker. He was very vivacious. In company he could be witty and tell stories. Yes, I do believe that people liked him. (…) Father sometimes fretted over not being able to spend time on his great works. He had to write small pieces for a living. We children said: 'Then why do you write them, if you don't want to?' Father: 'So that you can get sandwiches.' We: 'But we can eat something else.'"

Read also The occupants of Ainola: Katarina Ilves

Margareta Jalas

"Heidi and I were lonely children. In our time the flourishing social life of the artistic families in Tuusula was over. There were no more of these theatre performances, balls, crayfish-catching trips or small flirtations that people have talked about so much. Our elder sisters, Eva, Ruth and Katarina, had eagerly taken part in these activities but when we reached the same age, they and their companions had already left home - most of them were in Helsinki and married.

"We two were genuine inhabitants of Tuusula, born at Ainola. We played a lot in the woods around the house and we were so shy that when guests came to the house, we ran and hid behind trees and big stones. We did not want to curtsey to strange gentlemen and ladies and to talk with them, and not only that but in Swedish, which we considered pretentious.
"Father's work also restricted our family life. All of us daughters studied music - the piano - and I also studied the violin and the viola, but we were never allowed to practise when papa was present. It was when he went for his daily long walk in the park of Ainola and in the woods - the Temple, as he called it – that we practised our music. When he came back the house was quiet again.

"I remember how I once made the mistake of singing The Song Of The Athenians, his own composition, in a loud voice. He came to me, smiled sweetly, and said: 'Now you have learnt to sing it right.' I knew that I had better not perform it again. Otherwise we did not in any way feel that we belonged to the family of a great man. Only that silence, which we had been taught to observe, separated us from other children. (…) He had such blue eyes when he gazed at us. I have never seen anything like it with anyone else. I always remember the feeling of safety that came over me when I was sitting on his lap.

"We children always had such a strong sense of his presence. It is hard to believe, but somehow you always knew, sensed, if he was at home or somewhere else, even if you did not see him… something like a density in the air when he was at home … I felt as if his presence was in the very trees of Ainola. It was quite extraordinary."

Read also The occupants of Ainola: Margareta Jalas

Heidi Blomstedt

"It took courage to creep to the upper floor, up to mamma and papa, since there was no electric light. The stairs squeaked and it was terrible to pass the first landing, there was a cupboard at the corner of it that we called the Fox Burrow. Father's cigar-boxes were stored there (...) I remember once asking what comes after the place where heaven and even space end. 'Well, then there is a wall and in the wall there is an opening and when you peep through it, you will see papa sitting in his chair smoking a cigar,' papa answered. I felt happy again. Papa had understood my feeling of insecurity and removed it with a concrete example. (…) "Mother taught us, and when Piiu went off to school, I was alone for a couple of years. I myself started in the fourth class when I went to secondary school. But papa and mama were sweet and gave a lot of time to me, when I think about it afterwards. I think that as the youngest child I was spoiled in a way that my elder sisters perhaps were not."

Read also The occupants of Ainola: Heidi Blomstedt