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President Niinistö honours 36 on Mother’s Day, medals ceremony postponed

Yle visited two of this year’s Mother's Day honourees, farm women in southwest Finland.

Nainen seisoo traktorin vieressä.
Sari Korvala, 48, keeps busy as a farmer and mother of 13. Image: Katja Halinen / Yle

President Sauli Niinistö has bestowed medals on 36 women on Mother’s Day – virtually at least. Each mother will be honoured with a Medal, First Class with golden cross, of the Order of the White Rose of Finland.

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Tasavallan presidentin kunniakirja palkittaville äideille.
Each recipient received a letter from the president. Image: Katja Halinen / Yle

Normally the medals are handed out at a ceremony at the House of the Estates in Helsinki, but this year's event has been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The medals have been presented since 1946 to mothers who have played distinguished roles in childrearing and social responsibility.

Mother’s Day has been celebrated on the second Sunday of May since 1927. It has been an official flag day since 1947.

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Sari Korvala istuu pöydän ääressä.
A rare quiet moment in the kitchen for Sari Korvala. Image: Rami Koivula / Yle

Niinistö: Epidemic brings new responsibilities

In a message to the honourees, Niinistö noted that Mother’s Day is quite different this year. With older people advised to avoid close contact with others due to the risk of infection, many people are unable to even see their mothers face to face, he wrote in a letter.

“Daily life has changed for many mothers. Concerns about the family’s financial situation may have grown. Additional stress may also be caused by new obligations, such as home schooling,” the president wrote.

“Many mothers live alone. Now it is important to work out ways to facilitate contacts with them, to foster mental closeness," he added.

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Nainen seisoo traktorin vieressä.
Korvala says she enjoys driving her tractor. Image: Rami Koivula / Yle

Farm women, summer kids

Yle visited two of this year’s recipients, who both live in Kankaanpää, a town of some 11,000 in North Satakunta, southwest Finland.

Sari Korvala, 48, keeps busy as a farmer and mother to 13 children, three of them from her husband’s previous marriage.

Korvala says each child is dear to her, and there has never been one she would trade away. She says she respects those who choose not to have children, though.

“I certainly understand that, and it’s a good thing to recognise whether or not one wants to have children,” she says.

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Marja-Liisa Isoviita istuu nojatuolilla ja hymyilee
Marja-Liisa Isoviita is originally from Hiitola in Finland's former Viipuri Province, now part of Russia. Image: Katja Halinen / Yle

Retired farmer Marja-Liisa Isoviita, 76, lives in a small flat in the centre of Kankaanpää.

Besides her six children of her own, Isoviita cared for many foster children. Beginning in 1987, disadvantaged youngsters came to stay each summer on her farm, arranged through Pelastakaa Lapset, the Finnish branch of Save the Children.

Her last foster child headed off to a new home in 2002, but until the epidemic began she still took care of two fourth-generation children on a near-daily basis.

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Marja-Liisa Isoviita hymyilee ruusujen takana.
Isoviita's home is always open to her extended family. Image: Katja Halinen / Yle

As Isoviita sees it, listening and support are the keys to parenthood.

“There has to be a shoulder to lean on when a child has worries. And certainly we have to listen to our adult children, too,” she says.

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