Pärnävaara’s hero volunteers Martti and Eeva

Eeva and Martti Reijonen from Liperi have done volunteer work at Pärnävaara for quite some time. Eeva ran the cafeteria for over a decade and Martti has been involved in the region’s improvements and the organisation of competitions for over two decades. Now the couple prefers to enjoy their days in retirement, but they hold happy memories of the time they spent at Pärnävaara.

“Martti was already chairperson of Liperi’s Skiing Club at that time, and I was chairperson of Ylämyllyn Yllätys Football Club. No entrepreneur was found to run the new cafeteria building, so I started running the cafeteria for the skiing club. In the beginning, the cafeteria was run with the Joensuun Kataja Sports Club on an annually alternating basis. The Joensuun Kataja Sports Club later stopped running the cafeteria and I was left alone to run the cafeteria for the ski club for several years. Then Ylämyllyn Yllätys Football Club became involved, with which we also ran the cafeteria on an annually alternating basis”, Eeva recalls.

The Reijonen couple owned a painting company that employed them on weekdays. They dedicated their evenings and weekends to volunteer work. Following the skiing pastime of their son and visiting competitions provided the couple with their enthusiasm. Volunteer work became their hobby.

“I’m not that crazy about sport. I have played volleyball, but only as a way of keeping fit. The emphasis has been on doing good for others. Traditional volunteer madness is what I have done here over the years. Normal people don’t usually do this much”, laughs Eeva.

Volunteers on the gravel heap

Martti has been busy with volunteer work all around Pärnävaara and organising skiing competitions throughout North Karelia.

“I was already very involved when we started making a cross-country skiing track base here. In the evening, we had plenty of people cutting down trees and planning. I had a lot of business acquaintances at that time, so we received help from many local enterprises. For instance, Erkki Vienola and others from Joensuun Kataja were involved. His lorry and tractor were very often used here in winter. Vienola was an enthusiastic skier and his son was also a keen skier. Those bridge structures were obtained from Mantsinen, and they are still in use. All kinds of big help were received then”, Martti tells.

Martti was also involved when the first building was built in Pärnävaara.

That info booth, which is still in use, was moved here from Liperi. We heard that the old R-Kiosk was to be demolished and the people who demolished it were allowed to take the structures with them free of charge. We contacted a man with a tractor from Liperi who brought the structure here. Back then, the only thing here was a heap of gravel”, Martti tells.

“So, it was one weekday I started shovelling gravel so that we could cast the foundations. The construction inspector from the local council happened to drive to the site and asked what I was up to. He asked if we had all the necessary permits, but we didn’t have any permits”, laughs Martti.

Fortunately, with the help of the same inspector, the building was later granted a permit and the work of the volunteers didn’t go to waste. The old kiosk served as a competition office and a warm-up spot for skiers. Later, Martti also purchased three worksite container buildings as changing rooms and a ski waxing room. It was several years before any other buildings were erected in Pärnävaara.

Most popular cafeteria products

Eeva Reijonen started running the café in Pärnävaara in the late 1990s when the main building was completed. To help him, he was able to hire long-term unemployed people as work experience, and at times the club received additional help during the weekends. The amount of volunteer work Eeva invested in Pärnävaara sometimes exceeded the hours she spent doing her day job. She also got a lot out of working at the cafeteria.

“As I am rather talkative, it was a nice job. Here we met people from all social backgrounds. We had no hierarchy or titles, we were just all normal folk. There were so many lovely people involved, so that’s where I wanted to be”, Eeva explains.

Eeva’s café had plenty of regular visitors and occasionally people were arriving from further afield. The reason for this was a culinary delight beyond compare; fresh doughnuts.

“It’s funny that people still remember the doughnuts. I once met a familiar-looking man in the shop who told me that he still skis at Pärnävaara and always hopes that the doughnuts would still be available”, Eeva tells enthusiastically.

“I came up with my own recipe here and it was very popular. People often commented that the doughnuts melt in the mouth. Often people were already queuing behind the door when the aroma of the freshly baked doughnuts filled the cafeteria.”

Sandwiches were also extremely popular and a favourite for long-distance skiers. These were also baked by Eeva.

Pärnävaara hosting large events

Several major skiing competitions have been held at Pärnävaara over the years. In particular, televised events and international stars are remembered by the Reijonen couple.

“Competitions were always of great interest. The National Defence Forces Championship is an event that I remember well. The first competitions were negotiated several times with the then colonel of Kontioranta. There was always a good service of refreshments available! I handed it alone, but I managed to negotiate a good agreement for Pärnävaara They organised the competition another two years in a row. Later, the Finnish Border Guard also became interested in organising the competitions here and they also accepted our offer”, tells Martti.

“The Finnish Championships in 2000 is an event I will never forget. The championships were televised, so there was quite a bit of pressure to get everything in order. We didn’t even have decent changing rooms, only the container buildings next to the kiosk. I managed to fall on the steps of the spectator stand and break my arm. It was a very busy weekend”, recalls Eeva.

“It is a pity that we didn’t keep a diary of these happenings. We always had two or three bigger events in winter and sometimes in summer as well. We just had to roll up our sleeves and get down to business, and now we are trying to remember what we have done over the decades”, Eeva laughs.

The future is full of opportunities

The Reijonen couple, with their years of volunteer work behind them, are now watching with great interest what the next generations manage to achieve at Pärnävaara. Future plans inspire the couple.

“Pärnävaara has great landscapes and settings. There are not many sports venues in Finland that have terrain like Pärnävaara. Now, I am sure, this will take off once more. Of course, we really want to see the Finnish Championships organised here”, Martti says.