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Eeva Ahtisaari

Eeva Irmeli Ahtisaari
Born June 18, 1936, Varkaus

Bachelor of Arts 1962, Master of Arts 1988 (history), University of Helsinki

First lady 1994–2000
Project interviewing veteran Members of Parliament 1990–1991
A year in Namibia (observing the free elections) 1989–1990
Spouse of the UN Special Representative for Namibia 1977–1989
Spouse of the Finnish Ambassador to Tanzania 1974–1977
Secretary of the Espoo Local Heritage Association 1968–1974
Posts as a substitute history teacher 1959–1968

University of Helsinki Alumnus of the Year 1996
Honorary PhD in Educational Science, University of Joensuu, 2004

Photo: Ari Aalto
Writen by Tero Juutilainen
Translated by Matthew Billington

A turning point in Life

At the beginning of the 1970s and 1980s, Eeva Ahtisaari frequently travelled because of her husband’s work. Nevertheless, she was troubled by the fact that her studies were yet to be finalised. In the middle of the 1980s came the opportunity to correct the situation.

– In 1985 I enrolled again at the University. I was slightly nervous about going there with my old student record. I was well received, although it was necessary to take a few courses again.

Her earlier studies and experience of the world proved of great benefit. A new perspective also helped her through a course on old handwriting which was considered difficult within student circles. Likewise, her Master’s thesis was also completed on schedule.

– My experience as the spouse of a diplomat had done its work. A friend of mine with a Master’s degree in Finnish language always checked the language in my thesis as it progressed and was amazed that I was always on schedule. I replied that a diplomat’s wife had to be. Guests don’t wait.

The topic of her Master’s thesis came from an old history teacher who Mrs Ahtisaari had bumped into in the lobby of Porthania.

– Professor Martti Ruutu brought a copy of Hilda Käkikoski’s memoirs from his mother’s bookcase, through which I began to acquaint myself with the development of the Finnish political system and particularly the role of women within it. My enthusiasm for studying returned.

At that time Martti Ahtisaari worked at the UN and was a well-known figure in Finland. In contrast, Eeva Ahtisaari had an easier ride and was able to concentrate on studying.

– At home only Martti and Marko (Ahtisaari) had their own studies. I had to make do with the kitchen and dining room tables. My notes and books were neatly stored in the laundry basket. I carried the basket around the house to wherever there was an empty space.

In 1988 Eeva Ahtisaari finished her Master’s thesis and graduated as a Master of Arts. It was the fulfilment of a long-term ambition, a turning point in life.

– The turning point in my life did not bring material reward; it didn’t give me a job or advance my career. It did more. It transformed my mind. It required that I posed questions and found answers. It helped me to understand that no stage in a person’s life is futile. It taught me that unfinished matters should be brought to a conclusion. For me it was of fundamental importance.

Finnish historical researchers on the balcony of Professor Aira Kemiläinen, August 1986. From the left: Päivi Setälä, Tellervo Suvanto, Riitta Suolahti, Pekka Suvanto, Maija Väisänen, Eeva Ahtisaari and Aura Korppi-Tommola.


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