In the summer of 2014, Ron travelled to Finland from his home in Sydney for a family reunion. “My brother had married a Finnish woman and they asked me to join a big get-together in Lapland. I’d been divorced since 2009, and I think they knew I was at a bit of a loose end,” he says. After he reached Helsinki, some of his in-laws decided to take him to Tallinn in Estonia, a ferry ride away. When they arrived, they couldn’t find the restaurant they had planned to visit. “We were standing on the street looking for this place when we saw Jaana with a map,” says Ron.
One of Ron’s in-law’s family asked her if she was lost too. “I told them I was living in Helsinki, working for a craft organisation, and I’d come to see an exhibition,” says Jaana. She was invited to join them all for lunch and they spotted the exhibition en route. Sensing that something might be afoot, the lunch party went on, leaving Ron to go to the exhibition with Jaana.
“Afterwards, we went to sit on a terrace and chatted for three hours,” says Ron. “I was worried about my English not being good enough,” says Jaana, “but it felt so natural and easy to talk.”
They exchanged phone numbers before Jaana caught the ferry back to Helsinki. The next day, Ron made his way to Lapland, but soon realised he wanted to spend more time with Jaana. “We were in constant contact on WhatsApp. For both of us, there was this sense of satisfaction and peace in each other’s company,” he says.
Jaana invited Ron to stay with her for the rest of his trip. “I was nervous because we’d only met for a few hours,” says Jaana. “But when I went to pick him up at the airport, I was just thinking, yes, this is it.” Over the next week and a half, she showed him the sights of the city. “We were really falling in love,” says Ron. For two years, they were a long-distance couple, regularly visiting each other’s home cities.
In April 2016, they felt they couldn’t be apart any longer and Jaana moved to Sydney. “It was a hard decision to leave,” she says. “But Ron owned a house there and it made more sense for us. I also love Sydney and how multicultural it is.” They married in 2017 and Jaana later started up her own fashion accessories business, while Ron continued to work as a historian and writer.
In July 2018, they moved to Lithuania where Ron had been offered a university post. When the pandemic hit, they couldn’t return to Australia and instead went to Lapland, where Jaana’s family are from. “We were right up in the Arctic wilderness, which was another amazing adventure,” says Ron. “After that, we moved temporarily to Mariehamn, off the coast of Sweden, because we still weren’t able to get back, before returning to Sydney earlier this year.”
Ron says his partner is “exceedingly beautiful as well as patient and unfailingly optimistic. It’s like waking up to sunlight every day. She has changed me in so many good ways. I was getting on with life but I yearned for a soulmate and now I’ve found her. We look after each other.”
Jaana loves that her partner is not only caring towards her, but also finds the time and strength to encourage and help others. “I remember telling a friend I was never going to find someone and she told me that he might just turn up on the street one day,” she says. “He has a great sense of humour and always shows his feelings. We feel so privileged to have found each other.”
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