May 2018, Santiago de Chile. A slightly nervous man arrives at a bar an hour before he has agreed to meet with the woman. However, all nerves disappear when she shows up: the conversation begins to flow immediately, and the two spend a pleasant evening with some drinks, lots of laughter and discussion revolving particularly around dogs and music. Someone asks if they would like to have their picture taken together. They reply yes, and the moment is captured.
Raymundo Deppe from Chile and Anniina Lius from Finland met each other when Anniina had only two months left of her student exchange period in Santiago, the capital of Chile. They agreed they would spend this time together and see where it would take them. When it was time for Anniina to return to Finland, the decision was clear: neither wanted to let the other person go, so the only option was to find a way to stay together.
“Although there were many uncertainties, we decided that we were going to make this work. We wanted to find out what the future would bring,” Anniina recalls and glances at Raymundo.
The couple met again four months later in Los Angeles, where Raymundo had travelled to produce a video. They spent ten days together under the sun, and their resolution to stay together only grew stronger. The couple were reunited once again when Anniina returned to Chile in January 2019. Over the weeks that followed, the couple talked about their future together and explored different options. It was time to decide where they would settle, at least for the time being.
“I photograph animals as a hobby, and Anniina told me that there are lots of elks in Finland. I have also dreamed of seeing the northern lights, and she told me that you have those too, so she promised that if I come to Finland, I will see both. She managed to talk me into it, but I am yet to see either the northern lights or wild elk,” Raymundo laughs.
July 2019, Jyväskylä. The newly-weds step out of the registry office smiling, surrounded by a few friends. They have exchanged rings, and are now heading towards their new life together. True to their style, they celebrate the occasion casually: with some burgers and karaoke. They spend the night toasting for their future.
The topic of marriage had been on the table for some time, but the decision was sealed when Raymundo came to Finland for the first time. Being together felt increasingly right, and the country seemed both fascinating and comfortable. The couple wanted to get married without making a big fuss: they borrowed Anniina’s parents’ engagement rings and bought their attires the night before the wedding from a discount sale. The ceremony itself was brief, and family and friends will be invited to a larger celebration later. On their honeymoon, the couple embarked on a tour of Europe, visiting Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague and Copenhagen.
“When I was heading out for my exchange period, my grandmother advised me not to get a Chilean boyfriend, so that I would not end up staying there. I turns out I did come back, but I brought back a Chilean husband,” Anniina laughs.
However, exchanging rings was not enough to allow them to stay in the same country: Raymundo had to return to Chile after five months to await for his residence permit. The decision finally came in early 2020, and the couple relocated to Finland at the beginning of March. They felt that now, without the great ocean and thousands of kilometers separating them, they could finally start to build their life together. But then COVID-19 shut the world down.
“Although it was a difficult, uncertain, and frightening time, I was still in new country and in my new home with Anniina. Everything was new to me, and the time of COVID-19 restrictions that we spent in our tiny one-bedroom apartment made us stronger than ever,” Raymundo recalls.
Although in terms of their relationship, the pandemic proved to be a good time, it made meeting new people and finding study and work opportunities very difficult. As part of his integration programme, Raymundo was admitted to a Finnish language course, which was first organised on site at a school and later entirely remotely. Learning a new language through the Internet was challenging, and getting to know others was not as easy as in face-to-face interaction. For a long time, Raymundo also tried to find a traineeship or a job, but because of his lacking language skills and COVID-19, he was constantly turned down.
June 2022, Helsinki. A tiny black and white Parson Russell terrier puppy scampers around the living room of an apartment in Vallila. Raymundo fiddles with an acoustic guitar, and Anniina sits down on the sofa. A little more than two years after arriving in Finland, the couple has just moved into a new apartment, gotten a dog, and are expecting a baby at the beginning of August. Since the beginning of the year 2022, Raymundo has worked as a regular photographer, and Anniina has just finished her visual communication design studies.
“Looking back now, it all seems a bit absurd. So many things could have gone wrong, but here we are now, after all the uncertainty,” Anniina says.
In the future, the family is likely to remain in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area because of the ample job opportunities, and they also want to educate their child in Finland, but they plan to spend their retirement days in Chile, at the latest. The couple is also dreaming of a summer cottage, where they could escape the hustle and bustle of their city life.
“There are so many things we would like to see happen in the future. But as of right now, we are looking forward to welcoming our baby and want to focus on enjoying this moment and the life we have just begun. Life feels safe and stable at the moment,” Raymundo sums up.
The couple welcomed their baby girl in August 2022.
MIGRATION FACTS ABOUT
Augusto Pinochet’s 1974 coup and subsequent dictatorship drove nearly 10 % of the population, one million Chileans, to seek safety and livelihood in countries such as Argentina, Australia and Canada. Chilean diasporas have remained strong to this day. In 2020, 644 000 Chileans were living abroad, most of them in Argentina, the United States and Spain. After the dictatorship ended in 1990, Chile has since become a centre of immigration in South America.
The largest group of foreigners in Chile are Venezuelans, estimated at around half a million. Venezuela is one of the largest countries of origin of refugees in recent years.
The Whole Picture – stories behind immigration project addresses questions of belonging to Finnish society and the importance of interpersonal relationships for integration in a new country. The project also opens the global situation of immigration. Through a photo exhibition and an online campaign, The Whole Picture asks, do we see individuals behind the immigration statistics and invites you to explore six different humane stories. The photographs and interviews have been collected during the summer and autumn of 2022.