"PTA work allows me to make an impact and participate in decision-making"

Jelena Nerman facing the camera, stands in an empty corridor lit by windows to the right of her.
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Jelena Nerman is an active member of Helsinki's Finnish-Russian School's parent-teacher association. She has a say in how the school is run and sets a good example for her own children.
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Having relocated to Helsinki from Tallinn, Jelena Nerman has always strived to be active and have an open mind, an attitude that proved useful in playgrounds when her children were young. Other mothers would come to chat with her and ask about Russian language and culture.

Jelena's tip for anyone moving to Finland from abroad is that attempting to speak Finnish should not cause any stress.


I didn't speak a word of Finnish when I came here, yet nobody criticised me and would instead encourage me and say I speak well.

Jelena Nerman
Jelena Nerman

Jelena has three children aged 9, 13 and 14. The youngest and oldest one attend the Finnish-Russian school.

"My Ingrian husband and I found it important that our children would learn proper Russian. In regular schools the Russian skills can stay on a level where the child can speak the language but not write it", Jelena thinks.

Although Jelena enjoys Helsinki a lot especially for its nature, the vicinity of sea and diverse work opportunities. She also likes it that her new hometown has many options to stay immersed in Russian culture.

"I have studied Russian language and culture at the University of Helsinki. There are also Russian quiz nights and many Russian theatre groups and orchestras come here to do shows", Jelena says happily.

Looking towards the left, Jelena Nerman is standing in front of a small set of steps in a corridor, colourful kids paintings on the wall behind her.
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The Finnish-Russian school has an open and active parent-teacher association. Jelena acts as the secretary of the board.

"I was encouraged to join in by a father I know who is an active member in the PTA. I wanted to also set an example for my children by being active myself. My children are quite shy, as am I, but I wanted to show them that you can overcome this."

The PTA collects funds by renting out the school's big gym hall to private individuals, organisations and sports teams. The funds are then handed out as financial support for initiatives that benefit the school and its students. The most typical beneficiaries are school trips for fourth and eighth-graders, or stipends for good work in school or being a good buddy for classmates. The PTA has also supplied coffee and cake for school staff and retirement parties, helped the school library buy new books, and used its funds to buy new playground equipment and recess games.  

The school board meets at the school every two months, but e-mails are flying back and forth constantly.   

"Right now we are organising an event where a police officer will come and explain risks of the online world to parents and give advice on how to protect one's children", Jelena says.


Through the PTA, I get to hear what is happening around the school and I get to impact decisions. It is also nice to get to know Finnish people, the parents of the friends of my children, and all in all learning how such an association works.

Jelena Nerman
Jelena Nerman

Everyone has their own field of responsibility on the PTA board. Jelena has not found the work too taxing, even if the current topic of the school building's demolition and the move to temporary facilities is stirring a lot of conversation.

For Jelena, there is also an upside to the school's upcoming relocation.

"During that time, we have been planning to hold meetings in cafés instead of the school. That will probably be a good chance to get to know other parents in a bit more of a relaxed manner", Jelena thinks.

Jelena was 18 years old when she moved to Finland with her parents. She thought that she would complete her studies here and then move back to Tallinn to be with her friends.

"Then I noticed I enjoy my life here, I met my husband and we formed a family together. I didn't feel like leaving anymore", she laughs.


The Finnish-Russian school in Helsinki's Kaarela is Finland's biggest general education facility specialised in Russian language and culture. The students can study Russian on an A1 (primary foreign language) level from preschool through to upper secondary school. The school is state-owned and financed by the Ministry of Education. The school's parent-teacher association welcomes all parents to join.

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Jelena Nerman is an active member of Helsinki's Finnish-Russian School's parent-teacher association. She has a say in how the school is run and sets a good example for her own children.