How to survive with six canned mackerels

How two teenager girls can survive for a week with only six canned mackerels? How Jazzahead can help you in finding lost persons.

35 years ago I was traveling in countryside with my dear friend Lea. We were traveling by train and we had very little money with us. I had a summer job at a transport office and as a teenager I get paid very little. At that time cash was the only option to pay, there were no credit cards. It was the time before internet and mobile phones.

My mother was helping us to rent a small cottage from the lake district in the middle of Finland. The place was a cute camping area called Nyyssänniemi. It was a beautiful place by the lake with a white sand beach, boats, sauna and many other possibilities to have fun. We were just two ignorant teenagers, fourteen years old poor girls and very excited about the trip. Lea and me.

The train arrived to the village called Keuruu and we walked to the food market to buy some food for the whole week we were supposed to be there. We knew that the cottage is a very basic one, no freezer no water or anything else what makes our living comfortable, so we tried to think what food is cheap and sensible for us.

We bought bread, some snacks, spaghetti, corn flakes, tomatoes, eggs and so on. Additionally we bought seven canned mackerel in tomato sauce. The plan was that every morning we will eat four bread slices covered with mackerel, no butter or cheese to eat with bread. It was a great plan, we thought. Later we found out that it was a really great plan!

With the three plastic bags, filled with food for a week we walked a few kilometers to the camping area and finally reached the place. Then we asked our cottage. The lady in reception said, there is no cottage for us today. I am sorry. We don’t have any place for you, until tomorrow.

We, two teenagers didn’t have any resources to handle that, so I started to be nervous and maybe I cried a little bit. The lady said that we can spend our first night in sauna. We were happy we got a place to lay down. A warm place, you know.

Then we slept well in the sauna and in the morning our first exiting day started. We got a key to our small picturesque cottage. There was one bunk bed and a table for two. There wasn’t anything else, but what else do you need. We got food, sleeping bags, swimming suits and playing cards. It was a nice sunny day. We were swimming and just hanging around and getting to know the area. To be honest we were little bit of dissappointed that the place was so quiet, very few people, no other teenagers. At the evening we got a super idea. There was a small balcony outside the cottage and we decided to put our food bags there. There was a little bit colder out there, so it was much better to keep food outside than inside a warm cottage. It was awful night. I didn’t sleep much because I was afraid. I was afraid of all the mysterious voices outside the building. I just laid in my bed and listened those weird voices and was thinking what kind of animals, gnomes or ghosts could make such a voices. So many kind of voices. I was afraid that the bear comes in and kill me or something. But nothing happened.

We woked up in the morning and went to take some food from the balcony. And guess what. There was nothing!!! Then we saw that all of our food was laying down all over the forest. The animals, birds and weird creatures of the night had a party time in the night when we were sleeping or trying to do it. All of our food was eaten or spoiled otherwise and spread all over the forest around the cottage. Spaghetti, bread, tomatoes, broken eggs, corn flakes, everything. We tried to look if they have left something for us. At first we found one canned mackerel which was intact. We continued our search and finally found all six cans.

Okay. What to do now? We have six canned mackerels, six days and two fast growing girls. We just had to cope with the situation. Luckily it was july, the time of the year you can find some berries from the forest. You could also try to catch fish, if you really want some fish with mackerel.

We were not very worried about the food and we just started the first morning with one canned mackerel in tomato sauce. Nothing else.

After this versatile breakfast we went swimming and so on. In the afternoon we were playing cards in front of the cottage. Suddenly we heard some nice voices from the neighborhood. Laughing, screaming, young peoples voices. Some strange language, not Finnish. Then we listened carefully and we realized that they were from Germany. We were too shy to go to say hello to these people.

Late in the evening we heard singing and guitar playing from the fireplace in the middle of the camping area. We collected all of our braveness and walked to them and said hello. It was so exciting. We really wanted some company, some friends and to be honest we were so so hungry. We had eaten only one canned mackerel in the whole day. That’s all.


Lea, Sebastian, Christian, Klaus


Klaus, Johanna, Christian

The Germans grilled sausages and they were making pop corn on a fireplace. They welcomed us warmly. The people were young and old, teenagers and childs. And we had very much fun with them. They shared everything with us. We ate sausages and sweet pop corn. And we sang some german language songs together and the old man played guitar. It was a very unforgetable night and we had very much fun. We started to hang around with Klaus, Sebastian, Christian, Ulf, Annette and so on..

We swam a lot and played various games and in evening times we were hanging around in our cottage and we learned new games with cards. We played bottle rounding game and everything what teenagers do together. And in addition we got some food from the big German family. Every night we spent time around a fireplace and ate sausages or fire buns. It was my first time I ate the bun you fire on a stick and you fill it with the strawberry jam. It was so so delicious. Best taste ever, I thought. Later I have thought that these people really saved our lives. We couldn’t have stayed alive with the tomato fish we had. We ate it every morning and in the evening we ate German sausages.

I was spending most of my time with Christian. He told me his whole name is Ernst Christian Dietrich Wagener and I repeat it and decided I never forget it. And I didn’t. We changed our addresses and we made a decision to start to write letters to each other.


Nyyssänniemi beach


alone on the beach

The Wageners spent with us just three or four days and then it was time for them to leave. They needed to go on. We stayed there and were alone. The whole area was quiet again, the laugh, energy and food was gone. We remembered the music and songs we were listening together and it really was funny time! Like a short summer romance, but not with just one person, instead together with many people. Okay, they left and we needed to cope two more days. We just walked around the area and we took photos of the places we were playing together just few hours and days ago. We looked for them under the rocks and behind the corners. They really were gone. The feeling was like somebody had died. But one thing made me happy, I got an address!

We survived the last two days with blackberries and with one perch we catched from the lake. Our holiday ended and we returned to home.


Letter from Germany

After two weeks I got my first letter. We started to write letters with Christian and it was very exciting. I was studying German in school and I already could write something auf Deutsch. Mainly we wrote in english, our very poor english. The days I got a letter was a happy day. I wrote back right away in the same day. I had my teenage heart and it was full of feelings, some good and exiting feelings.  I was missing Christian and I wrote about it to the teenage music magazine “Suosikki”. I wanted to told to everybody how I feel although I didn’t even know what this feeling was. Maybe it was just the first time in my life I was really missing somebody (someone else than mother). It was a new feeling and that’s it. But know matter it was huge!

After a year and about twenty letters I got a shocked message. In a letter Christian wrote “Johanna, I am sorry, I cannot write with you anymore. But don’t worry, Sebastian will continue with you.” I felt it was the banx!! He had left me, by a letter!!! Who the fucking Sebastian!!! I don’t wanna write with any Sebastian, you cannot do that!!! But he did. Letters stopped. In few months I had survived from the disappointment.

It took for a while and after a few months it was just a nice story, one small story of my life.
One block what builds me to be me, builds my life. But I never forgot the name. Ernst Christian Dietrich Wagener, from Bremen.


Peter Schulze at Jazzahead2017 opening ceremony

After 35 years I met a guy from Bremen on a bar desk in Helsinki. He was not just a guy, he was a director of Jazzahead event in Bremen, named Peter Schultze. We were in Kapsäkki bar in Helsinki and we were ordering beers at the same time. It was the jazz and world music event Arctic Paradise, produced by Music Finland. Suddenly I asked him, if he might know the guy named Christian Wagener in Bremen. He asked, who is this guy and then I told him the whole story. Not as detailed like now, but somehow, the big lines. He was exited of the story and he promised to help me. Next week I got a message from him and he told me that he is just talking with Christian’s father and he has found Christian, the right Christian. I got an email address for the right Christian!

Okay. Then I send an email to him and he remembered me. We made a plan that when me and my husband will go to Bremen in next April to Jazzahead event again we will meet.


Me and Christian in Finnish Food Garden in Bremen

Now this april is gone and few days ago we met. We had an appointment, Christian, me, my husband and Christians wife Nicole. We talked about the time 35 years ago and I asked why he stopped the letters. Christian didn’t remember.


Tuuletar band performing in Weserburg


Weserburg modern art museum

They came to see the concert of Tuuletar in Bremen at Weserburg.  They really liked it.

Actually Christian is a musician, he plays trombone in Jazz-quintett and in two Big Bands and  in Salsa-band as well.
Christian’s wife Nicole was very warm person, I felt it at the first hug moment. They have got three beautiful sons together. I am happy that the whole story got the happy end. We decided to keep in touch and to meet again in the future. I am happy I found these friends again to my life.

I told Christian one thing what I never had told him before. The Wagener’s family, they really saved our lives. Lea’s and mine. How we could have survived without any food, two young girls. Maybe somehow, but they made our holiday succesful. We had a really happy times at 1982.


This is a story of connecting people.

And the story how to survive a week with only six canned mackerels.

Thank you Peter Schulze, Jazzahead,
Music Finland,
Lea, Nyyssänniemi camping,
my husband Perttu,
Nicole and Christian and the whole Wagener family!

Johanna Sauramäki

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