Kaarle Raekallio was just a toddler when his family lost everything but their lives in World War II. They left their home and livelihood by the sea, fled to mainland Finland, and found a safe place in the municipality of Kittilä. As a compensation for the lost property, the state of Finland gave the Raekallio family a small piece of forest.
The family spent decades growing the forest and grooming it for timber. But when the time came to cut down the trees, Kaarle, now known as “Pappa,” the grandfather of the Raekallio family, was no longer willing. Instead, he offered up his beloved Lappish pines for adoption by “tree-huggers” from around the world.
Nowadays, the HaliPuu (Finnish for “hugging tree”) forest is a peaceful place that unites nature lovers regardless of their physical location. Situated about six miles (10km) from Levi, a known vacation destination in Finnish Lapland, it is a hidden oasis where one can truly experience the essence of the Arctic woodland, and help to protect it.
The adoption period for each tree is five years, during which time the owners are free to come visit the Pappa’s forest and their personal little piece of it. Those that can’t make the trip come and hang out with the Raekallio family on their live-broadcasts on Periscope. The tree-hugging forest is a curious example of how the major events of the 20th century—from war to climate change—have left their mark, even on such a seemingly insignificant corner of the Earth.
Know Before You Go
HaliPuu forest is a 25 min drive away from Kittilä (KTT) airport and a 10min drive from Pallas-Yllästunturi national park.