'She can’t wait to get here': Finnish immigrant finds way home to reunite with her York County family

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Lea Hyvärinen (left) and Liisa Temple (right) pose for a photo. Hyvärinen, who is currently in Finland, has been denied a special exception to travel from the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki three times. Credit: Liisa Temple

One Facebook post changed the course of events for a York County family and their attempt to reunite with their Finnish immigrant mother.

Eighty-one-year-old Lea Hyvärinen is finally coming home after Finnish citizen Annika Uuskoski reached out to Hyvärinen's daughter, Liisa Temple, and said she would travel with her mother.

Tickets are now booked for the pair to travel July 23 from Helsinki to Mexico, where they will be required to quarantine for 15 days. Hyvärinen will then take off Aug. 8 for Harrisburg International Airport, where she will finally reunite with her family.

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“Being able to do it this way, it eliminates the need for me to go all the way to Helsinki and Mexico," Temple said, adding that the travel would rack up hefty flight and hotel fees.

Hyvärinen, who resides in Lewisberry with daughter Liisa, was denied three times a special exception application with the U.S. Embassy in Finland — preventing her from leaving the country under international travel rules established during the pandemic. She has been trying to leave since October.

In order to return home, Hyvärinen had a few options: have her application with the U.S. Embassy accepted and fly directly from Finland to the United States — or fly from Finland, to Mexico and finally Pennsylvania without needing her application approved.

The latter option, Temple said, was originally not considered because of her mother being unable to travel alone and travel costs being too high for Temple to fly out to assist.

Seeking other options, Temple posted a previous York Dispatch article covering the issue. Less than 12 hours later, Uuskoski reached out offering to travel with Hyvärinen.

“It was the craziest thing ever," Temple said. “I just couldn’t believe it, what are the chances?"

Lea Hyvärinen poses with an award for her work in ophthalmology. Credit: Liisa Temple

Hyvärinen, who broke her shoulder in May after taking a fall, is a widely acclaimed ophthalmologist and cannot consult clients or give webinars in Finland. Additionally, all of her belongings remain in York County.

Her daughter argued that for those two reasons, and since Hyvärinen is fully vaccinated, she should qualify for an international flight exception. 

Despite her several applications being denied, this new opportunity to see her mother in person again is the next best option, Temple said.

“She can’t wait to get here," Temple said.

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.