STORYBOOK HELSINKI AND BEYOND is a genre-bending book that delights the eye and tells a tale. Hundreds of gorgeous, darkly colorful photos by young Romanian artist, Octavian Bâlea, are woven with the light and tender voice of Cody Douglas Oreck, wife of the American Ambassador to Finland, to bring an outside/inside view into a particularly rich aspect of Finnish culture, its brave history and its astonishing design.
In the autumn of 2009, just after President Barack Obama had sent Bruce J. Oreck to Helsinki to serve as United States Ambassador to Finland, his wife, Cody, began to explore her new hometown. The leaves were just beginning to turn colors when she stopped dead in front of Villa Johanna on Laivurinkatu.
“This must be the most striking house I’ve ever seen,” she thought to herself.
In streetscape after streetscape, walking and finally jogging with Deckard the dog, she discovered more delightful architecture per square inch than she had seen in most other cities of the world.
Cody Oreck determined to learn more about what she was seeing and inquired at Academy Bookstore for a book on what she learned was called Finnish National Romanticism.
“There isn’t one,” she was told quite blankly. “Tourists are always asking.”
One day she came upon stunning photographs of some of her favorite Helsinki scenes–in a small shop at Kiselef House.
“Paljonko?” she asked hesitatingly in broken Finnish.
“I’m sorry,” said the young man of the shop, “I don’t speak Finnish but those are my photos.”
Thus began the conversation between Octavian Bâlea, an extraordinarily gifted young Romanian photographer, and Cody Oreck. These two foreigners shared a deep admiration for the particularly sympathetic architecture of Finnish jugendstil. That conversation led to a three-year collaboration for the book: STORYBOOK HELSINKI AND BEYOND.