Escape to Berlin: Finnish Woman Lived at the Airport for Two Months

A woman from Finland, who is believed to be mentally disturbed, is at large in Berlin after living at Tegel airport since mid-December. Finnish doctors and family members want to bring her home, but German authorities say she refuses to return.

Finnish and German authorities are squabbling over what to do with an apparently disturbed Finnish woman who lived in Berlin's Tegel Airport for about two months. "I'm very worried about this woman," said Kai Henttonen, a pastor at a Finnish church in Berlin. "She's disturbed and can't assess her own situation anymore."

Berlin's Tegel airport: Home away from home?
DPA

Berlin's Tegel airport: Home away from home?

Henttonen said Finnish doctors flew to Berlin last Friday carrying paperwork to admit her to a Finnish psychiatric hospital. But a clinic in Berlin had already released the woman on the basis of a German psychiatric report saying she posed no threat to other people or herself. Now, since she spends nights in a homeless shelter, some Finnish news outlets have accused the Germans of "failure to assist a person in danger."

The roughly 40-year-old woman, who speaks no German, became a familiar sight to employees at Tegel -- wearing curlers in her hair, flip-flops on her feet, and always pulling the same rolling suitcase, according to a saleswoman in a pastry shop.

"It seemed strange to me, but I didn't know she lived here," the saleswoman told the Tagesspiegel newspaper. The Finnish woman had coffee and cake every afternoon, "and always paid for it herself," said the saleswoman. She also reportedly ate several scoops of ice cream a day at an airport restaurant.

The Finnish woman, in fact, rejected the kindness of strangers. When a clerk at Starbucks tried to give her a free cup of coffee, she yelled -- in English -- "Nothing in life is free!" according to Der Tagesspiegel. And a hairstylist said the woman turned down a free haircut and wash.

Before she disappeared in Finland, she received walk-in psychiatric care. Her Finnish doctors and members of her family now want to bring her home, but the Finnish embassy, working with German officials, have so far failed to convince her to return.

Berlin police were called more than once to deal with her erratic behavior at Tegel. At one point, she was found wandering about aimlessly in a tunnel on the road leading to the airport with her blue suitcase. Police brought her to safety and then showed her the way -- back to the airport. In mid-February airport authorities also called Henttonen, the minister, for help. "My wife and I have tried three or four times to speak with the woman and convince her to go home," he said -- but in vain.

Still, Henttonen finds it "totally absurd" that the Germans won't force her to return. "On the one hand the doctors admit she's disturbed, on the other hand the woman is supposed to decide for herself where she wants to live?" he says. "She is a well-dressed, very beautiful woman, but she's wandering around Berlin."

A spokesman for the Finnish embassy in Berlin, Leo Riski, said, "We can do very little because the woman has not been made a ward of the state."

msm -- with wire reports

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