HELSINGFORS - PATAGONIA LODGE HISTORY
The story of Helsingfors is closely related to Alfred Ramstrom’s life, its founder, and it takes place in the beautiful glacier area on the coast of Viedma Lake.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a group of Scandinavians were captivated by the landscape, and they settled in this area and played a significant role in the development of Santa Cruz lands. Alfred Ramstrom arrived in Argentina in the year 1907 after fleing away from Finland, his homeland, which was going through a difficult situation under the Russian Regime. Finland was part of the Great Power and had become the “Autonomous Grand Duchy”, the Russian Zar being the Grand Duke.
He started working at a lumber-yard in the Oberá area, in the Province of Misiones, where it was customary for foreigners to be hired for forest exploitation. In 1912, he was employed by a French Company for the building of a large shed on the premises of “La Primera” Ranch, in the area of El Chaltén. He was fascinated by the marvellous views and started breeding horses, which were sold for the acquisition of land for his new ranch in 1917. He gave it the name of “Helsingfors”, which means Helsinski (Finland's capital city) in Swedish.
Andreas Madsen and Pedro Jensen were two Scandinavians who had worked with Ramstrom in “La Primera” Ranch. Both of them returned to Denmark, and after a while, came back to Argentina. They were married to Martine Thompsen and Maria Lissau, respectively. While they were staying in Punta Arenas, they gave birth to their first children. Maria Lissau and Pedro Jensen had two sons, Harald and Oluf, and they lived together until Jensen died of tuberculosis in 1918. Maria, who did not speak the Spanish language, and her helpless family, lived by the local people's charity, until Madsen (who had already settled in his ranch called “Fitz Roy”, in the area of El Chaltén) learnt about the tragedy, and decided to help Maria, by taking her and her sons along to live with them on “Fitz Roy” Ranch. Once there, she started working as a laundrywoman.
The Madsens’s Ranch was the meeting point for all the Nordic dwellers in the area. Here, Maria met Alfred Ramstrom. In November 1919, they got married and on 19th of November, their first and only son, Knud, was born in Punta Arenas. His birth is one of the most well-known in the Viedma Lake area, due to the fact that it took them 17 days to make the journey from Helsingfors to Punta Arenas. They sailed across lakes and rivers and travelled along snowy paths in the Province of Santa Cruz.
The Ramstrom family sent their eldest son, Oluf, to Denmark so that he could study and become acquainted with his mother’s birth land. But he did not like Europe, so he came back to Patagonia. Teachers were hired for the children’s education, and stayed with them in Helsingfors. They were taught the basics. Only Knud went to school; he was a boarder at Saint David’s School in Trelew.
During the 40's, Alfred Ramstrom fell sick, so he travelled to Buenos Aires with Maria to be hospitalized in the Hospital Alemán (German Hospital). Knud, who was in Mendoza learning his Uncle Einar Ramstrom’s job -he owned a neon-light factory-, returned to Helsingfors in order to take charge of his father's ranch. In September 1942, Ramstrom died and Maria went back to Helsingfors carrying her husband’s ashes, which were buried in his beloved land just like he had wished.
Shortly after, Knud married Filomena Pérez and settled in Helsingfors together with Maria, Oluf and Harald, who were still single. After a while, they also got married and left Helsingfors.
In 1946, Filomena and Knud started building their own house with clay bricks a few meters away from “Moa” Maria’s house. This house would be extended in 1960 and would come to be the house model to be built 34 years later for the purpose of hosting visitors at Helsingfors.
Knud had a passionate interest in trees, and we owe him a lot for the beautiful grove that we have in Helsingfors at present. He had a great love for coniferae for he had the possibility of sowing pine seeds and taking care of them till they became grown-up plants. The first species he sowed were sequoias, which still thrive and are several meters high.
The married couple had three sons: Alfredo, María Isabel and Inés. They lived with their children on the ranch until they moved to other towns to study: Río Gallegos, Piedra Buena and Río Grande. The three children had a very happy and healthy childhood in the country. They were free and could explore and enjoy the landscape, while Moa Maria’s wisdom accompanied them with her games, stories and happy laughter.
In 1969, they decided to sell Helsingfors Ranch to the Susacasa family because their children’s absence made them feel very lonely. In 1972, Moa Maria died and they moved from their ranch in Río Chico to Río Gallegos, where Knud worked at the Agrarian Council, until he retired as Head of the Department of Forests and Parks in 1976. Knud Ramstrom died in 1986 and Filomena lives in Rio Gallegos with her daughter Maria Isabel at present.
Since 1996, Helsingfors welcomes visitors from all over the world and allows them to discover its past, its great beauty and enjoy Patagonia in a unique way.