It is not possible to tell the story of the cluster of shipping companies established by Jaeger Lieutenant-Colonel Ragnar Nordström and his life work without telling a little about the man himself.
Customs Officer Gustaf Adolf Nordström and his wife Maria Josefina (née Björk), who lived in Loviisa, became parents to a son on 16 January 1894. The boy was christened Gustaf Ragnar Enos. At first, his childhood was spent in Vyborg, where his father’s work assignment had taken the family, but once that was over it was resumed in Loviisa.
The sea had always fascinated Ragnar Nordström, so his first job was also found from this milieu. The recently graduated 18-year-old, having a vocational qualification in business and administration found a job at Consul Carl August Veltheim’s Ship’s Clearance and Freight Agency.
Nevertheless, Ragnar Nordström left all his plans for the future aside and enlisted as a Light Infantryman, arriving after a secret journey on Christmas 1915 at Lockstedt Training Centre in Germany.
The events in East Karelia had shown Nordström that money resolved the fate of projects that had arisen from idealistic and national motives. With his skilful business transactions, Nordström became a great businessman and, in the end, Finland’s largest private ship-owner.
In the manner of other ship-owners, his relations with foreign nations were extensive and multilayered. Nordström had close contacts with, for instance, Sweden’s commerce and industry as well as many countries’ transport and military circles. He also acted as Consul for England. Due to his excellent contacts, Nordström was capable of obtaining information about decisions made by leading military and political groups.
Nordström’s influential position particularly emerges in connection with the acquisition of arms during the war years. For the Winter War, he had purchased anti-tank guns, machine guns and rifles, which had great significance in equipping, eg., the Front in Northern Finland. After the Winter War, Nordström had received the task of secretly organizing arms acquisition on behalf of the Finnish State. As security for these arms deliveries, he was required to pawn his entire fortune.
Nordström’s unyielding attitude towards decision-makers becomes quite clear in his memoirs, Voitto tai Kuolema [Victory or Death]. His relationship with Field Marshall Mannerheim was blunt and straightforward, and not even President Paasikivi was spared his critique. When Nordström was offered a valued honorary title, he refused to accept it.
The character of this outstanding patriot is well-depicted by the fact that he remained loyal to the town of his birth, Loviisa. He carried out, for the most part, his long and what appears in some respects to be incredible lifework directly from there, spent his autumn years there, and now rests in the city’s old cemetery.
Ragnar Nordström passed away in his home town on Christmas Day, 1982. He was buried with military honours in January, 1983.
When Ragnar Nordström turned 60 in 1954, the City of Loviisa granted him Freedom of the City privilege by resolution of the City Council. He gave great value to this honour.
Ilmari Elo / Loviisan Merenkulkuhistorian säätiö; Loviisalaisen perhevarustamon historia 1926 – 1970 Otavan Kirjapaino Oy 2007
Ragnar Nordström; Voitto tai kuolema WSOY Juva 1996