It was the year 1973.
A lot was happening at that time, things that later generations have forgotten: There was the Finland of President Kekkonen, the Soviet Union of Brezhnev and the USA of Nixon, who managed to end the Vietnam War in that year.Motorcycle racer Jarno Saarinen died at the Monza race track, there was an oil crisis, and London celebrated the royal wedding of Princess Anne.
Finland, Northern Savonia, Vieremä.
Three years earlier, a forest machine factory founded by Einari Vidgrén had changed the village’s landscape, and the factory had manufactured its very first forwarders.
At logging sites in northern Savonia, a machine made in Vieremä was operated by a close friend of Vidgrén, Olavi Kauhanen, a native of the same village. The machine was found to be well-functioning, powerful and productive. All went well as long as there was enough income. After the change was made to determine the rate according to fixed cubic metres instead of piles, the situation changed.
This has truly remained in the mind of contractor Olavi Kauhanen.
“There was no longer enough income for operators or loggers”, says Kauhanen.
As a result, the information that large logging sites were waiting for workers in northern Germany, where earnings were higher, presented an attractive opportunity.
“Germany’s logging sites had been in operation for some time already, but the press was trying to scare people off. For example, Apu magazine wrote that forests there are located on extremely steep slopes that are too tough for both men and machines.”
Nevertheless, the brave decision to go ahead was made. Olavi, accompanied by his wife Eini and the Vidgréns, went to visit the plots in the summer, while also seeing other sites, such as Hamburg and the Reeperbahn.
Later in autumn, Olavi Kauhanen and three other contractors from Finland stepped aboard a ship.
After Vieremä delivered a forest machine, and later another one, there was so much work to do that there was no more time for sightseeing.
“The first machine was shipped to Bremen, from where it needed to be driven another 80 kilometres to the logging sites. It was brand new, the very first Ponsse with large wheels”, Kauhanen says.
When Olavi arrived in northern Germany, the large and steep slopes he had been told about were nowhere to be seen. In the end, it was all about work and earning–as much as it was possible to do –and Olavi Kauhanen from Vieremä and his loggers recruited from German logging sites sure did work hard. The price of a Mercedes was earned in a matter of weeks during the time in Germany.
When the project in Germany ended in 1975, Kauhanen and his Ponsse machine headed across Finland’s eastern border to Kostamuksha, where the logging sites stretched as far as the eye could see, as the Soviet Union had decided to build a mining town in the middle of nowhere.
The entire complex was eventually built by Finnish workers after President Kekkonen sealed the deal. This provided employment to workers in Kainuu and Savonia for some time.
When the Soviet Union still existed, it was not permitted to leave the worksite area or to visit local residents.
“One man walked the road every day, a 20-kilometre distance wearing nothing but felt shoes. His only job was to start a bulldozer. I guess the vodka gave him the energy”, Kauhanen says.
The ‘Vainikainen machine’ which was shipped to Germany back in the day now has quite a number of successors.