Johanna Sofia Björklund, who we refer as the young lady of Onnela, got Onnela estate as a birthday present from her parents as she turned 25 years old. That was the beginning of one signifigant story of the golden years...

The young lady of Onnela

Johanna Sofia Björklund (born 1880), received the Onnela estate as a birthday present from her parents when she turned 25 on the 11th of November 1905. Her father was a former log wood salesman, who later on became the mogul G. Björklund. Johanna Sofia studied ballet at a ballet school in St. Petersburg. Later on she performed as a lady-in-waiting in the imperial court in St. Petersburg, and at quite an early age became the lover of a Russian officer Paul Nikolayevich Shabelsky. Johanna Sofia met Shabelsky at a ball in 1897. He was a man of immense wealth; he owned fine premises in St. Petersburg and Moscow, several farms all over Russia and large areas of forests. At the time, Shabelsky was teaching French to noble officers in the St Petersburg war academy. Nevertheless, he didn’t bother to take any salary as he had no need for the money. He was very young when he married the daughter of a Russian nobleman; they had at least two sons together.

Johanna Sofia and Shabelsky spent their summers in Onnela from 1906 onwards. At the time, Shabelsky was commanded to the gendarmerie troops in Helsinki and Onnela was conveniently close. Gardeners brought from St. Petersburg exotic plants, built an artificial brook, waterfall and fountain. Life during the summers was luxurious with extravagant parties. In the winters, Johanna Sofia home-schooled Shabelsky´s children in St. Petersburg while Onnela fell into a deep winter slumber.

Before the revolution, Shabelsky divided his money and wealth between Russian and German banks. His skilful plan nevertheless failed him when both empires fell; the revolution even ripped off him of his land and forests.

 

After the revolution

At the onset of the revolution in 1917, Johanna Sofia and Shabelsky fled St Petersburg to Onnela. Shabelsky’s wife, Anastasia Shabelskaya, also arrived at Onnela. The proud lady had long been aware of the affair between Shabelsky and Johanna Sofia but was forced to tolerate it. In Onnela, she also had to tolerate Shabelsky's treatment of Johanna Sofia as a spouse in public. In the end, the Shabelskaya travelled to Paris, where her and Shabelsky’s son was already living.

The years after the revolution were times of misery in Onnela. The little money they had salvaged quickly ran out and they found themselves living hand-to-mouth. All jewelry and valuables were sold and time was spent playing cards.

In the throes of poverty, Johanna Sofia founded the Onnela Boarding House for students, statesmen and artists in the 1920s. At the turn of the century, Rantatie in Tuusula was the meeting place of an interesting group of people, with artists such as master composer Jean Sibelius, artists Pekka Halonen, Venny Soldan-Brofeldt and Eero Järnefelt , as well as authors Juhani Aho and Eino Leino, who lived in Onnela between 1923 and 1924. They were all inspired by the beautiful and peaceful sceneries of Tuusula. Johanna Sofia founded a kiosk which operated out of yhe villa on Rantatie. There she sold coffee, buns, cigarettes as well as spirits despite prohibition.

 

Later on in the 1930s, Johanna Sofia fell in love with an author 18 years younger than she named Unto Karri. Higly superstitious, Johanna had love spells placed on Karri and offered him her love potion. Before christmas 1935, Onnela hosted an exuberant party during which Johanna Sofia enertained her guests with alcohol with little regard for the jealous Shabelsky. The morning after the party Shabelsky was found dead, thought to have died from a heart attack caused by jealousy.

Later on Karri revealed that this changed Johanna Sofia entirely. She never again entered Shabelskiy's room, nor did seh attend or organise his funeral. She dressed in black and spent her nights reading The Bible in Russian. Soon afterwards, she was admitted to the Kellokoski psychiatric hospital, where she died on the 10th of September 1936.  

In her will, Johanna Sofia had left the Onnela estate to Shabelsky. Shabelsky’s inheritors sold Onnela on the 5th of January 1937 to the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired. Since 1937, Onnela has been owned by the visually impaired, except for the short period during which it was used for military purposes.

Sokeain Ystävät ry (Friends of the Blind) bought Onnela on 1st of April 2009. After extensive renovation and refurbishment, Onnela's services fullfill the needof demanding corporate customers. Today majatalo Onnela provides quality conference facilities and services, accommodation, restaurant and catering services to both corporate and private customers.

The original Onnela, Impivaara villa currently houses two meeting venues and a commemoration room dedicated to Eino Leino.

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