Memoirs: Russians in old Shanghai

Shanghai’s extraordinary Russian community left its mark on the city’s architecture, cuisine, lore, and in richly described memoirs of an unique period in history.  Ahead of our August 21 2016 walk, “Russians in the former French Concession”, Historic Shanghai reviews a few of our favorite memoirs of Russians in old Shanghai.

Russian at Heart: Sonechka’s Story, by Olga Hawkes with John Hawkes

Russian at Heart

Russia’s turbulent Revolution has torn Sonechka Balk’s family apart, and the orphaned Crimean noble flees to China en route to the U.S. — but finds herself stranded in Shanghai between the wars. Daughter Olga, who was born in Shanghai, drew from her mother’s diaries, rich memories and stories to tell Sonechka’s remarkable story and that of the émigré White Russian community, in Shanghai between the wars in this richly detailed biography Illustrated with historic photos, Russian at Heart brings to life a fascinating community at a fascinating time in history.

Strangers Always: A Jewish Family in Wartime Shanghai, by Rena Krasno

Strangers Always

Born Shanghai in 1923, Rena Krasno tells a powerful coming of age story drawn from her own adolescent diaries, with details that give it the freshness and immediacy of an eyewitness account. Rena tells the story of her life in the Shanghai of the 30s and 40s from the perspective of someone with deep family roots in the city’s Russian Jewish community, describing how events were perceived and felt in this rapidly changing environment, as the Japanese occupation and the Holocaust brought a wave of refugees. First published in 2000, Rena’s voice and her contemporary journals make it one of the finest books of this period of Shanghai’s history.

Goodbye Shanghai: A Memoir by Sam Moshinsky

Goodbye Shanghai.com

Sam Moshinsky spent his first 17 years in Shanghai, and as with many White Russians who fled to China, the fact of his statelessless meant that, despite the wars, change of regimes, and evolving political landscapes that formed the backdrop of his life, Shanghai, and its Russian Jewish culture and community were his home. Sam is a terrific storyteller, weaving the details of his young life, of family life and the traditions of the Russian Jewish community, and the sweep of history that created global changes during the interwar years.

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