Jewish Refugee returns home
Betty Grebenschikoff, a former Jewish refugee returns her home in Shanghai on Nov.4, 2013. This is her fourth trip back to Shanghai after she left China in 1950. The following news is excerpted from Shanghai Daily:
Jewish refugee returns home, 70 years on
“I’VE come home again,” said Betty Grebenschikoff as she returned yesterday to the house in Shanghai where she lived some 70 years ago.
Entering her former residence at 51 Zhoushan Road in Hongkou District brought memories flooding back for the 84-year-old.
Grebenschikoff, originally from Berlin, was among the tens of thousands of Jews fleeing Nazi persecution in Europe who found refuge in Shanghai.
From 1939, she lived in the city for more than 10 years.
Returning to her former home, Grebenschikoff first walked toward the window of her small room. The view was exactly the same as 70 years ago, she said.
“I used to put rice on the windowsill here to encourage the bugs to go out,” she smiled.
“The ceiling, the floor, almost everything is the same. I feel that I’ve come home again,” said Grebenschikoff, who stayed at the Zhoushan Road address between the ages of 13 and 15.
Grebenschikoff, who lives in the United States, still remembers some Shanghai dialect, including phrases for “little boy,” “little girl” and “I’m full up.”
She is the fifth former Jewish refugee who has returned to the city this year, said Chen Jian, the curator of the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Museum, on Changyang Road in Hongkou District.
In May, 92-year-old Gary Matzdorff traveled from the United States to look for his former lover, a Shanghai woman.
The museum has collected information on some 15,000 Jews who found protection in Hongkou during the war and welcomes them and their families, Chen said yesterday.
“They are welcome to visit their former residences and tell us their stories,” said Chen.
Race against time
Most of the Jewish people who lived in the city have died or are very old, so it’s a race against time to collect their memories and stories as historic records, added Chen.
Grebenschikoff was a 10-year-old in Berlin when World War II broke out. After her father paid a hefty bribe to the captain, she took a Japanese ship to Shanghai with her parents, sister and uncle.
It was in Shanghai that Grebenschikoff met her future husband, a Russian swimming instructor at the city’s Park Hotel.
The couple held their wedding in the hotel in 1948.
Grebenschikoff yesterday donated to the museum her wedding dress, a white classic local-style garment made from French material. It was handmade by her husband’s mother, who worked in a wedding dress store on Nanjing Road.
Her third and fourth daughter also wore the wedding dress when they got married.
This was Grebenschikoff’s fifth trip to the city, reliving old memories in the company of her fourth daughter.
During her stay, Grebenschikoff said she plans to visit the Park Hotel, which holds so many memories of her husband, who died in 2002.
She has written a memoir, “Once My Name Was Sara,” which was published in English and Chinese, about her life in Shanghai.
Chen said the museum is gathering memoirs of Jewish refugees and plans to publish a series of them.
Yesterday, Grebenschikoff reflected on the city that gave her sanctuary so long ago.
“I had good times and bad times in Shanghai, but I try to remember the good ones and my friendships with Shanghai people.
“I have four daughters, a son, grandchildren and great grand children, but without Shanghai, I would have had nothing,” she said.
Betty(right)interviewed in the Museum
Returning former home
Betty and her old neighbourhoods