Friday, June 02, 2006

Russian Families In Shanghai

My name is Roberta Ward of Brisbane, Australia. My father's family lived in Shanghai in the 1930s and possibly earlier. I would like to research dates of births/ marriages of my father's parents. They died before I was born and I have a suitcase of photos with pictures of Russian dances, musicians and great parties with Russian handwriting on the back that I am trying to have translated.My father's name is THOMAS ANTHONY WARD (English/later Australian) born 14 Oct 1940 in Shanghai.His father was THOMAS HENRY WARD born Birmingham c 1889 (+/-10 years or so). He worked as a Merchant Officer (purser) for British Merchant Navy. He married HELEN (IVANOFF/KLECHKINO) in Shanghai either a) 6 November 1931 b) 6 February 1931 c) 2 June 1931 or d) 11 June 1931.Dad's Russian/English mother, HELEN WARD (IVANOFF/KLECHKINO) died soon after childbirth in 1940. Not much was heard from Dad's father after that. I think he was in Hong Kong at one time.Dad was raised by his Russian aunt, MARIA SERGEVNA SPEELMAN (KLECHKINO). She married JOSEPH SPEELMAN a Dutchman. They may have had a daughter, LEA b 19 March 1928 d 15 July 1932. Not sure whether this was in Shanghai or Singapore.Dad's other Russian aunt, ANNA NOVITSKY (KLECHKINO) married an American NOVITSKY. She ran a shop 'MRS NOVITSKY'S HOME FOOD' out of their home on 882/115 Bubbling Well Road (now Nanjing Road West).My father, brother and I went to Shanghai together last year(2005) and were able to visit this address and even take a look inside, thanks to some help from a friendly Chinese tourist we'd met on the street minutes earlier!!Dad went to the COLLEGE STE JEANNE D'ARC in the French Quarter but we couldn't find this school, even with the help of friendly tourists!!Dad and his adopted Russian aunt, Maria (Dutch) were interned in a Japanese camp c 1948, i think. The other aunt, Anna (American) wasn't.Dad and his two Russian aunts emmigrated to Sydney, Australia in 1950/51 via Hong Kong and Singapore.Any help with locating birth/wedding certificates on any of these people would be appreciated. Or any information at all would be great!

Posted by: Greg Leck (ID *****1934)
Date: May 28, 2006 at 13:51:55
In Reply to: Russian Family in Shanghai c1930s by Roberta Ward
of 971 I have met many alumni of Ste Jeanne D'Arc school. The school is long gone, but the building should still be there. Shanghai is packed with old buildings dating to teh 1920-1941 time period, but Chinese know little, if anything, about their past incarnations.The situation regarding civilians in China during the war was quite complex – at the outbreak of the Pacific War there were many Allied nationals living in China, and especially in the International Concession and French Concession in Shanghai. There were many stateless people there as well – about 25,000 Jewish refugees, and just as many, if not more, White Russians who had escaped the Revolution by going to Harbin, Mukden, and other Manchurian cities before moving down to Shanghai.It was very common for English and American men working in Shanghai to marry White Russian women.When it came time for internment, the Japanese did not intern Asians, or stateless people. However, they also viewed a woman’s nationality as that of her husband. So many White Russians who were married to Britons, Americans, or Dutch were interned. There were a few odd cases where, for example, a Canadian woman married to a Chinese national was not interned.What happened is that your father’s father, Thomas Henry Ward, was interned in one of the first camps opened for general internment – Pootung Camp, in the former British American Tobacco Company godowns (warehouses) in early 1943. Pootung camp originally held men only – single men, men married to Asian women, or men who had followed their consulate’s advice and sent their wives and families back to the UK, USA, or Australia before war broke out.Meanwhile, because of his position as the director of the International Savings Society, your father’s stepfather, Michel Speelman, was arrested on November 5, 1942, along with some 300 other men on the Japanese “wanted” list. These were men who the Japanese considered as dangerous or potentially harmful due to their connections in the business, finance, military, religious, or economic worlds. They were political prisoners and held in the Haiphong Road Camp. Many were tortured. Near the end of the war, in June, 1945, I believe, they were transferred to North China, where they were held in warehouses at Fengtai, a large rail depot. They narrowly avoided being massacred there and were rescued by a US OSS mission which had parachuted into Peking soon after Hirohito broadcast his acceptance of the surrender. I believe I have a photo of Speelman with some other Haiphong Road internees, taken in Peking.As for your father and his stepmother, they were interned in the Great Western Road Camp, which was the former American Columbia Country Club in June of 1943. They remained there until April, 1945, when the Japanese moved them out, along with the internees from the Yu Yuen Road Camp. They were moved into the former Sacred Heart Hospital compound in Yangtzepoo, the industrial section of Shanghai. It had been used to quarter Japanese troops, but as air raids became worse, the Japanese took over the GWR and YYR camps (which were known as such to the Allies) to quarter their troops and moved the internees to the Sacred Heart compound, which became known as Yangtzepoo Camp. There, the internees lived in jam packed, unsanitary conditions while enduring frequent bombing raids on the nearby docks, power plant, water plant, and factories.You can learn more about these camps at

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