Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bloodline -- North

My mom's side of the family is from Manchuria, in the far corner of northeastern China. Manchurians were the rulers of Qing dynasty, the last dynasty of China before the modern culture took over in 1911. Manchurian is a minority in China.

4. My maternal grandfather, Yu Su, also known as Jin Ming 金明, was from a wealthy family. He joined the Communist Party at a very young age and was sent to Moscow to be educated in university, where he met my grandmother. As things go with any political party, my grandfather voiced his opinion and stepped on a few toes. It just happened that the toes belonged to Joseph Stalin. My grandfather was arrested, sentenced for eight years in prison, and was sent to work in labor camp in Vorkuta in the Arctic Circle. He ended up spending about 20 years there, watched many people freeze to death. He survived by offering his fabulous cooking skills to the camp guards, and with the Chinese cook's help managed to get a job in the kitchen. In return, he married the cook's Russian born daughter and had three children with her. The family went back to China in the 1950s and my mom met her father for the first time when she was 18. Because of his early Party membership, my grandfather was able to obtain a job with the Chinese Department of Forestry and eventually retired in good standing with the Party. I met my grandfather's family for the first time when I was about 10, but visited them often for a few years. They were very Russian, conversations were sprinkled with Russian phrases here and there. They never accepted my dad and treated me exactly like how the offspring of a southern concubine should be treated. My grandfather died in the early 1990s. My grandfather's mother, brother and sisters went to Taiwan before the Communist Party took over China in 1949, and later most of them came to the US. It was one of the cousins in this branch of the family eventually helped my mom land in San Francisco in the late 1980s.

5. My maternal grandmother, born Guan Shu Lan 关淑兰, later known as Lin Na 林纳,a translation from her Russian name Lena. Guan family was a large family in Manchuria. My grandmother's parents and elder relatives were teachers and local government officials. One of her uncles joined the Communist Party and later brought her along. In the 1930s she was sent to Moscow to study, where she met my grandfather. Upon my grandfather's misencounter with Stalin, my grandmother was recalled back to China, leaving her three young daughters behind -- two from my grandfather, including my mom, and another girl from a different man. She reunited with my mom in the early 1950s when she (my mom) was a young teen. By then my grandmother was married and had three more children. In the 1950s, my grandmother founded Qi Qi Ha Er Steel Co. 齐齐哈尔钢厂, now known as Beiman Special Steel Co., Ltd. 北满特殊钢有限责任公司, and was the first chief executive of the company. This company was the anchor of China's steel production in the country's early days. My grandmother's accomplishment enabled her to be elected as representative to the first three People's Congress, and the representative to the Eighth Communist Party National Congress. When the China-Russia relationship went sour in the early 1960s, my grandmother was accused of being a Russian spy. Her family was told that she committed suicide while being confined during Cultural Revolution, but there was no witness of her death. My grandmother was a tall and handsome lady, far ahead of her days. Her friends and peers admired her, and remembered her as one of the most noteworthy women of their generation. An official funeral was held for her in 1979 to clear her name.

6. Grand parent number six, my grandfather's wife, Red October, as she was born in Russia and that was her Russian name. We privately called her Red October in Chinese, which was not a pretty name, or simply "fake grandma". She spoke very awkward Chinese so I hardly ever talked to her (I speak no Russian). She had absolute distain to my mom, as she believed my grandfather was still in love with my grandmother, which could be true. Once she threw a huge fit because my mom went to visit my grandfather when he was attending a conference alone. After that she always personally supervised our visits to my grandfather. She died in the 1980s after a stroke further damaged her brains.

7. Grand parent number seven, my grandmother's husband, Su Ming 苏明, who we privately called "fake grandpa". He rode my grandmother's skirt and became a hospital administrator in later years. From this person I learned at a very young age to recognize a liar, a ruthless cheater, a cold blooded traitor. He's dead.


Sonya said...

Wow, I could feel the intensity in your words.
Sound like your family history would make a good book or movie. I would read or watch it.

Lesley said...

Wow-- You're lucky to know so much of your family's history.

zelda said...

Fascinating. Is there any literature on your grandmother's life?

We have something else in common now. My grandfather also spent many years in a communist prison camp.