The story appears on

Page A4

March 27, 2014

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Metro » Entertainment and Culture

Former Jewish refugees return for ‘Thank You, Shanghai’ trip

CHAYA Small, a Jew who lived in Shanghai during World War II, is looking for a nanny who lived with her family when they took refuge in the city.

Small, now 80 years old, gave the picture of the Shanghai nanny and her family to the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Museum yesterday. In the picture, the nanny is seen wearing a qipao with a boy sitting on her lap.

The little boy is Small’s younger brother Rabbi Chaim Walkin, who organized the “Thank you, Shanghai!” trip.

“Anyone who can recognize her or know her children, please let us know,” said Small, who now lives in Chicago.

Originally from Poland, Small was among the 23,000 Jews who fled to Shanghai to escape persecution by the Nazis.

She was only six years old when she came to Shanghai in 1941 and left when she was 12. The houses where they lived no longer exists.

Small said she really wanted to find the Chinese ama (mother in Shanghai dialect) who was like a family member to her. Whenever she was sad, the ama comforted her even though they spoke different languages.

Small said the nanny lived with them in one room. She knew a lot about the Jewish traditions and took good care of her, her sister and brother. Her mother also taught her some English.

Small also remembers a Chinese watchman who could not speak English but was very friendly and always greeted her. The watchman had a wife with her feet bound as was the custom in old China.

“I lived a normal life here. I went to school and shopping. I’m so grateful to the people of Shanghai who provided us a haven to live and continue our lifestyle and our family,” said Small who couldn’t hold back her tears. “What we owe to Shanghai is to tell our life in Shanghai. It’s a great miracle,” Small said.

Small shared the story of a cufflink which she wears around her neck all the time. The cufflink, which is made in Shanghai, was a gift from Benjamin Fishoff, a Jewish refugee in Shanghai, to her father Rabbi Samuel Walkin who was then an important leader in the Shanghai ghetto. The cufflink is almost 70 years old. Two Chinese characters Shou and Fu, meaning “long life and happiness,” are carved on it.

Small said she got the cufflink after her father died 30 years ago. She only took it off twice, once for an X-ray check and the other time to pray for a sick friend.

“It never leaves my neck and it reminds me of Shanghai where people are so receptive and warm,” said Small.

This was Small’s second trip to Shanghai. Her last trip was in 2007.

A delegation of 25 people visited the museum yesterday and listened to the stories in the former Ohel Moshe Synagogue, a three-storey building on 62 Changyang Road in Hongkou District.

It was the place where Jewish people used to gather for religious activities in the Tilanqiao area, once known as the little Vienna.

Pan Lu, a Shanghai resident, said her father-in-law kept the promise of keeping 1,654 books for a Jewish teacher, Carl, some 70 years ago.

“Till the end, my father-in-law kept telling us to protect the books and wait for Carl to return,” Pan said. The books, in German, Hebrew and English, are kept at the Hongkou Library now.

Small said it was 9 months ago that she and her brother decided to make the trip.

“We want to show our appreciation to the city for giving us life,” said Small. “I’m committed to tell the story of Shanghai. The world has to know — its tolerance and reception.

“Though the place has changed and become crowded, something hasn’t changed. Life doesn’t change and human beings don’t change.

“The memories will come back.”


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend