Author(s): Olga Hawkes
In freezing mid-winter Moscow, 1924, Sonechka Balk queues to view Lenin's body. She is not there to pay homage, but to see the man whose revolution has stolen her youth. The revolution left the orphaned Sonechka destitute and destroyed her idyllic life in the Crimea. Forced to work for Lenin's secret police she experienced the full horror of the revolution. In June 1924, 19-year-old Sonechka fled Moscow alone on the trans-Siberian Express. She hoped to reach Shanghai and then join her brother in America. Because of new American immigration laws this was not possible. She became one of the thirty thousand White Russian exiles in Shanghai, shunned by the rest of the world. In 1929, Sonechka met and married the love of her life, Vladimir Rossi, a multi-lingual St Petersburg ex-Imperial Guards officer. Wounded in the Civil War, Vladimir was evacuated to Constantinople. After numerous adventures he arrived in Shanghai where he worked for the authorities of the French Concession. During the Japanese occupation Sonechka's remarkable resourcefulness enabled the family to survive. Life was especially difficult for the newborn Olga. In October 1948, the widowed Sonechka fled Shanghai to the USA, with her two daughters. Her dream of reaching America is finally fulfilled. This book is co-authored by Olga and John Hawkes from the incredible legacy of memoirs and stories left to Olga by her mother Sonechka. Olga and John have brought the neglected Russian Diaspora in Shanghai alive.