Stateless in Shanghai Cover
Shanghai-born Dr. Liliane Willens will be speaking twice this weekend about her newly published book, Stateless in Shanghai at several venues around the city. But first, a word of explanation about what “stateless in Shanghai” really means:
In the first half of the twentieth century, the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai contained the world’s largest foreign population. They were, rather ironically, “stateless” persons: persons without citizenship in any country. Though most attention given to Shanghai’s historical stateless population has been focused on ‘stateless’ Jewish refugees during WWII (ghettoized in Hongkou district by the Japanese), the longer-lasting Russian stateless population of Shanghai (as seen in “The White Countess”) made a more significant impact on the city’s cultural development.
Several of the city’s leading artists and musicians in the 1920s and 1930s came from this group, and they outnumbered Europeans and Americans by so much that the area of the French Concession near what is now Central Huaihai Lu was known as “Little Russia”. Many of these Russian refugees were White Russians loyal to the tsar, who became stateless after fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution. Others, like Dr. Willens’ parents, were Russian Jews, fleeing persecution from both the Reds and the Whites.
Where: Glamour Bar 6th Floor No. 5 The Bund, 20 Guangdong Road (中山东一路5号6楼近广东路)
When: Saturday, November 22, 4pm
Price: 65 RMB including one drink. RSVP at [email protected]ociety.org.cn. Books available at a special price of 100RMB for RAS members and 130RMB for non-members.
Where: Shang-Mira Garden Villa #1, 89 South Shui Cheng Road (水城南路89号美丽华花园1号别墅)
When: Sunday, November 22, 4:30 to 7:00pm, lecture to begin at 5pm.
Price: Lecture and planned activities for children are free. Taste of Asia buffet dinner starts at 6:15 and is priced 100RMB for adults, 50RMB for children with 20% discount for Shanghai Jewish Centre members. Books available for 100RMB. Event will also feature a High End Children’s Clothing Sale with proceeds going to Shanghai Gan.
Dr. Willens’ story is unique in many respects. Born in the 1920s, she lived through Shanghai’s brightest and darkest moments, witnessing the rise of Shanghai as an international leader and the hardships of the Japanese occupation. Though her stateless status kept her out of the Allied internment camps, it also made obtaining emigration papers nearly impossible in the years after WWII. Unable to leave, Willens lived through the Chinese Civil War and caught a rare western glimpse of early Communist Shanghai.
All this and more can be found in her fascinating book. We won’t ruin it for you and will instead encourage any and all interested parties to come see her speak this weekend.
On Saturday, Dr. Willens will be at Glamour Bar to speak about early Communist Shanghai to the Royal Asiatic Society. On Sunday, Dr. Willens will speak at the Shanghai Jewish Centre about Jewish migration to Shanghai and her family’s experiences while living here. Both events are open to the public.