Published Jan 2010
Olga Yunter was born in the summer of 1900 in a remote trading post surrounded by the desolate steppe of southern Siberia. Her childhood, as the youngest of five children, was happy; there were the great family banquets at Easter; the thrill of the horsefairs across the border of Outer Mongolia each November; the arrival of her father’s caravans, that had journeyed from the northern reaches of Siberia, weighed down with the furs of foxes and sable.
But soon mutterings of rebellion were heard in the streets and Olga, still only a schoolgirl, was swept up in the chaos of the Russian Revolution, as she helped her brothers in their desperate flight to save the town first from the Bolsheviks, and then from the brutal commander of the region’s White forces. Violent tragedy ensued and, with a price on her head, Olga was forced to flee for her life. At the age of nineteen, alone and with only a handful of rubies sewn into her petticoats she escaped, first to Vladivostok and then to northern China. She never saw her family in Siberia again.
For a penniless Russian girl China was difficult place to suffer exile but Olga survived, she married an Englishman and together they began to bring up their daughter in the bustling northern city of Tientsin. But, in 1937 the Japanese attacked and for the second time in her life Olga would lose her family home. Once more she would have to start over again, now in the glamorous world of Shanghai, as the shadows of war lengthened on the horizon.
Based on Olga’s own stories, scraps of notebooks and letters, and painstaking research, Olga’s story is the heart-rending account of the life of the author’s grandmother. From the comfort of her family to the terror or revolution, and dangerous journeys in exile, Olga’s story is an epic tale: the dramatic and poignant story of an ordinary woman of extraordinary resilience caught up in some of the most devastating events of the last century.