Search for Mr Chu is over ...

There was a bittersweet conclusion yesterday to a former wartime refugee's search for "Mr Chu," the man who was so kind to her family during their stay in Shanghai.

A relative of the "Shanghai Uncle," an elderly Jewish woman had been searching for to express her gratitude for his help more than 60 years ago, got in touch yesterday to share her childhood memories.

But she also brought the sad news that Mr Chu, whose real name was Zhou Zhiji, died 10 years ago at the age of 88.

His daughter, Zhou Huizhen, got in contact with the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum yesterday. The museum has been helping 73-year-old Vera Sasson, who lives in the United States, in her search.

Zhou, now a 70-year-old grandmother, said: "My father was a warm-hearted man and he was probably one of only a few Chinese men who could speak English well in the community. When local families wanted to communicate with Jewish families, my father would always offer help with translation."

During World War II, some 30,000 Jewish refugees fled to Shanghai from their homelands. About 18,000 of them settled down in the city's Tilanqiao area in Hongkou District.

Zhou said she was watching the TV news when her father's picture appeared on the screen held by Sasson, and she realized it was her playmate from when she was just five or six years old.

Zhou recalled that in the 1940s her family had a close relationship with their neighbors, the Jewish family, and she remembered playing with the little girl next door. She said her father often invited the Jewish girl to share a traditional Shanghai dessert - red bean soup. In return, she would be invited over to taste home-made bread.

"Sasson's home was always filled with strong scent of fresh cream and bread, and her mother would treat me in Shanghai dialect, saying "Come and enjoy yourself," Zhou said.

Her father paid for rickshaws to send the little girl to school and back every day. In a previous interview, Sasson said she was deeply moved b! y the ge sture and "honored to have such privilege at school as the only kid sent via rickshaws."

The Jewish family responded by sending special clothing and porcelain to the Shanghai family, said Zhou.

At Lane No. 432 on Kunming Road, Zhou pointed out where she used to live. Sasson's family lived in an apartment next door, but it had been demolished several years ago.

"I remember the old lane. Sasson and I used to spend all of our time walking along it, hand in hand," said Zhou. "Her pretty face and her baby dolls are still vivid in my mind."

She added: "I'm also grateful to the Jewish family, for their help to my family and for the memories I cherish."

Museum curator Chen Jian said the whole story will be presented in the museum in pictures or videos to mark the good ties between Chinese and Jewish people. Chen said they had already told Sasson the news and a telephone meeting will take place today between the two former playmates.


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