Elizabeth STARCHENKO [????-1960]

Submitted by marmi011 on Fri, 02/16/2024 - 10:29
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This is Elizabeth Starchenko - my great grandmother and mother-in-law of AJ Savitsky. She lived outside of Stanley as she remained a 3rd National (Russian). Not sure if I have asked before but would anyone happen to have any accounts about her time outside of Stanley during the war? I thought I'd ask just in case - even though its probably a long shot.

Here's a brief biography about her.

A remarkable woman who experienced much hardship and show much resiliency in her life.

Mother to 3 sons and 3 daughters.

Her husband (Alexander Starchenko) was a Russian officer who died in a German POW camp in 1917.

Her 2 sons (my great uncles George and Michael Starchenko) were arrested by the Cheka (forerunners of the KGB) during the civil war.
Michael was a 17 year old Lieutenant in the Cheka but was actually spying for the white russians. One of the brother's friends arranged for Elizabeth and her 3 daughters to escape to China (from Siberia)(where my grandmother met my grandfather). This was in 1920 - through her lifetime and until 2019 the family thought they were both executed. In 2019 I found out that they actually were imprisoned and later released!

Mind blown to say the least!

Also sometime during the Russian revolution/civil war her other son Boris was badly beaten by the Bolsheviks and imprisoned. She marched up to the prison and was able to get Boris released. Boris later also escaped to China and died in 1929 (most likely due to his injuries).

Elizabeth continued to live with my grandparents during the 1920s/1930s in Shanghai and then moved to Kong Kong with them in 1936 (the Japanese were threatening HK so it was time to move to a more safer location for them).

The Japanese then continued there advances and in 1941 threatened HK. My grandparents (and dad and uncle) at this time were naturalised as British subjects so grandma, dad and uncle were evacuated to Brisbane (this is how we ended up in Australia) while Elizabeth remained living in Kowloon with my grandfather.

She survived the Battle of Hong Kong and after Hong Kong surrendered on Christmas Day 1941, she remained living by herself (she was 68 at the time) until the liberation of Hong Kong in August 1945. She then was able to join the family in Brisbane.

Her grandson Sonny was also killed in action in 1942 when his bomber was shot down over New Guinea.

My grandfather (AJ Savitsky) was interned in Stanley Interment Camp and did 200 odd drawings/paintings there only because a Imperial Japanese army squad was sent to visit Elizabeth to retrieve my grandfather's art supplies (as the Japanese commandant wanted his  portrait drawn).

Elizabeth continued to live with my grandparents until her death in 1960. She is buried at Toowong cemetery.

She was certainly a most remarkable woman.

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Interesting - not sure why she would have gone there. After liberation her priority would have been to reunite with the family in Brisbane, Australia. What FB group is the document photo on?

The photo was posted on Gwulo's FB page: https://www.facebook.com/Gwulo/posts/pfbid02sPLNrhH289hRDXMonSMagCLFbbi…

The Smirnoff family are examples of other Russians who moved from HK to Macau during the Japanese occupation: https://gwulo.com/node/27391

Repatriation Notice No. 17 (https://gwulo.com/node/58174) shows Mrs E. Starchenko on the list of passengers to board HMS Arbiter on 14 Oct 1945, bound for Australia. The notice was dated 12 Oct 1945, so Mrs Starchenko must have returned to Hong Kong from Macau by then.

This thread has also raised another question.

Grand dad (AJ Savitsky) was in Stanley Camp due to him being in the HK Police and my grand mum (Elena Savitsky nee Starchenko) and my dad and uncle were evacuated to Australia I assume because they were all naturalised British rather than being Russian.

Yet Elizabeth remained Russian? This then poses a new question for me - why did she not become British as well?