Elizabeth Ivanovna TONOFF / POLLONETSKY (née GRAMKAU) [1920-2001] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Elizabeth Ivanovna TONOFF / POLLONETSKY (née GRAMKAU) [1920-2001]

Elizabeth Ivanovna
Tonoff / Pollonetsky
Birthplace (town, state): 
Bukhedu, Manchuria


Additional notes from lloydt on the page "Nursing Detachment, Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps, 1941":

I cannot comment on whether 5g is indeed Elizabeth, but I can shed a little light on her story.

My father was born Anatole Nicholas Zavadsky in Omsk. His parents separated shortly after arriving in Harbin in 1921. His father changed their family name to Tonoff, so Anatole became known as Anatole Nicholas Tonoff throughout his years at high school in Hong Kong (from about 1930 onwards), at the University of Hong Kong from 1935-39, as an employee of Government, when naturalised in October 1940 (I have seen his naturalisation papers today for the first time, on this site.. thanks), and as a member of the HKVDC.

It's my understanding that Anatole was mobilised when the Japanese attacked Hong Kong, but during the week between the first attack and surrender, he married Elizabeth Gramkau, who became Elizabeth Tonoff. I believe they hoped that since he had been naturalised, they would both receive more favourable treatment if or when Hong Kong fell.

Elizabeth did indeed return to Shanghai in 1942, earlier than many others. This is explained under the heading Education : War : Marriage at http://orthodoxcanada.ca/Elizabeth_Pollonetsky  It is suggested there that she was ill in the first months of internment, and the fact that her father was Latvian enabled her to move to Shanghai to continue her medical studies.

I spoke with Elizabeth's twin sister [Olga] once, early in 1996, and it was through that chance conversation that I was able to meet Anatole's half-sister Galina Tonoff in Milano in August 1996. I later spoke once with Elizabeth in Ottawa. I can only suspect that their marriage was a marriage of convenience, or of hope, but that their efforts backfired. Being married may have made things harder for Elizabeth, rather than easier.

Olga escaped to Shanghai with my grandfather Nicholas Alexander Tonoff-Zavadsky and Nicholas' mother Claudia Gruzin, during that week when Anatole and Elizabeth married. I don't know how the families knew each other, but both had come from Harbin.

Elizabeth's biography makes no mention of this marriage. In the same way, Anatole hid the marriage in Australia, although just today I have requested a copy of a formal divorce granted in NSW Australia on 4 May1949. The legal formalities required to end a marriage in Hong Kong were formidable.