Yuri Vitalievitch SMIRNOFF (aka George) [1903-1947]
Yuri Smirnoff left Russia with his mother at the start of the Bolshevik revolution. They moved to Harbin in northern China, where he qualified as an architect. He also married: Nina Pleshakoff. Irina, their first child, was born in 1934. He came to Hong Kong in 1937 - via Tsingtsao - a common route for Russian emigres responding to Japanese actions in north China. In 1941 he was working as an architect for the firm of Marsman and Co. on the Air Raid Precautions scheme.
In the first year of the Japanese occupation he was employed to produce murals for the Japanese Public Works Scheme but was told his heart was not in it - which was true as he devoted most of his time to music and sketching in the office provided. He was suspected of spying by the Kempeitai and his home (near the Police Training School on Nathan Road) searched a number of times. When illegal liquor (a few bottles of home-made vodka) was found, he spent a short time in Stanley Prison, meeting some of those later executed for espionage. He was released under an amnesty and decided to leave for Macao with Irina. This seems to have been in late 1943 or early 1944 as he was 'bombed out of his house' when it was hit during an American air raid of Tsimshatsui on December 1, 1943.
He left behind him cartoons of various Japanese officials which were sometimes left conspicuously in public places as acts of resistance.
His wife, Nina, stayed behind in Hong Kong with their second daughter, also Nina, and their young son, Alexander. They eventually joined him in Macao.
While working to support himself in Macao, he also found time to paint, and he is now considered one of the most distinguished painters of the territory.
He returned to Hong Kong in October 1945 to work for the Public Works Department.
Hong Kong Sunday Herald, October 28, 1945, 3
Jurors List for 1941
- Yuri Vitalievitch SMIRNOFF (aka George) [1903-1947] spouse of Nina SMIRNOFF (née PLESHAKOFF) [????-????]
- Yuri Vitalievitch SMIRNOFF (aka George) [1903-1947] member of Russian community in Hong Kong [????- ]
- Yuri Vitalievitch SMIRNOFF (aka George) [1903-1947] parent of Irene SMIRNOFF GARFINKLE [????- ]