Anatole Nicholas ZAVADSKY / TONOFF / TOWNLEY [1917-1974] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Anatole Nicholas ZAVADSKY / TONOFF / TOWNLEY [1917-1974]

Anatole Nicholas
Zavadsky / Tonoff / Townley
Birthplace (town, state): 
Omsk, Siberia
Cause of death: 
Cardiac arrest

Anatole was born with the family name Zavadsky, but his father, Nicholas Alexander Zavadsky (violinist and photographer), changed the family name to Tonoff after arriving in Harbin China in 1921. Within a year or two, Anatole's parents divorced. His mother, Nina Engelgardt (mezzo soprano) married Vladimir Trachtenberg (violinist), and they remained in Harbin and Shenyang until 1959. By about 1930, Anatole had arrived in Hong Kong with his father, and his father's mother Claudia Gruzin. Anatole was certainly known as Tonoff at the University of Hong Kong (studying electrical engineeering from 1935-39), in his first job in Hong Kong, and as a member of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps. When he arrived in Sydney Australia late in 1945, he changed his familyname by deed poll to Townley - an English name beginning with T.

Anatole, now known as Nick Townley, married in Lois in Sydney in June 1952. They had two children.  Nick worked as an electrical engineer until his sudden death in 1974. He never returned to Hong Kong.

Anatole's parents were accomplished musicians, but their lives were difficult in the 30-40 years that they spent in China and Hong Kong. Nicholas Alexander Tonoff-Zavadsky was at times a professor of music at Beijing University, but in the 30s he opened Kowloon Camera Exchange at 1 Middle Rd. That business evaporated in December 1941. Vladimir Trachtenberg was the Dean of the No.1 Music School in Harbin for 20+ years, and Nina led her own Opera Company. Nicholas died on a ship in January 1954, the night before arriving in Rio de Janeiro as a refugee, with his third wife and son, apparently to become Principal Violinist with the Symphony Orchestra in Rio. Vladimir taught at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music from 1959-63. Nina directed the first Russian operas produced in Sydney in 1960-61, and when she died in 1971, she was still directing Russian operas.


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