Ahead of his visit to China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has received a request from a lady in Chennai seeking his help to trace her Chinese step sister, a lone survivor of her father’s family in the World War II.
Jennifer An, daughter of a Chinese Marine Engineer An Chi Pong, who settled in Madras (now Chennai), is currently visiting China to trace her step sister An Roesai from her father’s first marriage.
Her father, who hailed from Shanghai, landed in Mumbai after the ship in which he was working ran into trouble and later shifted to Chennai where he married a local woman Irene Pereira with whom he had four children including Jennifer.
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Pong, who studied marine engineering in Oxford University, remained in Chennai throughout his life dreading to return to his homeland which was caught in a whirlpool of turmoil including the Japanese invasion in WW-II followed by the revolution headed by Mao Zedong and the conflict between him and Chang Kai-shek leading to the emergence of Taiwan.
He died in 1982 at the age of 82.
Buoyed by Modi’s successful attempt to reunite a Nepalese boy with his parents during his visit to Nepal, Jennifer along with her husband VRS Balaji arrived here ahead of the Prime Minister’s three-day visit to China from May 14 hoping he will help their attempts to trace An.
“Tragedy haunted the family all along. We wanted to trace An so that we can have a reunion, the best tribute we can pay to Pong,” Jennifer and Balaji told PTI. They have all documents including copies of Pong’s Chinese passport number and several communications from the Chinese Embassy in Delhi.
Ahead of their visit, Balaji wrote a letter to Modi on May 7 requesting him to help the family trace An who, they believe, could be in the eastern metropolis Shanghai.
The story of Pong’s family was very tragic as not only he drifted away from the family and never returned home, his entire family including wife and six children who were settled in the Chinese city of Nanjing perished either in bombing or in the massacre of civilians by Japanese troops in the city.
Only An Roesai survived because she was with her grandmother in a village. She was subsequently traced by Pong who found her to be working with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Jennifer said.
Throughout his stay in Chennai, Pong remained a Chinese national, regularly renewing his passport through Chinese Embassy and renewed his Indian visa time-to-time.
He received the communication in early November, 1982 from the Chinese Embassy that An has been traced and she may visit him but tragically he died few days later.
“I remember reading an article of how you had reunited a Nepali boy in Gujarat with his mother during your visit to Nepal and hope that your good offices will help up in locating Roesai An and her family,” Balaji wrote in his letter to Modi which was sent to the PMO in New Delhi.
The couple plan to visit Shanghai in the coming days in their quest to find Roesai An.