Two Women Raised in Shanghai, China Connect in Hancock

Updated 1 year ago

There’s quite a history between friends Terry Rohe and Liliane Willens, which dates back to Siberia in 1917, long before Rohe came to live in Hancock. “My parents knew her relatives and I know her nephew. He was in the same school,” said Willens.Just a baby when the Bolshevik Revolution began, Rohe’s family moved from Tomsk, Siberia to Shanghai, China around the same time Willens’ parents arrived. Willens explained, “When my parents left, anyone who left Russia when Stalin took over, they were denationalized, they became stateless, they didn’t have a country. I was stateless all my life in China.”The upbringing shaped the lives of both women, who eventually managed to immigrate to the U.S. in 1937 and 1952.”I came to Seattle with almost my $25 intact. I took a bus through Portland and went to this little school,” said Rohe.But it wouldn’t be until November 2012 that these two would actually meet. Rohe only learned of Willens when she received a copy of her book, Stateless in Shanghai, which she was in Maine discussing.The author said, “This book brings them back to their youth. I’m talking about my youth.”It’s a story the two knew quite well and couldn’t wait to revisit in person together.”I just came here and made myself at home. She served dinner and breakfast, and I took over the main bedroom. That’s understood. That’s the way you treat people in Shanghai,” said Willens.They may have only met one day ago, but a shared history that began on the other side of the world has established a new friendship in Hancock.


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