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Lai Zhou, Shandong Province, China Late Nineteenth century.
We travel a hundred years back to the late nineteenth century, the scene, Northwest China. A humble seaside farming settlement on the southern side of the Bay of Jiao Zhou(膠州灣), this is MaChui(麻渠村), Ye Xian (掖縣)Shandong Province, the hometown of Sun Bao Shu (孫寶書- paternal grandfather's name and son of Sun Rui Lin 孫瑞麟).
It was around 1885, The young lad of 16/17 years, eager to eke a living, against the imperial decree of the Qing government that was facing challenges both on the home front and from the foreign powers, Sun Bao Shu like many other young men bravely sails across the waters of the Bohai Sea and arrives in the City of Da Lian. After a rough journey on the road which lasted months and after he finally reaches his destination, Vladivostok (海嵾威), an seaport in Siberia of Russia. Through honest hard work as a merchant, trading in building materials. Sun Bao Shu finally had acquired much wealth. It was the time that he decided to marry Yu (paternal grandmother) from his hometown and started a family. It was in 1910, Sun KweiChi (孫桂籍), the father of Sun Yu-li (孫宇立)was born in Vladivostok.
Bolshevik Revolution broke out in 1917, Russia was in turmoil. Meanwhile this was the time that opportunities abounded in Harbin, Manchuria where many Chinese capitalists had set up business in brewing, food and textiles. Now that his career had stabilized, in 1917 the couple with there two sons and a daughter, decided to move to Harbin. They bought a stretch of 3 story street fronting shop houses (with a common courtyard at the back) in the city center and settled into one of them.
It was a childless, affluent and friendly Russian couple, JiaJia and WaWa staying a few doors away from JuJu's house. WaWa liked the little toddler and always helped to take care of her when the mother tied up at home. It was an afternoon, JuJu was brought over and playing in the garden. All of a sudden, WaWa noticed JuJu was nowhere to be found, she went around frantically search for JuJu. In shock, she found the baby girl who had wandered and fallen into a tub of water. It was providence that JuJu was discovered in the nick of time as any later and the water would have drowned the girl who would later become the mother of Sun Yu-li.
JuJu was just only two years old when her mother Lee passed away due to a bout of unknown illness. After the funerary rites were completed, her father, Zhang Ri Gao (張日高)arranged for the coffin to be brought back to his hometown to be buried. He decided to accompany the months long journey himself. Who is going to look after JuJu? Sadly and reluctantly, he decided that it would be best that Juju be raised by the Russian couple who had their arms readily open and welcoming the new member to their family. A special bond had already formed between WaWa and JuJu ever since that fateful day when she saved JuJu from drowning.
The complete book Zoya can be purchased in Traditional Chinese or in Simplified Chinese
Zoya (also known as Zhang Yu Lian) was an ordinary girl hailing from Harbin, who lived in an era of great strife. From a young age, she personally experienced both joy and sorrow, separation and unity, the tragedy of a broken country and a family destroyed. Though she had drifted aimlessly and hopelessly in the struggle for survival, her extraordinary journey eventually culminated in her becoming the first female war journalist of China.
The following is an excerpt from the book's preface - written by Toh Lam Huat

ZOYA is a memoir and photograph collection that records the life and struggle of a young woman existing in a feudal society. She writes about the turmoil she experienced in the early 20th century, describing numerous aspects of real life that envelopes her motherland: bloodshed and tears, love and affection. She also documents her experiences as a female war journalist reporting from the frontlines of the Sino-Japanese war. Though she writes simply from her own observations and experiences, she moves people by writing from the heart.
These simple words conveyed from the heart is akin to a quiet rain that saturates the ground; despite its reticence, it still makes its presence felt, and leaves a deep impression in its wake.
Zoya - first female war correspondent of China (an illustration book) will be published soon
Zhang Yu Lian's war time publications (not full list)
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