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Shlakis, Zoya (1927-2010) | Special Collections & Archives

Name: Shlakis, Zoya (1927-2010)
Variant Name: Zoe Slyke, Zoya Slekis

Historical Note:

Zoya Shlakis was born in Mukden, China in 1927 to Stayses and Alexandra Shlakis. Her father was Lithuanian and her mother a White Russian. Due to the revolution and social unrest in Russia, the Shlakis family fled Russia for China. After Stayses managed to secure a position as a mechanic with the Chinese Postal Service, the Shlakis family moved from Mukden to Nanjing and eventually to Shanghai in 1936. Their lifestyle in Shanghai was by some standards unusual since, due to Stayses's job, they were given a residence inside the General Post Office of Shanghai with fully furnished quarters, servants, and access to the rooftop garden. During her time in Shanghai, Zoya was enrolled at Public and Thomas Hanbury School for Girls, participated in theater at the local British Lyceum, and joined the Army & Navy YMCA.

Due to deteriorating conditions in Shanghai following the Second World War, the Shlakis family fled to Taipei, Taiwan in December of 1948. In Taipei, Zoya acquired a visa under the 1948 Displaced Persons Act, which allowed her legal entry into the U.S. After Zoya secured travel documents for her parents, they joined her in the United States and lived with her for the remainder of their lives in Los Angeles, California.

Zoya remained very active in the Old China Hands community, keeping in touch with old friends, and helping organize and maintain records for the numerous Old China Hands reunions and activities over the years. Her many trips back to Shanghai document the rapid changes taking place in China's stride for modernity as well as the contrast between pre- and post-Nationalist rule. Her collection offers unique perspectives on significant events of the 20th century, including the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, living in pre-WWII Shanghai as immigrants, life under Japanese occupation, and post-war society until the rise of the Mao Zedong's communist state.

Sources: Zoya Shlakis
Note Author: Tim Kaufler

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