Selling a lifetime’s collection
THE collection of a lifetime that includes antiquities, scupltures, art and fine furniture is being sold by local couple Alex and Jenny Gruzdev.
The couple, formerly interior designers and wholesalers in Sydney, have been collecting the precious pieces for most of their 43 years of married life.
Mr Gruzdev believes his particular interest in Chinese antiquities stems from the fact that he was born in Shanghai.
‘‘My mother, who lived in Vladivostok was forced to flee the Russian Revolution in 1917, escaping by ship,’’ Mr Gruzdev said.
‘‘The first stop down the coast was Shanghai, and that’s where mum got off and lived there for the next 27 years.’’
However that changed with the World War II and the Japanese invasion of the Chinese mainland.
Mr Gruzdev’s older brother was taken by the Japanese, they believe to work on the Burma Railway, and was sadly never heard from again.
The rise of communism and the advancement of the communist forces towards Shanghai, the last city to fall, again forced the family to flee on the last ship to leave the city.
This time the first stop for himself, four siblings and mother (his father had passed away earlier in Shanghai), was the Philippines where the family waited to be relocated to Australia, the United States or Canada.
Australia was the winner, with the family arriving in Sydney in 1949.
‘‘It was a tough time for immigrants in those days, you had to sign a contract that bound anyone of working age to work for two years anywhere the government decided,’’ Mr Gruzdev said.
‘‘My older brother was the only one of working age, and so he was sent to Burke, and worked on fencing for his two years.’’
‘‘When I left school I wanted to join the military, in fact I had been accepted for Duntroon, but understandably my mother wasn’t keen on the idea, so I got a job in a major company specialising in fine furnishings and fittings.’’
And the rest they say is history, with the love of antiquities, interior design, and fine furniture becoming a passion for both himself and wife Jenny.
A chance meeting with a Chinese man in their Sydney shop proved providential.
They got talking and discovered the man was from Shanghai, and he was interested in setting up a business.
The Gruzdevs helped the man, who it turned out had family still in China, in the same line of business.
At the time the Chinese government was knocking down a lot of Buddhist Temples to build housing, and the man’s family was ‘‘given the nod’’ as to which were being demolished, so they could strip out the temples before demolition.
‘‘To cut a long story short, he always gave us the first option on the antiquities he imported into Australia,’’ Mr Gruzdev said.
To look at the treasures that are for sale is best described as jaw dropping.
Their home is adorned by an amazing collection, from a Chinese funeral urn that’s 4000 years old, a 400-yearold Buddha head, a 400-year-old hand painted piece on silk from a Buddhist temple, to an ornate early 19th century Italian jewellery cabinet, made from ebony, with inlaid tourtoise shell and ivory trimming.
The much loved jewellery cabinet, with 12 secret drawers, has been in the family for 40 years.
‘‘It’s a magnificent piece, so well made that only a couple of years ago we found two more secret drawers!’’ Mr Gruzdev said.
The range of paintings is amazing, from old to new and everything in between, including indigenous artwork.
The Gruzdevs acknowledge it will be hard to part with their treasures, but accept its time to move on and downsize. Their home is sold, the maginficent collection will find new homes, and a road trip around Australia is beckoning.
FOR SALE: Alex and Jenny Gruzdev with some of their antiques