Ger­man vis­i­tor re­con­nects with Shang­hai roots

Shanghai Daily - - PEOPLE - Zhang Qian qi­pao

With an old pho­to­graph in his hand, 75-year-old Paul Werner Un­gerer from Ger­many tried to fig­ure out which build­ing on Ant­ing Road it re­sem­bled. It had been his home some 71 years ago.

“I was only 4 when I left. There is not much mem­ory about the city that I still pos­sess,” said Un­gerer, a re­tired chem­i­cal sci­en­tist. “I needed the pic­tures to help me.”

To his sur­prise, Un­gerer did find the apart­ment at No. 43 Ant­ing Road where he used to live. Stand­ing on the bal­cony where his mother had posed for the pic­ture, Un­gerer felt the at­mos­phere was fa­mil­iar.

“My Ital­ian mother was ac­tu­ally Chi­nese in­side. She loved col­lect­ing Chi­nese art­works. She of­ten painted in­ter­est­ing Chi­nese peo­ple she saw on the street. And she kept lots of which she never had the chance to wear af­ter leav­ing China,” he said.

It was his mother, who died in the1970s, who helped him de­cide to re­turn to Shang­hai to­day af­ter all those years.

Leyda Pezzini was a stu­dent of Ital­ian con­duc­tor Mario Paci who was in charge of the Shang­hai Mu­nic­i­pal Orches­tra and Band (pre­de­ces­sor of Shang­hai Sym­phony Orches­tra) from 1919 to 1942. She of­ten worked with the orches­tra as a soloist in Shang­hai, and kept a se­ries of posters, pro­gram lists and pic­tures re­lated to her time in China. Her hus­band, a Ger­man, was then in charge of the Shang­hai of­fice of De­gussa, a Ger­man met­al­lur­gi­cal com­pany. The fam­ily left Shang­hai shortly af­ter World War II as many for­eign­ers did at the time.

How­ever, Un­gerer of­ten heard about Shang­hai in the lit­tle sto­ries told by his mother. For ex­am­ple, his mother of­ten joked that when young Un­gerer went out on the street, there were Chi­nese call­ing with sur­prise: “Oh, a lit­tle old man,” for his light-col­ored hair.

With no chil­dren of their own, Un­gerer of­ten dis­cussed with his wife on what to do with his mother’s col­lec­tions, and came up with the idea of find­ing some­one who might be in­ter­ested. Last year, as they searched for de­tails of the orches­tra on­line, they found that the Shang­hai Sym­phony Orches­tra was ac­tu­ally tour­ing in Europe with a stop in Ham­burg, about 500 kilo­me­ters from Dus­sel­dorf where they lived.

Un­gerer and his wife fi­nally con­nected with orches­tra of­fi­cials, who showed huge in­ter­est in what he had to of­fer. He had two large con­cert posters, pro­gram lists and old pic­tures of orches­tra mem­bers.

“The nearly 100-year-old posters were very well-pre­served on card­board. We were so im­pressed that Un­gerer should take the trou­ble bring­ing them to us,” said Zhou Ping, the orches­tra’s pres­i­dent. “They were such pre­cious gifts.”

Some of the items went on dis­play at the Shang­hai Sym­phony Mu­seum on Bao­qing Road.

Though he had never thought about re­turn­ing to China, that do­na­tion, to some ex­tent, trig­gered Un­gerer’s cu­rios­ity about the city where he used to live.

“My wife says, you have to go back to your roots some­day. Since we are no longer young, we have to do it now,” he said.

The cou­ple spent 14 days vis­it­ing Chi­nese cities in­clud­ing Bei­jing, Qing­dao, Nan­jing and Suzhou. Shang­hai was their last stop.

“When I first landed in Shang­hai, I could not help ask­ing my­self is this real? It is so dif­fer­ent from what it is like in my mem­ory or what I read from the books,” said Un­gerer. “The tour guide showed us all those sky­scrapers stand­ing on the Bund. And when we walked on the glass cor­ri­dor on the 100th floor of the Shang­hai World Fi­nan­cial Cen­ter, my wife said how could we ex­plain all this to our friends back in Ger­many? It is not what you can ex­plain, but what you re­ally have to see your­self.”

Apart from the pop­u­lar at­trac­tions such as the City God Tem­ple, Jade Bud­dha Tem­ple and Shang­hai Cir­cus World, the cou­ple spent half a day vis­it­ing Shang­hai Sym­phony Hall and the Shang­hai Sym­phony Mu­seum where he was ex­cited to find an im­age of his mother in a group photo of Paci’s stu­dents from 1945.

And he was thrilled to re­ceive a dragon-shaped stamp with both his Chi­nese and English name on, as a gift from Shang­hai Sym­phony Orches­tra.

“Though it was not my plan at first, I am so grate­ful that my wife had pushed me to do the trip,” said Un­gerer, “We knew that it was im­pos­si­ble to see China within 14 days, maybe there will be a next time.”

Un­gerer is also think­ing about find­ing mu­se­ums to take his mother’s other col­lec­tions, which are mostly Asian art­works like metal pots, jade vases and carved ivory pieces.

“We re­ally hope that they will be in the right hands,” said Un­gerer.

Above: Un­gerer finds one of his do­na­tions at Shang­hai Sym­phony Mu­seum.

Left: Un­gerer do­nated items from his mother’s col­lec­tion to Shang­hai Sym­phony Orches­tra when it was tour­ing Europe last year.

Paul Un­gerer stands on the bal­cony where his mother had posed for the pic­ture shown in the fore­ground.

Un­gerer vis­its a Shang­hai long­tang to rekin­dle mem­o­ries of his child­hood.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.