Love in Action, Through Determination and Resilience
After two years of interruptions, it was wonderful to be back in our EWP space in Barb and Tisiola’s welcoming home.
Even more so, because we were finally getting to hear Lida’s amazing story, which had been postponed on numerous occasions due to pandemic lock-downs.
As for myself, this was a story I had been wanting to hear from someone for fifty years, because as a young teenager (who thought she knew it all), I had been impressed by how Chairman Mao Zedong, had not only won the war over the Nationals in China in 1949, but his ability to mobilise his millions of comrade citizens to sacrifice so much for the building of a greater country, I thought was remarkable. So much so, I even bought a copy of his Little Red Book.
Unbeknown to ‘know it all me’, there was wholesale destruction of precious, priceless artefacts by the communists, who wanted to totally obliterate the old for the new. So, when the Nationals were forced to flee to Taiwan, and they managed to take thousands of artefacts with them, it was fortunate because they saved the senseless destruction of countless, irreplaceable treasures.
Now, back to that little book of Mao’s self-declared, wisdoms. At the time of purchasing it in 1969 (once again), I had no idea that between thirty six and forty five million, maybe more, of his countrymen had perished from starvation. A manmade famine which, to this day, is only spoken of quietly within the Chinese Communist Party and still described as a Natural disaster which claimed, at most, twenty million people!
Nor did I have any idea, that in that same year, there was a little girl born in Tianjing (the third largest city in China), who would one day tell me her story.
Her name is Lida, and fortunately (to some lesser extent), because her family lived in the city, they were better off than the millions of peasants on the land.
Even so, educated people like Lida’s Mother (a teacher), and Father (Mechanical Engineer), were assigned their places of work and living by the state. All incomes were set by the state and the food vouchers for essentials (again, dispersed by the state), were often regarded more highly than money because they really were your ticket for survival.
Lida’s domestic family consisted of her mother, father, grandmother and her younger brother and, although their apartment was tiny and her bed consisted of two planks of board across two chairs, they at least had an indoor bathroom (toilet only, no shower etc), and they only had to share this with four other families. Her father’s work provided a shower for him.
No one had fridges. They procured what they could daily, and Lida’s mother always made sure she was on good terms with the butcher to get fat on her meat which she could then render down, as there was never enough cooking oil.
Despite all the poverty however, Lida says they never went hungry. They had very few possessions but everyone else was in the same boat so it wasn’t something a child noticed.
Cabbages were a Winter daily staple and tomatoes were a Summer daily staple. There were no biscuits or the like in shops (sometimes biscuit crumbs – biscuits were exported), but when Lida’s Grandmother’s cousin would visit from Hong Kong it was like party time. Cheese and chocolate came too.
On a daily basis life was very regimented although, as a young child attending school, Lida didn’t notice it as unusual, and there were never any discussions about the way life was at home. Mao’s beaming face was displayed in every home and every elsewhere alongside Communist Revolutionary Songs, which blasted out on big speakers, was perfectly normal.
Mao’s teachings from his Little Red Book; Political classes, and being actively encouraged to “dob in” neighbours, families and friends for anything remotely ‘not the party line’, seemed all perfectly normal to children who knew no other way. Why wouldn’t it?
When aged about two, Lida was placed into another family, (almost adopted out), because both her mother and grandmother had been put in prison to be re-educated. She would only see her father on his one day off (Sunday), when he travelled two hours by train to take provisions to his mother and wife and then visit her before returning to his place of work. Normal!
Neither Lida’s parents nor grandparents ever complained and years after her release from prison, Lida’s grandmother says, they were probably safer in prison at the time because many innocent people were beating their equally innocent neighbours up in the streets.
At school Lida diligently applied each year to join the communist party to get the coveted little red arm band and little red neck tie which would have given her privileges. Eventually, she knew it was unattainable because of the Sino-Soviet split (Mao and Stalin did not see eye to ideological eye on communism) and her grandmother was Russian. Even so, children know stuff and she knew it paid to be seen to always be seeking it.
Two years after Mao died, the Cultural Revolution ended and things began to loosen up in China, so Lida’s parents applied to the Red Cross in 1978 to emigrate to Australia. Six years later, with one-way tickets, they arrived in Sydney on a plane with only their suitcases, gratitude and determination to start a fresh life with their family.
From the outset, they all embraced the new opportunities their second life offered them. They never complained, that, although well-educated people, their qualifications were not recognised in Australia and their English difficulties meant they were reduced to working in factories.
Instead, Lida’s parents (Lida’s Mum worked in the Glad factory) gladly educated their two children, embraced their new lives and, to this day, are perfect examples of what determination and resilience looks like.
Likewise, Lida also exhibits what true determination and resilience is by the way she has lived her very successful life in Australia. She arrived at the age of fourteen, speaking not a word of English, yet she writes, reads and speaks fluently with no sign of an accent and is a very successful mother/family and business woman.
Listeners, like me, to Lida’s story felt, not only humbled by our privileged upbringing but, were in admiration of her hard-earned learnings. I would venture to say that these are the true wisdoms brought about through Mao’s disastrous teachings.
Because, let’s face it, if you are handed a platter of food, you’re not likely to go out hunting. To root through the undergrowth, dirt and hardship to find the real grub that will sustain you. Survivors and thrivers like Lida’s family do and, by sharing their stories, they light a torch for the rest of us.
At the conclusion of our short insight into Lida’s earlier life, when we opened the floor for questions and discussion, we identified a number of things we considered relevant to enabling the nurturing of her determination and resilience to thrive: -
Children learn from what they see their parents do, more than what they hear them talking about.
There is collective resilience that ripples down through the generations in unified families.
Although innate, there still has to be a decision made, to activate your determination and resilience.
Accepting that life is not about the hand you’re dealt, but the way you play it, is a very empowering tool to have in your kit.
Having Determination and Resilience doesn’t mean you will never fall. It means you get up, again and again, after you’re down.
You don’t know how strong you really are, until you decide to be.
Lida finished her talk by telling us how the current Russian/Ukraine war is affecting her. She now sees it from an outsider’s perspective, the terrible human devastation, when propaganda, dictatorship, denial of freedom and brute force are inflicted on the lives of innocent people. And worst of all, she can clearly see that its purpose is not to improve the lives of the many, but merely in order to sure up and retain power over the many, for the elite few. These are the real wisdoms, of the child and adult who has lived inside and outside the bubble.
A closing quotation from Lida, of Winston Churchill’s, continues to ring in my ears: “Don’t let a good crisis go to waste”.
The relevancy of this story is so appropriate for our times, because the present state of the world is crying out for us all, individually, to activate our core, innate determination and resilience and collectively change the course of our world’s trajectory.
The time has come, for us all, to recognise Our Time is Now.
Thank you Lida.