“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

The Heartrendingly Sad Shanghai Story of Eroeda Sinitskaya…But, fear not, there’s a happy ending…

Posted: September 11th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Today, a tragic tale of a woman scorned and abandoned to her fate. I don’t know it all but I do know some of it. The story concerns Eroeda Sinitskaya, a 25-year-old stateless White Russian who lived in Shanghai and survived the war there. As far as can be gleaned from this article from March 1947 she must have, at some point, begun a relationship with an American soldier stationed in Shanghai following the city’s liberation in 1945. Eroeda acted as his interpreter. It would seem that he proposed and arranged for her to come to America to marry him – a classic GI Bride tale. Except that when Eroeda arrived at San Francisco ready to start her new life she found a letter waiting for her, from 27-year-old Former Army Sergeant Harry Le Roy Donaldson, telling her that instead of marrying her he was re-marrying his divorced wife. His letter to her read:

“I am truly very, very sorry. The world is full of good men who will be very lucky to have you for a wife.”

And so, instead of travelling on to Cameron, Missouri to start a new life Eroeda was kept at San Francisco and then returned to Shanghai. She graciously told the papers that she didn’t blame Donaldson, they had been separated for a year since he had left Shanghai. Eroeda did apply for a 6-month visitors permit to remain in America, though it was highly unlikely she would be granted one…..

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However, after she appeared in the papers the American Civil Liberties Union took up her case and she was eventually granted leave to remain. It was a hard fought case that went all the way to a House Judiciary Sub-Committee with the US Attorney General eventually agreeing to a stay of deportation. Her case was taken up by Rep. Havenner (D-California) who submitted a bill calling for her to be allowed to apply for naturalisation. He argued that she was able to produce both letters from Donaldson urging her to come to America, stating that when she did they would be married and copies of his army discharge papers and so therefore should be allowed to stay.

And then the happy ending…

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Eroeda had arrived in America in March 1947…the campaign to keep her in America had run through the summer and autumn. And then she met Dr. J Murray Luck, a professor of biochemistry at Stanford. They were married in November 1947 in a Russian Orthodox ceremony presided over the Most Rev Basil Shaposhnikoff….

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PS: I have to admit I rather like J. Murray Luck – he pops up again in 1950 in trouble for purchasing Henry Miller’s then scandalous Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn on a trip to Paris and getting busted at US customs bringing the banned-in-the-USA books back with him. In the late 1950s he became an early and committed proponent of a woman’s right to abortion too, argued for greater teaching of contraception in schools and additional funds to research a contraceptive pill.

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One Comment on “The Heartrendingly Sad Shanghai Story of Eroeda Sinitskaya…But, fear not, there’s a happy ending…”

  1. 1 Kris Donaldson said at 4:23 am on October 23rd, 2020:

    Don’t know who wrote this but I’m HL Donaldson’s daughter. I always knew about this but not the whole story. At now 64 I’m writing a book about my father’s story. So while researching I found this! He had a happy ending too and stayed married to my Mother for 50 years. The part of the story that says he remarried his divorced wife to the best of my knowledge is not true. He divorced his first wife and married my Mother who had never been married. So there’s that. Yes it sounds like he jilted her but at war time and being so young and not hearing from her for a year I can see how that could happen. I’m glad she had a happy ending.


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