Shanghai 1919

Someone Else Entirely



In the early morning of May 4th 1919, Hertha’s waking was as usual slow. Stretching and pulling herself up in the darkness of this Shanghai morning, Hertha wished she could stay nestled in her pillows and linens all day long. “Kleine Schlafmuetze”…she whispered to herself, “wach auf” she continued a bit more harshly, “du musst aufstehen”. As a child Hertha’s mother had spoken to her many times in this exact way as she tried to lure Hertha back from her dreams and into the real world. Years later and with her mother far away, Hertha found that same tenderness and extra effort was still needed to entice her from her dreams as the day broke. Alongside images of her mother’s kindness, Hertha also counted on her daily routine to help her make the transition. This morning was no different. When she was awake and dressed, she eagerly began the long walk to the British sector where her work awaited her.

By the time she had reached her destination, Hertha had made a decision. A decision that she didn’t even realize she had been contemplating. From this day on, she would be someone else entirely. Hertha knew exactly who that new person was. She had been standing on the perimeter of Hertha’s life for quite some time now, actually nudging Hertha along. Now, everything was in place. Hertha was far away from her family. She was supporting herself. Her health was good. She would be whom she always dreamed of being, someone else entirely.

(November 17, 2000)

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