Postscript from Fanling
|About 4 PM on the day of that first big air raid, we began to be worried about my father who had gone by train to Fanling, which was in the New Territories. He was in the habit of catching the same train back to Kowloon, and always used the fifth carriage. My Mother and I went to the station to find him. On the way there, close to the Peninsula Hotel, we saw a train which had been hit by bombs. To our horror, the fifth carriage had been overturned and completely destroyed.
My mother quickly realised that it was the carriage which papa always used. There were trucks driving away with dead bodies and piles of squashed vegetables. We ran to the Kowloon railway station and told the man at the information desk that we were looking for my father. The man asked us what my father had been wearing. This did not reassure us.
After searching the crowds looking for papa, we finally went home. My mother was hysterical with grief and Viacheslav and I found it impossible to console her. How was she going to bring up two young children by herself in Hong Kong during this terrible war? By that time we were utterly convinced that papa was dead.
At about 8 p.m. that evening, my father walked in through the door, carrying his two familiar rattan baskets full of vegetables. My mother promptly fainted, either from joy or because she thought he was a ghost. Papa then told us what had happened to him at Fanling.
Because my father refused to cooperate with the Japanese, it was impossible for him to obtain a normal job. His way of making money was to catch a train to Fanling, buy good fresh vegetables there, and then sell them as a hawker. He soon developed a string of loyal customers who were mainly members of various foreign consulates of neutral countries, or those which were allied to the Axis Powers. Many of these consulates were scattered around the Peak in Hong Kong.
Since the Peak Tram had stopped operating shortly after the Japanese occupation, this meant that my father had to cart his vegetables from Kowloon to the highest roads on Victoria Island. The Peak Tram was pulled by a cable and the Japanese must have decided that they could use that cable elsewhere, probably for some military purpose, so the cable was removed.
My brother and I occasionally went with him on these selling trips and tramping up and down Victoria Peak was an excellent way to keep fit. Sometimes my father would use a battered old pram to carry the vegetables and we would help him push it up the hills.
Being a creature of habit, my father always caught the same train and the same carriage to Fanling and back. On that day, after finishing his purchases, he was about to enter the carriage of his choice when a Japanese soldier challenged him and said that that carriage had been reserved for Japanese officers. When my father still tried to get on the train the soldier roughly pushed him backwards, sending him sprawling. His baskets flew open and the vegetables were scattered all over the platform.
By the time my father was able to gather up his goods, the train had pulled out of the station, much to the amusement of the Japanese soldiers. That carriage, with its precious cargo of Japanese officers, received a direct hit from an American bomb. There were no survivors. My fathers luck had held out once more.
This was just one occasion among several when my father had almost died or been killed during the war.