Valia Krey (née Pio-Ulski) ~ 1907(?)-1999

Valeria, as she was christened, was a couple of years younger than her big brother, Lev, so as I don’t know for sure, I’ll put her birth date as 1907.  She definitely looks closer in age to Lev than to George in the childhood photos of the three of them.You could say that she was the thorn between two roses – LOL! 😀

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I have no idea where she was born – Odessa like Lev or Vladivostok like George, but she was with her mother and George when they escaped from Russia and went to Harbin. I’d guess she was about 17-18 years old at the time.

George met Werner Krey, a German, who worked in the engineering business when he was in Harbin around 1925 and introduced him to Valia.

 

They eventually got engaged but I don’t how long it was before they got married or how long it was until they left China for Germany.

 

What I do know is that Werner died when Valia was pregnant with their daughter, Helga, and she was assisted in her voyage to Straslund by her sister-in-law, Elsa Harms, before World War 2 broke out.

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A young Helga (Click to enlarge)

 

StralsundPanoramaWhat a thing to happen. Escape from the Bolsheviks to China. Marry a German and go to live in his home town of Straslund, live through WWII in Nazi territory then get overrun by the Soviets and end up living in East Germany!

However in the 1930s, Straslund was a beautiful Hanseatic city in Western Pomerania with stunning old buildings, many of which had been standing since then. It’s situated on the coast and Rügen, the largest island in Germany and a popular tourist destination, in those days was just a ferry trip away.

According to Wiki …

«Because of its historical and architectural significance, in 2002 Stralsund’s old town together with the old town of Wismar were added to entitled the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list as the “Historic Centres of Stralsund and Wismar”»

Valia came to Hong Kong in 1938 – I don’t know if she was still in China with her husband at the time or if she travelled from Straslund.  I also don’t know how long she stayed with her brother there…

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1938 – September … Valia and George in Hong Kong, 10 months after George and Lila moved there

 

George and Valia corresponded after the war and apparently George had a heck of time trying to persuade Valia to apply for a visa to meet our family in Freudenstadt when we would be there on leave in 1957.  After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing about this, Valia finally relented and managed to get the visa.

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I don’t remember much of the time with my aunt and cousin at all.  The main thing I recall was the fact that I had a cyst just by my right eye and Prof Harms, who was married to Werner Krey’s sister Elsa, said he would operate on it.

I had to stay awake during the operation so Valia, who was a trained midwife, said she’d stay with me.  I remember squeezing her hand so tightly when Prof Harms started cutting the cyst out. Ugh! Even though it didn’t hurt, it still was pretty gross to see the knife come close to my eye and hear the noises of the cyst being cut open.

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Lindy said that our father tried to talk Valia into not going back to Straslund and for her and Helga to live in the West but she refused. Helga had been given a place at Leipzig University and Valia thought that their prospects were better off in East Germany rather than starting again in the West.

I suppose her reasoning was sound after her past, which must have been chaotic from living through a revolution and two World Wars. Her brother was terribly disappointed but there was nothing he could say or do to change her decision so when the Kreys returned to East Germany, it would be the last time that we would see them in person.

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When the Berlin Wall came down in 1990 and Germany once more became one country, Helga and her husband, Horst Breitung, moved to Munich and Valia, who was getting on in years, moved with them.

I don’t know what Helga’s husband did when they lived in East Germany but the fact that they often travelled outside East Germany which made people wonder if Horst could have been linked to the Stasi.  Of course we will never know if that was conjecture or if it was based on something solid.

 

 

I had a letter from Helga in 1999 to say that her mother had died, thus closing the chapter of the three Pio-Ulski children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valia Pio-Ulski

Photos of Valia Krey & her daughter Helga when we met up with them in Freudenstadt in 1957, as well as photos of pre-war Straslund
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