Oct. 4, 2018

THE ENDING TO: "HER NAME WAS NADIA..."

 Fast forward to more than twenty-five years later… to the present…to my Chinese hotel room. Touched by his personal story, I asked Mr. Wong how I could help.  His reply was simple: Please meet Nadia and talk with her.  He hoped I’d be impressed by her confidence and independence and… I might agree to help find her a job in America. Like him, Nadia spoke five languages and he thought she could be helpful to the United Nations in New York City. With no family members--other than him—Nadia’s future was uncertain. 

I asked him to bring Nadia to the Hotel Lobby at 2pm the next afternoon. It was a memorable occasion. Nadia was tall, pretty, and was blessed with a headful of curly auburn hair.  Mr. Wong described how he’d convinced Chinese Surgeons to implant two glass eyes in Nadia’s empty sockets, as soon as possible. At first glance, Nadia was normal looking but also….she was an unusually-pretty woman. She spoke English with a slightly-British accent but regardless, her English was perfect.

We talked for more than thirty minutes while her proud father looked on with satisfaction.  I made no promises but I agreed to search for possibilities.

I started by soliciting the help of The American Embassy in Beijing. Most employees of the Embassy appeared cold and formal but….my strategy for helping Nadia was to appeal to people’s hearts.  I packaged Nadia’s story with so much human-interest that everyone volunteered to help her succeed.

I talked with Mr. Wong almost every day. Each time we spoke, I shared updates from the Embassy and talked about the various efforts being made for Nadia.

Months later, I received the much-hoped-for phone call from my main Embassy contact. Clearly excited, she shared her news. A representative from the United Nations was flying to Beijing in ten days to meet Nadia.  At that time, the representative would discuss the possibility of a job for Nadia as a UN interpreter!

 I called Mr. Wong and repeated everything I’d learned. His excitement was touching. Finally, after years of sadness, disappointments, and endless uncertainties…there was hope and the promise of a plan.

Maybe--what happened later—was partially my fault. I’d experienced China’s “pipeline” years earlier.  I considered the amazing pipeline as troubling but I never consider it to be deadly…like America’s organized-underground or Mafia.

In retrospect, I should have sworn Dr. Wong to secrecy about our efforts on Nadia’s behalf.   I should have demanded that he never share information with anyone, including neighbors, about the American Embassy’s commitment to help Nadia or the possibility of Nadia getting a position with The United Nation.  We all know our tendency to share good news with others.

With only six days before the UN Representative’s visit, a most bizarre and unimaginable tragedy took place.

Through the years, Dr. Wong had carefully maintained his position as the Chinese Leaders’ main translator.  As Nadia’s one and only parent, he had relied on a team of trusted women in the neighborhood to “babysit” Nadia.  He made certain Nadia always had a companion…that she was never alone.

The afternoon of the kidnapping, Nadia and her older Chinese companion were sitting together, listening to the radio…when five grown men in black overcoats and matching hats broke down the home’s front door. It took only seconds for two of the men to grab Nadia and drag her to the street.

 The other men raced through the small house with large metal bars… breaking and smashing the television, the radio and knocking the wall phone to the ground.  Before running from the house, the quick-action men stopped long enough to viciously strike the shocked neighbor several times across her face.

The neighbor estimated the attack lasted barely five minutes. She said she couldn’t understand what the men were shouting because they spoke another language, not Chinese.

 Several hours later, Mr. Wong returned home to complete chaos and devastation. Who could have taken Nadia?!?!? Why would anyone want to kidnap his innocent and helpless daughter?!?!? 

Mr. Wong was frantic. Had Nadia been kidnapped by Americans, or Chinese, or just-maybe... Russians?  He believed the only people who might try to harm Nadia were his ex-wife and her mother but…never once…. in all those years, had they attempted to communicate with Nadia.

The Chinese Government responded immediately-- by assigning a team of top investigators, detectives, and policemen to find Nadia.  Sadly, they had almost-no evidence to help their search. My Embassy contacts quickly cancelled the upcoming visit from the United Nations Representative. Trying to remain positive, the Embassy left the “door” open for future talks… once Nadia was returned to her father.

The more time passed, the less hope remained for finding Nadia. Month after month, the intense searches and extreme investigations produced nothing.  No one had seen Nadia or heard from her. Although the long and expansive search included Moscow and all of Russia, Nadia was nowhere to be found.

Years later, with no additional information or new evidence, the Chinese Leaders closed the kidnapping file.. Life moved forward for everyone except Wong Wei Cheng.  Nadia was his life and without her, he was totally alone, with no reason to live.

Several years later, reading in People’s Daily newspaper that I was moving back to America, Mr. Wong called to tell me goodbye. He could hardly talk through his tears but he repeatedly thanked me for acting on Nadia’s behalf. There was little I could say to relieve his grief.  I made certain Mr. Wong had my email address so we could stay-in-touch. Before hanging up the phone….I urged him to stay well for Nadia’s sake.

Soon after settling in America, I wasn’t surprised to receive a letter from a Chinese teacher in Beijing. She explained that afterMr. Wong missed two straight work days, his boss went to his house. He found Mr. Wong lying on his bed, completely dressed, and grasping a letter between his fingers. The medical team who investigated his death said that Mr. Wong had swallowed large amounts of a highly poisonous substance.  The letter he held in his hand, written in Chinese, stated: “I know my beautiful Nadia is dead.  I hear her call my name, “Daddy, Daddy,” again and again….begging me to find her. She is so frightened of being alone and needs me with her.”

Life doesn’t have a happy ending for some of us. Many questions go unanswered.  With so much evil around, not even one of us can be sure of tomorrow. 

Clearly, we must experience happiness—however brief--- wherever and whenever it comes our way.

Stay close,

Simply, Sally