quarta-feira, 21 de dezembro de 2005
54) Lord Skidelsky, o chinês de Sua Majestade...
Alguns de vocês já terão ouvido falar de Robert Skidelsky, o biógrafo de John Maynard Keynes. Eu o conheci em Washington, quando do lançamento do terceiro e último volume dessa obra e ele me autografou um outro livro seu, sobre a "saída" do comunismo, "The Road from Serfdom" (uma alusão ao famoso livro de Friedrich Hayeck, "The Road to Serfdom", de 1944, que já foi publicado no Brasil, sob o título de "O Caminho da Servidão"). Receomendo vivamente sua leitura.
Pois bem, acabo de descobrir agora que esse Lord inglês, súdito de Sua Majestade britânica, é na verdade um chinês. Sim, ele nasceu em Harbin, na Mandchuria, e voltou à cidade com seus pais, em 1947, com nove anos, justo antes de sua conquista pelos comunistas de Mao Tsé-tung, em 1948, o que obrigou a família a fugir para Hong-Kong e depois a se instalar novamente na Grã-Bretanha.
Ele conta essa história em seu delicioso artigo, publicado na revista britânica Prospect, "A Chinese homecoming", que eu recomendo a todos lerem. Está neste link: http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=7206. Ele relata sua recente incursão pelo gigante asiático, com uma breve introdução sobre a história russa e chinesa de sua família.
Nele ficamos sabendo como é que Robert Skidelsky se "tornou" chinês: ele já era desde criancinha...
Eu transcrevo aqui uma parte de seu relato, mas recomendo a leitura de todo o artigo:
"The Skidelskys were one of the leading Jewish-Russian families in the far east. My great-grandfather Leon Skidelsky started his career in Skidel, now in Belarus. At some point in the 1880s, he moved with his family to Odessa on the Black sea. In 1895 he won a contract—how and why I don't know—to build the last stretch of the Trans-Siberian railway, which ran through northern Manchuria to Vladivostok. Leon made Vladivostok the family home. The Skidelskys were one of ten Jewish families allowed to live there. My father, Boris, was born in Vladivostok in 1907.
By the time Leon died in 1916, the family owned residential, industrial and mining property in eastern Siberia, had 3,000 sq km of timber concessions in Russia and Manchuria, and was one of the region's largest employers. The Manchurian side of the business was managed from Harbin by one of Leon's sons, Solomon. The family firm supplied coal to the Chinese eastern railway (as the Manchurian stretch of the Trans-Siberian railway was known) and exported timber, plywood and flour to London and New York. The family has been identified as "oligarchs" of the far east in several recent books dealing with Russia's eastward expansion. As my host Lanxin Xiang told me, everyone in Manchuria had heard of the famous Xie Jie Si family—Skidelsky in Mandarin.
In 1918 the Skidelskys left Russia, losing all their properties there, but with several million dollars in cash. My father's widowed mother moved to Paris, and sent her four sons to English public schools. Back in Harbin, great-uncle Solomon acquired a 30-year lease of the Mulin Mining Company in 1924. This became the mainstay of the reduced, but still substantial, Skidelsky fortune. Harbin, already a big Russian city, swelled with White Russian exiles from eastern Siberia. The European sector was laid out with broad streets and avenues, fine houses, banks, shops, restaurants, cinemas, and an opera and ballet company. In the 1920s it was known as the "Paris of the east."
When my Paris grandmother lost her money in the stock market crash of 1929, she went to live in America and my father Boris went to Manchuria to work in the family business. He married my mother in 1936, and I was born three years later. My father fought for Britain during the war, but the Harbin Skidelskys, who were stateless, went on supplying coal to the railway, now taken over by the Japanese, who occupied Manchuria from 1932 to 1945. When the Soviets entered Manchuria in 1945, Solomon and his brother Simon were carted off to Russia, and perished in one of Stalin's gulags. The Chinese communists took over the Harbin properties and the coalmine. In 1984 I received a cheque from the British government for £24,000 in full settlement of a claim for compensation which amounted to £11m.
My family history is a microcosm of the first wave of globalisation—based on the railway, steamship and telegraph—which opened up east Asia to the world market over a century ago. The Skidelskys' rise and fall mirrors the fate of this cosmopolitan world, which was mortally wounded in the first world war. It shows how easily politics can capsize economics. Wealth did not save my family, and others like them, from revolution, nor did economic interdependence save the world from fascism and communism. Today there are no Skidelskys left in the far east. Following the communist victory in 1949, China was closed off to the rest of the world for 40 years. Harbin, together with ports like Shanghai and Tientsin, became a purely Chinese city, filled with the melancholy ruins of a dead European culture: the Bund in Shanghai, Victoria Park Avenue in Tientsin, the Bolshoi Prospekt in Harbin. Now a "second opening" is taking place. It is home-grown, but the European underlay is also unfreezing. In my birthplace, Harbin, I was welcomed back like a long-lost son. "
De uma mina de carvão na China a um país cheio de minas de carvão em decadência, e que estavam sendo fechadas pela dama de ferro Margareth Tatcher. A mesma, aliás, que deve ter recomendado à rainha que o fizesse Lord. Hoje, Sir Skidelsky é um dos mais reputados historiadores britânicos das relações internacionais e da economia. Ainda vou falar de seus livros aqui mesmo neste espaço. Por enquanto fiquem com suas aventuras (e desventuras) chinesas...