Chiang Fang-liang

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Faina Chiang (1916–2004)

Faina Chiang Fang-liang (蔣方良; pinyin: Jiǎng Fāngling) (May 15, 1916December 15, 2004) was the wife of President Chiang Ching-kuo and served as First Lady of the Republic of China on Taiwan from 1978 to 1988.

Born Faina Epatcheva Vahaleva in Yekaterinburg, Russia, she was orphaned at a young age and raised by her older sister Anna. An outspoken member of the Communist Youth League, Vahaleva, at the age of 16, met Chiang Ching-kuo (known as Nicolai in Russia) at the Ural Heavy Machinery Plant and they married two years later on March 15, 1935. Chiang had been exiled to work in Siberia after his father, Chiang Kai-shek, had purged the leftists from the Kuomintang. The couple's first child, a son named Hsiao-wen (孝文), was born on December 1935. The couple had two more sons, Hsiao-wu (孝武) and Hsiao-yung (孝勇), and a daughter, Hsiao-chang (孝章).

In December 1936, Stalin finally granted Chiang return to China. After the couple was received by Chiang Kai-shek and Soong May-ling in Hangzhou, they travelled to the Chiang home in Xikou, Zhejiang where they held a second marriage ceremony. Chiang Fang-liang, stayed behind to live with Chiang Ching-kuo's mother, Mao Fu-mei. She was assigned a tutor to learn Mandarin Chinese, but she learned the local Ningbo dialect instead. She reportedly got along well with Mao and did her own housework.

When Chiang Ching-kuo became President, Fang-liang rarely performed the traditional roles of First Lady. During his entire political career, she largely stayed out of the public spotlight and little was ever known of her because it was not politically wise to emphasize on a Russian figure amidst an anti-communist atmosphere in the government. She never returned to Russia, and travelled abroad only three times in the last 50 years her life, all to visit her children and their families. In 1992, she received a visit from a delegation including the mayor of Minsk, capital of Belarus. It was the first and only time that she made contact with anyone from her homeland.

All the children went abroad to study -- Hsiao-wu in Germany and the remaining children in the United States. All three sons died shortly after Ching-kuo's death in 1988: Hsiao-wen in April 1989, Hsiao-wu in July 1991, and Hsiao-yung in December 1996. Fang-liang lived in the surburb of Taipei with a few servants from mainland China, supported by the Presidential Office. She received occasional visitors, such as some prominent politicians who went to pay her respect every several years. In Taiwanese media, if she ever came up (which she rarely did, due to political sensitivities of that time), she was depicted as a virtuous wife who never complained and swallowed the loneliness with dignity.

She died of respiratory and cardiac failure in the Taipei Veterans General Hospital at the age of 88 (or 90 according to the Chinese system). She is survived by her daughter Hsiao-chang who had immigrated to the United States. Her funeral was held on December 27, 2004, with President Chen Shui-bian and Vice President Annette Lu in attendance. KMT politicians Wang Jin-pyng, Lin Cheng-chih, P. K. Chiang, and Ma Ying-jeou draped her casket with the KMT party flag and KMT party elders Lee Huan, Hau Pei-tsun, Chiu Chuang-huan, and Shih Chi-yang draped her casket with the ROC national flag. She was cremated and her ashes taken to her husband's temporary mausoleum in Touliao, Taoyuan County. They will both be buried in the Wuchih Mountain Military Cemetery in 2005.

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