“I live in a place full of history, which is rare in a country where everything changes so quickly, from month to month, in a constant frenzy to move towards the future. My apartment here is enormous, and it faces east. Every morning I look at the dawn, and it always has a different colour".
Anthia in Shangai
Listen to the story told by the author, Flavio Soriga
There is love at first sight - films depict this, and life confirms it. It doesn’t always happen, but in some cases it does. Anthia fell in love with her partner when she was 14. After few months, they separated. At the age of 21, they met again at MTR in Hong Kong. However, they both had partners at the time. Fast forward another twenty-five years, they crossed paths again in the bar he runs in Shanghai. Once again, they were both engaged to other people. But since love always conquers, as in fables and films, Anthia soon reunited with her long lost love and moved to Shanghai. “Little by little, I am also falling in love with this city”, she says. “It took me a year to search for a house I liked, but in the end I found it. I live in a place full of history, which is rare in a country where everything changes so quickly, from month to month, in a constant frenzy to move towards the future”. The building where Anthia lives was built by Victor Sassoon, a man with an extraordinary story. He was an Iraqi Jew who was born in Naples and died in Nassau. The third Baronet of Bombay, he was wounded during World War I, and became an exceptional businessman behind the construction of the Peace Hotel and many other marvellous buildings in mid-century Shanghai. “Sir Victor Sassoon was a traveller, a photographer, and a philanthropist. He helped many Jews escape persecution in Shanghai. He was a man of the world, and here I feel like I am in a place at the centre of the world. When I look out the windows of my house, I see the Oriental Tower, the former postal building, and bridges over the rivers.
In Shanghai, you can feel a bit like you’re in Europe when you see Art Deco buildings and architecture imported from other countries. But then there is also an enormous amount of new buildings, so you are never completely bound by history”. Anthia’s partner’s bar has been open for twenty-four years, making it one of the oldest in the city. “We spend time with people from all over the world who frequent the bar. Compared to Hong Kong, where the houses are small; my apartment here is enormous, and it faces east. Every morning I look at the dawn, and it always has a different colour”. Anthia’s story is about initially moving for love, and then, falling in love with the city as well. “I used to work for BBC, and obviously, I miss the life inside the world of information, immersed in the news cycle. This was a big change, retirement. However, here, I can vividly sense the energy of China and the way it is changing. Shanghai changes every day, there are so many new projects and historic buildings are being restored. The younger generation focuses on education and travel; they go to school all over the world. I think, in the future, there will be even more Europeans who come to Shanghai to visit and stay”. Not all of them will be driven by a love story - certain fables are rare - but, they will grow to love this city, ancient yet also rapidly striding into the future.