Nearly 27 years after Nadia moved to China to live with her father, he reached out to me, an American Teacher, to try
and understand his situation.
Touched by his personal story, I asked Mr. Wong how I could help. His reply was simple: "Please meet Nadia and talk with her". Mr. Wong hoped
I’d be impressed by her confidence, intelligence, 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 her father—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 all possibilities.
I started by soliciting the help of The American Embassy
in Beijing. Most employees of the Embassy appeared cold, indifferent, and too important to waste time 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
quickly 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 contact at the Embassy. 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!
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 complicated pipeline as troubling but never-once did I consider it as deadly…like
America’s organized-underground or powerful Mafia.
In retrospect, I should have sworn Dr. Wong to secrecy concerning 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 that Nadia could be getting a position with The United Nation. We all know our tendency
to share good news with others and…others just might be jealous.
With only six days before the UN Representative’s visit, a most bizarre and unimaginable tragedy took
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.
Was Nadia kidnapped by Americans, or Chinese, or just-maybe... the 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
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 with their search. My contacts within the American Embassy quickly cancelled the UN Representative's upcoming visit. Trying to remain positive, the Embassy left the “door” open for future talks… once Nadia was returned to her
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 after Mr. 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. Her world is complete dark and she needs me to be with her.”
For some of us…Life doesn’t guarantee a Happy Ending. Many questions go unanswered. With so much evil in the world, not even one of us can be certain about today---let-alone---tomorrow.
Clearly, we must enjoy happiness—however brief--- wherever and whenever it comes our way.