Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Moora, the Merrier: a Tribute to Mary Sheveloff

In early celebration of Cousin's Day, I'd like to pay homage to my Great-Aunt Moora. Technically not a cousin, but close enough. Plus, I don't think anyone's paid homage to Moora before. I'm trailblazin' here.

Mary Sheveloff aka Mariya Alexandrovna Vasilev aka Moora chillin' on da couch at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California
Mariya Alexandrovna Vasilyeva aka Mary Sheveloff aka Moora (left)
Christmas 1979
19 Ramona Avenue, Piedmont, California

Mariya Alexandrovna Vasilyeva (Валькова мария Александровна), aka Moora, was born on January 23, 1913, in Harbin, China. Her parents were Alexander Vasilyev, a Comptroller for the Chinese Eastern Railway, and his wife Vera Vasilyeva née Doroshenko. You can read more about them here. According to Moora, her mother was a direct descendants of Petro Doroshenko.

Konstantin Vassilieff and Mariya Vassilieff in Harbin in 1913

This is Moora (right) seated alongside her brother, Konstantin Alexandrovich Vasilyev in Harbin in 1913. Not pictured is their sister, my other Great-Aunt, Elena Aleksandrovna Vasilyeva (Валькова Елена Александровна). Elena later hit it big in Harbin when she published a popular Russian children's magazine called Lastochka. We'll get into her more at a later date.

Oleg Voldemar Shevelev aka Oleg Sheveloff aka Олега Шевелева, Baby Russ (Беби Рус), a Russian light-heavyweight boxing champion.
Oleg Voldemar Sheveloff
(b. March 02, 1908 — d. June 13, 1991)
Shanghai, China

On September 15, 1935, Moora married Oleg Voldemar Shevelev (Шевелев Олега Вольдемар)—also known as Baby Russ (Беби Рус)—a Russian light-heavyweight boxing champion from Shanghai, China. Oleg was born on March 02, 1908 in Vladivostok, Primorsky Krai (Primorye), Russia. According to his memoirs—published 20 years after his death—his family stayed in Russia until 1924.

Mikhail Grigoryevich Shevelev aka Михаил Григорьевич Шевелёв
Mikhail Grigoryevich Shevelev

Oleg was the grandson of noted industrialist, activist, and shipping tycoon Mikhail Grigoryevich Shevelev (Шевелев Михаил Григорьевич). Señor Shevelev was born on August 25 1844 in Verkhneudinsk (Верхнеудинске)—now Ulan-Ude (Улан-Удэ), Buryatia, Russia. He went on to start the first Russian shipping company—Shevelev and Co. (Шевелев и Ко)—in the Russian Far East, and you can read his gripping rags-to-riches-to-rags tale here (more boat crashes than a day-long Titanic marathon). They even named a street named after him in Vladevostok, but of course it's some random dirt road with a bunch of crappy houses on it.

Vladimir Shevelev, Alexandra Sheveleva, and Margarita Sheveleva in 1890 in Vladivostok, Russia
Vladimir, his mother Alexandra, and sister Margarita Sheveleva
Vladivostok, Russia

Mikhail married Alexandra Dmitrievna Sinitsyna—the grand-daughter of Kyakhtinsky merchant Povich Sabashnikova (Сабашниковы)—and the couple had three children; Vladimir (1879-1941), Margarita (1884-1936), and Angelina (1893-1980). Vladimir was Oleg's father. Oleg is the guy who married Moora. Sorry, I got off-track. But on January 22, 1922, Angelina married Feodor I. Kichigan (b. September 17, 1896 in Ural, Russia) in Vladevostok. I'm not sure when he died, but Angelina was a widow when she moved to the United States.

I'm interested by the fact that Angelina (not pictured) lived until 1980. I wonder what the Aunt of the Husband of my Great-Aunt (my Great-Great Aunt in-Law?) was doing up through the 1970's.

Angelina Kichigan Sheveloff Shevelev Death Certificate from 1980

Anyway, back to Moora. She and Oleg had one son; Sviatoslav Olegovich Shevelev aka "Svetic" aka Steve Oleg Sheveloff (b. 1936). They lived in Shanghai, and then in the Russian settlement in the Philippines, before eventually settling in San Francisco in the early 1950's. The happy couple split shortly thereafter.

Ship manifesto from 1951 featuring Maria Alexandrovna Vasilyeva aka Mary Sheveloff, her husband Oleg Sheveloff, and their son Sviatoslav aka Steve Sheveloff
Steve Oleg Sheveloff and Mary Sheveloff aka Moora in the mid 1950's in San Francisco, California
Steve Oleg Sheveloff (far left) and Moora (second from left)
Mid 1950's
San Francisco, California

When the Shevelev family immigrated to the United States, their last name was changed to Sheveloff. And Moora's name was changed to Mary. So she was known legally, I guess, as Mary Sheveloff, but we always called her Moora. And she had a thing for marshmallows.

Mariya Alexandrovna Vasilyev aka Mary Sheveloff petition for naturalization
Mary Sheveloff's Naturalization record from 1957. Her address is listed as 425 2nd Avenue, San Francisco, California
Mary Sheveloff aka Moora alongside Lana K. Thomson and Lena Vasilev in 1979 at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California
Mary Sheveloff aka Moora (left), Lana K. Thomson, and Lena Vasilev
July 1979
19 Ramona Avenue, Piedmont, California
Fox Photo stamp from July 1979

At some point in my early childhood, Moora decided I loved marshmallows. I didn't not love marshmallows, but they weren't my favorite thing. I was probably more into Bubblicious and
Nestlé Crunch. But—God bless her—whenever I met up with Moora at a Christmas, Easter, or a Namesday Celebration, she presented me a big ol' bag of multi-colored marshmallows. When I was a kid, I always thought Russians lived in the 1800's. Here I was, lusting after McDonald's Happy Meals, and obsessing over Garfield the Cat and Fraggle Rock—and my Russian relatives were always trying to get me excited about, you know, marshmallows, and anthropomorphic rabbits and foxes in lace dresses.

Mary Sheveloff aka Moora (far left) alongside sister-in-law Natalie Vasilev nee Mitrofanenko, and Little Boy Kearney
Mary Sheveloff aka Moora (far left), Natalie Vasilev, and Lil Kearney
August 1980
19 Ramona Avenue, Piedmont, California

Here I am (far right) at my 4th Birthday Celebration, and that's Moora, blurry behind her sister-in-law Natalie Vasilev. She'd probably just given me a smashed bag of marshmallows—and that face I'm making indicates I would've been happier with a tin of Strawberry Nesquik and an MCA betamax tape of Jaws 2.

Mary Sheveloff aka Moora in June 1979 at 19 Ramona Avenue in Piedmont, California
Mary Sheveloff aka Moora
June 1979
19 Ramona Avenue, Piedmont, California

Moora finished her life at the age of 93 on March 25, 2006 in Green Valley, Arizona, surrounded by her son Steve and other loved ones. I miss her marshmallows, and I miss her affinity for antiquated picture books featuring porcupines and hedgehogs drinking tea.

Old Russians could be kinda cute sometimes.

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