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Grace Prieto

On Board the Gripsholm in 1942


This is the story of Mrs Grace Prieto, who traveled from Shanghai in June 1942 and boarded
the Gripsholm at Lorenco Marques for New York. The story has kindly been contributed by
Ms. Carmen Puente Prieto of Mexico City, Mexico, the daughter of Mrs Prieto.

© Carmen Puente Prieto 2008

My Uncle (and Grandfather) Diplomat Ambassador Eduardo Espinosa y Prieto, in 1942 Attaché de affairs of Mexico in Shanghai, was evacuated with my Grandmother (his sister) Margarita Espinosa y Prieto and her four daughters, in 1942 on the Gripsholm, arriving in New York on August 25.

The reason for us to call Uncle Eduardo Grandfather, is because he protected his own sister (recently divorced) and nieces for many years, therefore my Mother Grace Prieto (76), regarded her Uncle as a Father and a Grandfather to us.

The address of the Mexican Legation in Shanghai, was back then:
Avenue Joffre 1632, of the French concession.

They departed from Shanghai in June, I believe they exchanged ships in Lorenco Marques, Mocambique, where they boarded the Gripsholm. The story is beautiful, since Granny was a unique lady, with a heart of gold! 

As they were to be evacuated, my Grandmother was informed of four Chinese/Mexican children in an orphanage in Shanghai. She went to see them and then asked Uncle Eduardo to make all the arrangements to bring them to Mexico.

Their names are Conchita 16, the eldest one, Gloria 12, (became a nun), Paco 8, and Micky 5. All of them given Lee as their last name. We know that Paco was "adopted" by an uncle in Tampico Mexico, but never heard from him again.

When everything was arranged for the departure, the Chinese or Japanese authorities decided not to let the children leave, and it was a real mess to clear everything, until they finally were released to board the ship with my family.

(Comment by Lars Hemingstam:
For months before the voyage, there were many negotiations between USA and Japan about the exact names and number of passengers that were to make the trip. The fact that Mrs Margarita Espinosa y Prieto was able to bring four extra children on board is amazing.
Foreign Chief of Mission with wives were allocated two-berths cabins, each with private baths, and children of diplomats were accommodated in other first and second class cabins.)

Once Granny had been given her two cabins, someone asked the Captain, if three children from Holland, could board the ship, because they were looking for their parents, lost in war! Heartbreaking!  A girl and two boys, of which the youngest was Danny as Mom recalls.

So, the Captain replied that there was a very sweet and eccentric lady that "collected"  children, since she had boarded the ship with her own four girls! Daisy, Mary, Grace (my mom) and Carmen, plus Paula the Nanny, and had brought along with her four Chinese/Mexican children to be delivered in Mexico.  (Conchita, Gloria, Paco, and Micky.)  And that he would ask Granny if she wouldn't mind having three more Dutch children for one night searching for their parents!

Mom remembers, having had the greatest night of fun in her childhood. The Dutch children did not find their parents and since Granny, understood, that this had to be a "magic night" she decided to let the children play as much as they wanted! Granny had been assigned two cabins, Mom recalls "with beautiful curtains", and the children decided to used them as "swings" tiding the ends, and also jumping in the beds and eating lots of ice cream and cake! The beauty of it, is that none of the children had a lcommon anguage to speak!

The Chinese, obviously spoke Chinese, my Mom and aunts spoke English and Spanish and the Dutch spoke Dutch and German. But as children they managed to use the universal language of kids, "love and understanding", to get along greatly and play the whole night long! Granny closed the doors of the cabins, and pleaded God, to make them feel happy, since she was devastated of the little children not finding their parents.

Finally before the Dutch children abandoned the ship, Granny gave the eldest Dutch girl, a gold medal with the image of our Lady of Guadalupe, Patron saint of the Mexican people. Telling her, that the Virgin would lead them to their parents. She never knew if it happened. 

When finally arriving to New York , there where reporters at the pier to receive the passengers, and Granny got a headline in some paper, named "THE PIPE PIPEREST" since she "collected children of different nationalities" to deliver them to their families!

I have been looking for this article. Mom does not remember the newspaper´s name.

Ms. Carmen Puente Prieto asks for assistance in finding the newspaper article mentioned above, as well as any other information in connection with her mother's story.

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