Faina Chiang, 88; Widow of Taiwanese President, Daughter-in-Law of Chiang Kai-shek
Faina Chiang, 88, the shy Russian-born wife of the late Taiwanese President Chiang Ching-kuo, has died.
She died Wednesday of complications from lung cancer at a Taipei hospital, doctors said.
She met her husband while he was studying and working in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and joined him as he returned to China, which was ruled by his father, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, and the Nationalist Party.
A woman of simple tastes with a technical school education, Faina Chiang had to adjust to joining one of China’s most powerful families. Her mother-in-law was the well-educated, glamorous Soong Mei-ling, one of the world’s most famous women at the time.
Faina Chiang avoided the spotlight and became a traditional Chinese wife, devoting herself to her family. She learned a local dialect and took up Chinese painting and mah-jongg. But she often spoke Russian with her husband and preserved several traditions from her homeland.
“Faina regularly greeted her husband at the airport with a hug and a kiss, to the wonder and embarrassment of Chinese spectators,” Jay Taylor wrote in his biography of Chiang Ching-kuo, “The Generalissimo’s Son,” published in 2000.
She fled to Taiwan in 1949 when the Communists defeated the Nationalists in a civil war and took over the mainland. Her husband became president of Taiwan in 1978 and ended 38 years of martial law just months before he died in 1988. He also oversaw the island’s spectacular economic development in the 1980s.
The couple’s three sons all died. A daughter, Hsiao-chang, lives in the United States with her family.
Faina Chiang’s husband was a notorious philanderer, fathering two sons with a mistress in China. One died in 1996, but the other, John Chang, has served as a Taiwanese foreign minister and was reelected Saturday as a legislator.
Raised by foster parents, Chang has been shunned by the Chiang family. He said he learned who his real father was when he was a young adult.