Meet Mrs Gao and Mr Shi
Lian Ying Gao and her husband Chong Jun Shi live in Sydney’s Inner-West where they are close to their daughter and to the local Russian Orthodox church they attend.
Both originally from Mainland China, they met when Mrs Gao was a radiologist and Mr Shi was an electrician working in a factory. They began married life and the promise of a bright future when in 1966 the Chinese Cultural Revolution swept away their freedom and deprived them of their health. Over 1.5 million people were killed during the Cultural Revolution with millions of others suffering harsh imprisonment.
A connection to anything Russian made people a target of Chairman Mao’s regime. Mr Shi’s father was Russian by birth and even though his mother was Chinese, he was immediately arrested on suspicion of being a Soviet spy. For two years he was held in an underground prison where he was deprived of light and given a few rotten scraps to survive. Mrs Gao’s family was Russian Orthodox and her mother was Russian so she too was arrested. For two long winters she was held underground without any warmth or blankets.
Their time suffering in harsh conditions, malnourished and exposed to extreme cold has left them with such health and mobility problems that they can’t leave their home without a carer. Their daughter now helps them everywhere they need to go and the Companion Card has meant she can take them on outings away from their usual environment. On a trip to Victoria this year, they visited Daylesford hot springs for their health and their daughter was able to delight them with a visit to Melbourne Zoo.
When asked about the benefits of the card their daughter Sara told us, “Companion cards are great benefits for the group of people who qualify by providing them with great exposure to interesting places with good company at no cost. Mom and dad are very fortunate to enjoy these benefits provided by Australia and are very grateful to be so well looked after by the country “