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Dr. Tatiana Belitsky Collection

The Old China Hands Archives holds many collections from individuals living and working in China in the early 20th century, all of which serve to document the various ways in which foreigners experienced the unique cultural issues and historical events that occurred in pre-Communist China. One such individual is Dr. Tatiana Belitsky, a Russian woman who worked as a dental surgeon in Shanghai in the 1930s and 1940s. The Dr. Tatiana Belitsky Collection contains a number of original records and documents from her life and career in China, the Philippines, and the United States, which provide insight into the experiences of Russian immigrants in China and the Philippines, foreigners working in China, and immigrants entering the United States after World War II.

Belitsky was born Tatiana Titova in 1906 in Samara, Russia. She attended university in Russia, and traveled to China to enroll in medical school. After marrying and having a daughter, she switched her field of study to dentistry, and graduated from dental school in Harbin, China, in 1931. She then moved with her family to Shanghai, where she worked steadily as a dental surgeon. In addition to having her own private practice, she also provided dental work for the Aurora College for Women, and the Convent of the Sacred Heart. When the convent was turned into an internment camp for religious persons by the Japanese during World War II, she continued to provide dental care for internees.

After the Communist Party tookcontrol of China in 1949, Russians who had escaped to China during the Russian Revolution of 1917 and Russian Civil War of 1919-1920 had to flee again. The only country that offered to take in the stateless Russian refugees was the Philippines, and so from 1949-1950 over 5,000 Russians were temporarily settled on the island of Tubabao by the International Refugee Organization. Belitsky went to Tubabao, working as a dental surgeon in the camps until she was able to immigrate with her family to the United States in 1950.

After arriving in San Francisco, Belitsky attempted to gain work as a dentist, but even with her years of experience and many letters of recommendation, the U.S. Department of Health was not able to recognize her Chinese license. She eventually did find work as a dental technician at a dental lab in San Francisco where she worked for 15 years until retiring.

Group photograph outside Dental School, ca. 1930
Group photograph of dental school classroom, ca. 1930
Dental School Diploma, 1931
Chinese Dental License, ca. 1931
Registration Letter to Practice Dentistry in the International Settlement, 1953
Dental License for the French Concession, 1942
Bill for Dental Services, 1945
Letter Requesting Services from Aurora College, 1948
French Concession Resident’s Card, 1939
International Refugee Organization, Philippine Office, Certificate of Travel, 1950
Letter from the U.S. Department of Health Regarding Belitsky’s Dental License, 1951
U.S. Naturalization Certificate, 1956

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