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Isabel Crook's long contribution to China


06-27-2016 13:00 BJT

Full coverage: 95 years of glory

Many international friends made great contributions to China during wartime and many continued to do so after the founding of New China. To celebrate the 95th anniversary of the Communist Party of China, we now bring you the story of Isabel Crook, a foreign communist who has devoted herself to the country.

This is Isabel Crook, more than half a century ago. Now 101-years-old, she is one of the eyewitnesses of the founding of the people's Republic of China on October 1st, 1949.
She remembers vividly the day the People's Liberation army entered Beijing.

"We looked all down the streets....students all with red triangular flags waving... the incoming army... calvary, which was very exciting," Crook said.

"It was the most joyful event I've ever watched," Crook said.

Isabel Crook was born in 1915 to a Canadian missionary family in southwest China's Chengdu.

Her father was teaching in China, and she spent most of her childhood here before going back to Canada for higher education.

After getting her masters degree, she returned to China for rural studies, and met her husband David Crook.

In 1942, Isabel left for England, following David, who had enlisted in the Royal Air Force. It was there that she joined the British communist party.

Years later, in 1947, the couple returned to China.

"Well, I wanted to be an anthropogist. And then I heard that there was land reform going on in China. I thought I would have an opportunity, because I was a communist and had good relations with Chinese communist party.I thought I could go back and really get into the land reform, not just the foreign observer," Crook said.

The couple went to Shilidian, which they called Ten Mile Inn, a village controlled by the Communists in Hebei Province.

"The land reform was obviously going to change the whole future of China's history, because it would get rid of the feudal system.... it would put the farmer in power, rather than going on with the old way," Crook said.

Isabel was right. In a few years, land reform movement swept the nation, and united the farmers.

"One of my reasons for studying the land reform was to be able to write, for David and me, to write a book that could help the Indians, the other colonial people learn from China," Crook said.

That book is called "Ten Mile Inn: Mass Movement in a Chinese Village".

The pair finished their field research in 1948. They considered leaving China, but eventually decided to stay.

"After we were seeing the land reform, we were asked to stay to teach English, cause they say we will soon win the victory, will be setting up foreign relations, and we will need people to speak very good English," Crook said.

They stayed and began teaching English.

"I was very enthusiastic about teaching because I thought that's something really served the revolution. So I was doing something worthwhile," Crook said.

Her enthusiasm lasted for decades. The couple had many chances to leave, but chose to stay.

They became two of the first teachers of today's Beijing Foreign Studies University, now China's top language school.

David passed away in 2000, at the age of 90. Isabel still lives in her apartment in the University. Most foreign experts at the time chose to stay in the Friendship Hotel, but the Crooks chose to live at the school.

The 101-year-old is still leading a simple life in her small apartment along with her pictures of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. She still admires the two leaders, and believes in Communism and the New China.

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