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Vera Kuznetsova
Fictional Character
The War That Came Early
POD: July 20, 1936;
Relevant POD: September 29, 1938
Appearance(s): West and East;
The Big Switch
Type of Appearance: Direct (POV in one scene of W&E)
Nationality: stateless person (born in the Russian Empire, resident in China)
Date of Birth: 1910s
Date of Death: 1940
Cause of Death: Killed in an explosion (World War II)
Occupation: Taxi dancer, occasional prostitute
Professional Affiliations: Golden Lotus Dance Hall


Vera Kuznetsova (c. 1910s-1940) was a taxi dancer who worked at Sam Grynszpan's Golden Lotus Dance Hall. Her family had fled from the Russian Revolution in Vera's childhood and wound up in Shanghai. They found a home there, but were relegated to the status of stateless persons. Although it was not part of her job description, Vera could be persuaded, for the right price, to turn a trick with an occasional dance partner.

In 1939 Vera attracted the eye of Pete McGill, who convinced himself he was in love with her. McGill gave her expensive gifts and some financial support. He wanted to marry her, but her statelessness and United States Marine Corps regulations made this legally difficult. He turned his attention to the prospect of bringing her to the United States to marry him there, even if he had to deal with organized crime figures to do it.

For her part, it is not clear whether Kuznetsova--whose profession necessarily made her adept at feigning affection for men convincingly--reciprocated McGill's feelings or only pretended to do so to accrue material benefits to herself. At first she appeared to see him as a meal ticket but may have developed genuine love for him as their relationship developed. McGill believed she loved him; he was not entirely certain, but he suppressed his doubts to avoid compromising their relationship. Many of the other Marines in Shanghai insisted that she was taking advantage of McGill and mocked him for it. The usually-agreeable McGill became belligerent at the suggestion. His friendship with Herman Szulc was ruined by Szulc's insistence that Vera's motives were mercenary.

In the summer of 1940, McGill and Kuznetsova went on a date to a Shanghai movie house. Vera picked the movie and chose The Wizard of Oz. The choice would prove to be a fateful one, as terrorists connected to the Chinese Communist Party had chosen that screening for a bombing attack. Vera was killed instantly when the bomb detonated.

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