Blogging has introduced me to a host of original and compelling voices, including Ruth Silbermayr-Song, the Austrian creator behind China Elevator Stories.
Ruth built a following by distilling casual encounters and conversations in her daily life in China into fascinating blog posts, which also offered glimpses into her courtship with and eventual marriage to a local Chinese man. Over the years, readers like me followed the adventures of her seemingly perfect cross-cultural family with two lovely kids.
I never imagined that behind the scenes, a darker story was unfolding — of devastating domestic abuse and deceit by her husband, who eventually cut Ruth off from their two children. She hasn’t seen her kids in person since July 2019, and lost all contact with them in July 2020.
Now Ruth is fighting to regain contact with her children, and recently posted a Change.org petition in German, which calls on signers to back the following text:
I support Ms. Ruth Silbermayr-Song, BA, in obtaining sole custody of her children, Emil and Nino Silbermayr-Song. I speak out against the protection of fathers who abuse their (ex-) wives and children mentally, emotionally, and in other ways, and endanger their children’s well-being. I support the victims (the mother and the children), not the perpetrator (the father).
I’m honored that Ruth offered to do an interview with me, to share her harrowing story. Read on to learn more about her plight.
If you would like to support Ruth, please sign her Change.org petition right now. It’s easy and only takes a minute.
Your blog, China Elevator Stories went offline in 2017. Can you tell us a little about what happened?
My ex took my blog China Elevator Stories from the web in 2017 without prior notice. I put it online again in 2022 after my sister sent me a link to the archived articles. My blog only recently got hacked—I believe by my ex-husband—since he was the one who took it offline in 2017 and I apologize if my blog doesn’t work properly at the moment. I’m currently working on resolving this issue.
Many of your readers may remember you were happily married to your husband. Could you talk a little about the end of your marriage and what happened in regard to your children?
I didn’t write about the downsides of my marriage on my blog – which were plenty. My marriage was filled with horrific abuse. By the time I had become pregnant with my first son in Shenzhen in 2013, I had heard, not only once, from my Chinese husband, that he’d have me killed if I ever left him, or if he ever found me with another man. In 2018, we agreed we’d move to Austria by the following year. I originally believed him when he said he wanted us to move to Austria so our children could grow up in Austria, which was something I insisted on, considering how bad air pollution is for a child’s health, how much pressure children are under who go through the Chinese public school system, how little play they get, and the fact that health care in China is much worse than it is in Austria.
You then moved to Europe to prepare for his residence permit in the summer of 2019, having to leave your children behind with your husband because he didn’t allow you to take your children with you, is that correct?
Yes, it is. I moved to Europe in July 2019. I had agreed with my husband to reunite with our children within a time frame of 4 months. He never planned to join me in Austria with our children, though, and deceived me into separating from my children forever, only I did not know it at that time. By the time he told me he’d send our children to a Chinese public school and would not come to Austria with them, it was already too late for me to fly back to China. Soon after, COVID started, and foreigners were not allowed to enter the country. By July 2, 2020, he broke off all contact between me and my children and I have not seen them since. I do not know their whereabouts, what school they go to, which documents they are on, how their health is, or how they are doing.
What were some of the problems you ran into trying to re-establish contact?
I have been fighting to re-establish contact with and see my children for almost 3 years now. In these past years, I had to realize that discrimination against women and mothers is just as extreme in Austria as I have experienced it in China. Austria has been regressing in this regard in recent years. It took me years of having to deal with authorities and courts on a regular basis to realize how bad the actual state of discrimination against women in Austria currently is.
In one of your articles, you write you have been through a lot of victim blaming. Could you share more about it?
I never knew how bad victim blaming could get until I found myself in an abusive marriage and having to deal with one of the worst things that can happen to a mother – having her kids taken from her by deceit, without having done anything wrong and with very little chance of ever seeing them again. The last time really bad victim blaming took place was when I had contact with child protective services in Austria which should have supported me in my fight for sole custody of my children but discriminated against me instead. I have been shocked when I found out that child protective services often act in favor of the abusive, unsafe parent.
Another occurrence was when a public ombudsman I was having contact with sent me various excuses about why they would not help me, including that the Chinese dad now seems to have obtained sole custody, which was not the case, even when it was clear my children were being abused by their Chinese father and that Austrian child protective services were discriminating against me, punishing me for what my children’s dad and his family had done to me and my children. The secondary victimization I have experienced at the hands of authorities, child protective services, and the court has been severe, to say the least.
I find myself having to argue over basic human concepts I consider should be common sense and easy to grasp, simply because people I meet are favoring men and seniority or seek dominance over women. It almost forces you to become a feminist, even if you are not into politics, simply because you were born female.
Have you encountered similar issues in the past in Austria?
Not in the way I do encounter them now. I remember having these problems in China, and in my marriage, but have not encountered them in Austria to such a large extent in the past. Whenever I do speak my mind these days, I usually find myself being punished for it. I find it hard to deal with a society like this and don’t particularly enjoy living in the restrictive country Austria has turned into, within a society that self-censors and oppresses opinions that diverge from the majority opinion that has been indoctrinated into people these past few years.
Please support Ruth’s petition to get her children back. Signing is easy and only takes a few seconds.