Tania, as she was known to all her friends, was born in Kosh-Agach on the Mongolian border, the only child of Michael F. Smolianikoff and Evpraxia Baranoff.
She was born in the middle of a two-year trek by her family, fleeing the Bolsheviks in the Civil War, through the Altai Region of Russia, into Mongolia, across the Gobi Desert, and into China proper, via foot, camel, and train.
The family settled in Tientsin, China, where her ex-Tsarist officer father started various business ventures, while her grandfather Fr. Flegont continued his ministry as a Russian Orthodox Christian priest.
Tania attended the Tientsin Grammar School in the British Concession and forevermore spoke English with a slight British accent.
She lived the between-the-wars years in the magical world of Russian emigres in China, personally experiencing the events recently chronicled by Paul French in his book “Midnight in Peking.”
For years after leaving China, Tania attended and coordinated Old China Hand reunions, sharing in the amazing longevity of TGS alumni.
During the earlier years, she had met the dashing Volodya (more recently known as Walter Gregory), an international businessman from Harbin, Manchuria, who was setting up an office in Tientsin.
Their marriage lasted 69 years, taking them from the unpleasantness of the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, to refugee status in Taiwan and US-occupied Japan upon fleeing the Chinese Communist Revolution, to emigration to America, and finally to retirement in Aiken.
While Walter was developing his various import-export businesses and trotting around the globe at least two dozen times, Tania focused her attention on building a portable world for their family of three sons, two born in China and one in Japan. Family and home, wherever that was, were the one constant, as much of 20th century history played out in the background.
She made a life for her family that now seems like a vision from a parallel universe.
Tania is survived by sons Michael (Lois) Gregory of Aiken, Serge (Rachel) Gregory of Seattle, and Paul Gregory of Jefferson, Maine; by grandchildren Alex Gregory, Benjamin Gregory, and Hana Gregory; and by great-grandson Michael Mannik.
She was predeceased by 11 days by her beloved husband Walter Gregory, and earlier by her granddaughter Tania Gregory, formerly of Berkeley, CA.
There will be a Trisagion vigil service on Thursday, February 7th at 6:00 PM at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Mission, 803 Shartom Drive, Augusta, GA 30907.
The family will receive friends at that location from 5:30 to 7:00 PM.
The Orthodox Christian funeral service will be at the same location on Friday, February 8th at 10:00 AM, with internment to follow at Saints Mary & Martha Orthodox Monastery, 65 Spinner Lane, Wagener, SC 29164.
The V. Rev. Thomas Moore of Holy Apostles Orthodox Church, West Columbia, SC will officiate.
Throughout her long life, Tania derived much strength and hope from her Russian Orthodox Christian faith.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Holy Resurrection Orthodox Mission at the above address. May her memory be eternal!
SHELLHOUSE - RIVERS FUNERAL HOME, 715 EAST PINE LOG RD., AIKEN, SC