After working for the US State Department, Hazel Somerville’s life is interwoven with some dramatic moments in 20th Century history.
The Bury St Edmunds resident admits to being ‘kicked out of so many countries’ during her action packed life and was a friend of German diplomat Adam Von Trott, who was executed for his part in a plot to assassinate Hitler.
Mrs Somerville has now witnessed another landmark event after celebrating her 100th birthday.
During a party with family and friends at the Farmer’s Club on Saturday, she said: “I’ve lived a lot of history.
“My granddaughter said once ‘Granny must have had a very wild youth’.”
Born in Siberia as an American citizen, her family fled to China after the start of the revolution.
Aged 15, she left China and attended university in the US before working for the State Department in China, Central America and India in coding and as head of HR.
While based in China during the Japenese invasion of World War Two, she was part of an exchange with Japanese diplomats stationed in the US.
She later returned to China and was expelled from Nanking following the rise of Communism before being posted to Calcutta, in India, where she met her husband James.
They moved to Bury in 1971.
Asked for the secret to her long life, she laughs: “Gin and cigarettes.”
She clarifies:“What’s kept me going is an interest in life.”
Mrs Somerville has two children and three grandchildren.