Tania Romanov Amochaev : An Appreciation
by Blandina Farley
(Editor’s Note: Blandina Farley is a well-known and well-loved part of our community who leads Blandina Farley’s Fabulous Tours with expertise, wit, and exuberance. She shares Amochaev’s love of travel, free spirit, and adventure.)
Thursday nights at Belle Cora on Green Street attract friendly folks who come together in jolly camaraderie, fueled by fine libation, soul-ful singing, and spontaneous dance. It was in that spirit that I first encountered a vivacious woman with sparkling eyes and a welcoming demeanor.
That person, and now good friend, is Tania Romanov Amocheav, author, business leader, and world traveler, whose early life journey might explain her dedication to filling every moment with passion, love of life, and joy in connecting with almost everyone she meets.
Tania was born in Belgrade, Serbia, to a Russian father and Croatian mother—two displaced émigrés. The family fled the country for Italy, where she spent her early childhood in San Sabba, a refugee camp in Trieste. They eventually made their way to San Francisco’s Russian enclave.
Completing San Francisco’s public schools, she received a degree in mathematics from U.C. Berkeley followed by an M.S. in management from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Now, many years later, she has gone from penniless refugee to one of the first women to lead a high-tech company—three of them, in fact. Tania is also a founder of the Healdsburg Literary Guild in California as well as the educational non-profit Public School Success Team. This latter is especially important, utilizing community volunteers to reduce public high school dropout rates.
But that’s not all.
She is an acclaimed author, photographer, and world traveler.
In addition to climbing Mount Whitney and Mount Kenya, she circumnavigated Annapurna, trekked through Bhutan and Kashmir, and sailed along remote rivers in Burma (Myanmar). Her camera always accompanies her on her journeys, taking world class photos of people, places, and amazing sights. As she says, “I have found that photography tells me about myself further than I can tell me about myself.”
Blandina Farley and Tania Romanov Amochaev at Belle Cora.
© Blandina Farley
Prior to completing her new book, she authored two memoirs, Mother Tongue: A Saga of Three Generations of Balkan Women and One Hundred Years of Exile, as well as a travel collection, Never a Stranger, all written under her pen name, ‘Tania Romanov.’ Her work has been featured in multiple travel anthologies, including The Best Travel Writing series, and she is a Solas Award winner.
When she isn’t traveling the globe, Tania lives in a cozy North Beach apartment with a lovely view of the North Bay. And like the city she adores, her free-spirited life came to an abrupt halt with the pandemic. She felt, as others did, the confinement of masks and the impact of the social restrictions.
As a gregarious person, she suffered the suffocating loss of connection, relieved in part by daily treks across the streets, back alleys, hills, and neighborhoods to re-engage with her city and revisit treasured memories, such as lively sessions conversing in La Lingua Italiana with Lawrence Ferlinghetti at Caffe Trieste.
She credits Phil Cousineau’s classic The Art of Pilgrimage and Gary Kamiya’s Cool Gray City of Love as inspiration for her to set out on an unexpected journey, a pilgrimage in her own city. She walked the 49 square miles of San Francisco, absorbing the history of the neighborhoods through which she passed and the stories of the people met along the way. It is a pilgrimage leading to a profound and personal exploration of place, identity, and race, of the nature of change and the meaning of travel.
I know Tania enough to know that her journey was not at all a sacrifice—she loves to walk. It was more a journey of connection, discovery, and rediscovery of self and the city she loves.
“Reaching the end of my pilgrimage should have been significant. I wanted to shout, ‘It changed my life.’
“It didn’t happen like that. It would take months for me to learn that meaningful travel works in ways that are not predictable, or even necessarily logical. You have to be open to the moment, and you have to stay open long after it passes.”
Tania Romanov Amochaev and her family before emigrating to the United States.
© Blandina Farley
As for me, like my remarkable friend, one of my great joys has always been to wander the hidden gems to be found in any place but especially in San Francisco, where I also live. I really thought I could not feel more passionate or touched by the people, places, or serendipity around every corner until I read San Francisco Pilgrimage: Memoir of a Lifelong Love Affair with My City, the book that resulted. In this love letter to her beloved San Francisco, she embraces experiences and intimate moments of conversation with everyday locals and fellow travelers. Her beautifully expressed connections brought me to a new level of deep understanding and appreciation as to why I am living in this special magical city! It reminded me that the journey can be joyful no matter where one might be as long as you keep your arms wide open to the Wonder of Wander.
I hope you can join us on August 17th at Caffe Trieste to meet Tania and hear some of her fascinating tales.
Tania Romanov Amochaev and Gary Kamiya.
© Blandina Farley