An elderly widow, her heart broken by the early deaths of her three sons, lives in seclusion in a mansion in northern Taipei, rarely going out and never talking to the media. The self-imposed isolation of the Russian wife of former president Chiang Ching-kuo, Faina Chiang is a fitting symbol of the absence of the Chiang family from the political life of an island which it ruled with an iron fist for 40 years. The ex-president's father, Chiang Kai-shek, brought the Kuomintang army and government to Taiwan in 1949 and ruled it under martial law until his death in 1975. Ching-kuo succeeded him and was president until his death in January 1988. He had three official sons but none held high office and all died before they turned 50. He also had two sons by a mistress. The result is that, in this fervent election that may end the KMT's 55 years in power in Taiwan, no member of the Chiang family is a candidate or holds public office. The only presence is the widow of one of the three sons, who is campaigning for the KMT candidate, Lien Chan. 'Many people think that there is a curse on the family,' said journalist Liu Ding-hou. 'Buddhists believe that children and grandchildren are accountable for the deeds of their fathers and grandfathers. Chiang Kai-shek did many bad things, so his descendants are paying for them. 'Ching-kuo's widow is a tragic figure. She has lost her husband and her three sons and has no relatives in Russia.' Ching-kuo met and married Faina when they were working in the same factory in Siberia, where Stalin exiled him in the 1930s. His father had sent him to the Soviet Union to study. When they returned to China, his father urged him to divorce, as a foreigner was not worthy to be the spouse of the emperor's son. But, although he had mistresses, Ching-kuo remained loyal to Faina as his wife throughout his life.