In 1975, Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia. They separated all the children from their parents. That time, I was a mere 6-year-old child. From dawn till dusk, They made us work in the rice fields in exchange for a single bowl of rice soup. When the rains came, our clothes would end up soaking wet. So, we would take our clothes off and squeeze all the water out then put them back on and let them dry while wearing them. We didn’t have any doctors or medicines. It was as if we didn’t have the right to get sick at all.
One day, as I was sleeping on the ground, I suddenly felt gentle arms lifting me up. Being encaged in that warm embrace made me feel that I was in a safe place. Then, it disappeared. But, the memory of his kindness never left me.
I lost my older sister to starvation and my older brother to a land mine. Back where The children camp where I was. I saw my Dad and the commander. Dad told me that my Mom was very sick. I went home to see her.
What surprised me was that my parents were already planning to escape that time. For many hours of walking, we finally got to a valley where my entire family was. My brother Tha was only 3 months old–he was still innocent to what was happening around us. So, Dad said we had to move quickly so we could catch up with the others. It was like an endless road–we walked for about many mile till my Mom gave up and couldn’t move anymore because of her pain plus she needed to take a break and go to the bathroom.
Dad allowed Mom to go while he would wait for her with us–his children. Mom refused because it was too dark and she was scared. In the end, we all went with Mom. Mom was about to go when we heard loud footsteps of horses. A soldier’s voice boomed saying, “We have to find them and kill them all!” We were all shaking and quietly fearing for our lives, including the 3 month-old baby. If Tha, the baby, start crying or make a noise, we all would not be alive. Thanks to our baby brother Tha for saving us all.
A couple of days later, the war started again. Bullets were flying everywhere–like the rain we couldn’t escape from before. There were booming sounds like popping popcorn. Dad hastily told us to run to the pond. I didn’t want to go into the pond at first, the suddenly, Dad told us not to move. Soon, we feel a snake moving around us. We were terrified.
A few minutes later, the sounds of the bomb and shooting stopped. Everything was quiet. Despite the starvation and pain, we still moved forward. Mom collected all fruit and vegetable seeds. Finally, we reached the temporary camp. We stayed in Sra Keo camp for about 9 months. Mom grew all her fruits and vegetables and fed all her children. We also shared it with friends. One afternoon, someone came and told us that the next morning, we were moving to a different camp. He promised us that, that camp will have food and water. The next morning, a crowd of people waiting greeted my sight.
Mom held my hand tightly. When we got in the truck, the truck was so packed and we all stood up in the truck. It was cramped, and the squeezing gave me a hard time to breathe. When the truck was about to leave, they covered it with a dark material then took off.
At last, we arrived in Khao Idang camp! They offered us foods and water–even education. That was where I learned how to read and write the Khmer language and even classical dancing. 1985 10 years have passed by. At Khao Idang Camp, there is a post office where they post all news from USA or other country for people looking for their loved ones.
Thanks to that, my father found my uncle. But, because we have a big family, he couldn’t bring all of us to USA so he sought help. That was how we met Bob and his wife. Before we were allowed to go to USA, we have to pass the exam. So we passed the immigration. We were all excited and ready.
When we got out of the plane, our sponsors counted us. We were surprised when one of them noticed that we were missing one person. We started to look at each other.
Then it hit us. Where is Tha?
We found out that Tha, my younger brother, was still sleeping in the plane. Thank God we found him.
Most of us who live in the refugees’ camp think that the USA is a heavenly place to live–all because we have everything. There were many choices of food, education, clothes, and freedom. During my childhood, we had nothing. All that’s engraved in my mind was running, fear, starvation, no clothes, no medicine or Doctor. While growing, we had been through a lot of sacrifices. Thank you for your time reading my story.