Sunday, November 6, 2011

Khimer Rouge - First Hand Account

Phnom Pehn
I've had the priviledge of listening to many women's stories. Each one is important and matters. Some are so filled with horror, I need to recover myself after being an empathetic listener. I sense I need to be encouraged after these times of intensive listening, particularly when the story is made using art. Today might be one of those times.

Hearing Kim, a refugee from Phonom Pehn, Cambodia, in her fifties or sixties, share her story last night after dinner, just about did me in. I was at a fund-raiser to help raise funds for rescuing and caring for kids in Cambodia who are enslaved. Chomno had flown in from Cambodia for the event. Paula had talked with Kim after the meal and ran over to introduce me to her. Kim was eager to share her story of escape from Cambodia when 9 others in her family were killed. 

Traveling from Phonom Pehn to Thailand might be like this.
Kim's husband was a teacher, she told me he had passed away, but he was the only teacher who was not killed by the knife. All the other teachers at his school were killed. Kim and her husband and one daughter, after loosing 2 children to starvation, ran through the Cambodian jungle and countryside, and made it to a refugee camp in Thailand. The horror of that journey is fresh in her mind.

Eventually, an American family adopted Kim, her husband and remaining daughter out of the refugee camp. It was nothing short of miraculous that all this transpired for Kim, actually surviving, during the horror of the Khimer Rouge and the rule of Pol Pot. I couldn't hold back the tears, and we all wept as she told of running past bodies that had been killed by the knife. 

Many years later, she recounted to us, she flew back to Cambodia to see a few remaining relatives. She said she was very frightened to do this, always wondering if someone would be coming to get her.

One of her daughters has now become a dentist in the United States, and she knows the Khimer language. She is writing down the history of the family before it is lost. It is really hard for the next generation to believe what happened in Cambodia under Pol Pot, so it needs to be written down. And, as hard as it is, we need to have the courage to listen to these stories and be a part of the healing process.

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