The Story of How My Parents Escaped the Cambodian Genocide (Part II)
Solika Ry was born in Montreal, Canada, to Cambodian parents who were refugees in Thailand and in Canada in the 1980’s. She travelled to Cambodia with her father for the first time in 2016, where she reconnected with her country’s and family’s history.
This article is an extract from the longer photo story on her emotional journey to Cambodia, published via Exposure.co
The post is published as part of an Oxfam-led campaign: #Juknia, Cambodia Migration Stories of Hope
Link to part I: click here
The only existing picture we have from my parentss’ time at the refugee camp in Thailand in 1978. (Picture Courtesy: Solika Ry and family)
My mother exploring her new home in Quebec City. (Picture Courtesy: Solika Ry and family)
At the refugee camps, my parents were able to meet other survivors who have made it outside the Khmer border. A few came from the duck farm. Ever since my parents escaped the duck farm, many as 100-200 people in the farm grew anxious and attempted the same escape, however, many did not make it far enough through the borders– let alone through the forest.
In attempt to move on, my parents applied for citizenship to many countries.
At the refugee camps, my parents were able to meet other survivors who have made it outside the Khmer border.
Canada had updated its refugee policy favouring French colonies such a the former Indochina as a response to the crises that loomed in Southeast Asian region during the decade. My parents were then accepted to settle in Canada in 1979.
My parents were sponsored by a family and first settled into Quebec City. The government gave my parents $25 of pocket money to rebuild their lives all over again. My parents then enrolled in French class, worked part time and took effort to adjust to the Canadian society.
The government gave my parents $25 of pocket money to rebuild their lives all over again.
In the 1980s, booming job opportunities presented in Montreal, and so my parents eventually chose to re-settle in this metropolitan area.
I was then born in 1985 in Montreal.
My dad in his new country. (Picture Courtesy: Solika Ry and family)
AFTERMATH AND LEGACY
The conflict ended in 1979. Those who remained at the duck farm were fortunate enough to survive, some even had the opportunity of re-connect with my parents even decades after their shared experiences.
The rest of my mother’s family survived, however, this conflict has deeply impacted the fate of them all being together again. I currently have family on my mother’s side who eventually were able come to Canada in the late 1990s. I also have 3 uncles who emigrated to Japan and started their lives all over there instead.
I have my father’s family whom I’ve had the fortune of meeting at countryside Angkor Chum, Siem Reap in late 2016. His kin continue to live on the land they were born on, but I saw with my very eyes the clear contrast on how life could have been different. I feel so fortunate to have the means to visit my father’s place of birth and experience the world he grew up in.
We would have never really known what could have happened if my parents did stay at the farm. Maybe my life would have been in Cambodia, or not at all. I keep thinking that I am so lucky. So are they.
My dad and I. (Picture Courtesy: Solika Ry and family)
It took almost a lifetime for my parents to individually share their past with me without holding back at sporadic times, and it brings me great duty to communicate this story in order to bring justice to it.
it brings me great duty to communicate this story in order to bring justice to it.
Cambodia isn’t a story about an impoverished country suffering — it’s a story of humanity. It’s a story that among the many family members we have lost, we have gained a fire that lives in us, that will transcend as a part of our healing.
As for those who are also carrying this legacy that this genocide has brought for us, I urge us all to come together and remember the sacrifices our parents have gone through, and re-tell their stories before it’s too late.
I could make the case that the people of Cambodia have changed my life more than they’ll ever know…
Some could say that giving money to the Cambodian people have changed their lives, but I could make the case that the people of Cambodia have changed my life more than they’ll ever know…
This piece reflects the views of its author only, and not necessarily that of the Politikoffee Media team and editors.
#Juknia, Cambodia Migration Stories of Hope
The post is published as part of an Oxfam-led campaign:
In response to the global migration and refugee crisis, Oxfam Cambodia is organizing a campaign calling on world leaders to keep international borders open those that are displaced from their home. The campaign will collect voices and stories of Cambodian migrants and remind the world of the hope and transformation that comes from refugees that return home to rebuild their country or bring light to their communities wherever they are in the world.