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He was very sorry. Because he was coming back, Trying to find his family. That's how we met him. So anyway, Bophanny: going back now, to Ca...Capri... Moderator: So... Moderator: You never heard from your brother again? That, was, that was it. So my mother, said, I don't think my mother said anything. I don't think my mother had a choice. It wasn't like a request to leave. He was basically telling her, this is what he was going to do. So, that was the last time, we ever saw him. And... living in fear like that, everyday... Thinking that, somebody going to discover who we really were and would...we would all be killed. Moderator: Can you describe that, what that feeling was like, everyday to..." Moderator: Live under that shroud of fear? You know, they always tell you, that hope is the best thing. It really is! And, you don't know, until you experience You might as well be dead. At least in my mind. And I think in my mind, I was dead. Because, you couldn't say anything. You have... no rights whatsoever. And there's no humanity. There's no kindness. There's no gentleness about it. It was just um, rote.. You're a robot. You are You... You don't have feelings. You can only feel, when you are told. To feel. And, if you had already tasted what freedom was like, which I did... very briefly, as a child. I knew, that, that was no life. For me. Or for anyone else. I, like, I told you, the end, right before the Vietnamese invasion. I had pretty much, given up. I just didn't think it would ever..... Get better. Or that I'd see my family, That I'd be with them. And, the feeling that, I don't know how to describe it to you. But... Oh...god. It's just...its blank. Its just blank. Moderator: So, when the bombing, Moderator: happened at Labek, Moderator: you started to think Moderator: that maybe there's an end? I, uh, yeah. And, I thought, even if I got killed, Great. I do not want to live like this. I don't wanna have to ask permission. From people, to go see my family, And in fact, I had no idea where they were. Cause I knew, that even though, we were all evacuated to Labek... But as soon as we got there, everyone, was to go. to different camps, again. So, I was really excited, to hear the bomb. And, I didn't care at that point, who was coming, who was killing whom. At least what I was, experiencing, was going to be over. Or hoped. I was hoping, that it was going to be over soon. And then one day, I don't know what happened after that, one day, I woke up, and it seemed as though, I was the one of the few people left in my camp. I don't know how people caught up and leave in the middle of the night, and I not know it. I had no idea. I must've been a really deep sleep. And then, it dawned on me, That something different, was happening. And regardless, how, that different was going to be, I was excited! I was extremely excited. And the first thought was, instead of saying, "Okay, let's go and find mom," "and my sister," "and my brother." My first thought was, "Oh my God." "Nobody's here." "I can take as much food as I can!" I wanted to gather up. You know. And, I couldn't carry with me. I was a little girl still. Then, finally, I said, "Oh, my, I can't stay here." It was kinda scary. You know people, I mean, maybe there was like a few kid and one person, here and there. It was a pretty big camp. And of...I got scared. I said, "Okay, I have to try to make my way back to Labek." And, so I saw some people and I ask, you know, "How do you get back to..." "the village?" So they told me and I went. And, I, had asked along the way. Cause, I hadn't really, settled in, in the village. So, I couldn't even remember, like, where, the little house that they, housed us in. know, the, the, hut. So, I had to ask, you know, "Oh, had you know this family?" "You know, she has many children..." "She's a widow?" They said, "Oh, yeah, yeah," "She used to live here." And answers, they told and finally, I got to my little... house, that they put us in. And I walked in... and there was this cobweb, there was nobody there. It looked like it had been deserted for a long time. And, the first thing that came to my mind, was, they killed, everybody. And, I was just, numb. Because, that was not unusual. That the Khmer Rouge would do something like that. Nobody told me, I... nobody, I asked, nobody knew what happened to my family. And, I just thought, "My God. I'm completely alone." "Everybody," "died." I don't know what happened, I must've wandered around. All day. I don't, and all of a sudden, nothing really mattered. And, I was just walking around. I didn't know what to do. I was just... I don't think I've ever felt, more lonely in my life. Than that one whole day, when I thought everybody died. It was just horrible. And, I didn't know what to do. So, I just walked around, and I walked around, And then I sat somewhere. I don't even know where I was sitting. But somebody found me. Some older man, came and said, "Hey you," "How long you been sitting there?" "And aren't you so and so's sister?" "And so and so's daughter?" "And so and so.." You know. And I said, "Yeah." "Yeah, that's me." "Well, why don't you go home?" And I said, "Well, I can't go home." He said "What do you mean? " "Don't be silly." Every...You know. Now, its very obvious that, someone is coming in. That you can really hear the bombing. And the fighting, and it goes, on and on, non-stop now. It's not occasional anymore. But, I didn't care. And, people are running around. Trying to find families. And, you know, people busy. Something, is happening. And, I was sittin' there. and they said, "You need to go home." and I said, "Well, I can't go home." So I told him. I said, "Well..." "Everybody died." And he said, "What are you talking about?" "I just saw your mother." "Yesterday." You know, he said, "Yesterday." And he said, "Mother" I heard mother and I heard yesterday, and I was like, "What?" "What did you say?" "What did you say?" He said, "I, talked to your mother yesterday." "She, was at this other camp." And then, he told me the name. And I said, "Are you sure?" And then, I knew, that he knew, because, my little brother, he'd been sick all his life. Because, of malnutrition. And so, he wasn't taken away. Cause, again, he would've been, a dependant. On the government. They didn't want to take care of him. So, he got to stay with my mother, the whole time. One of his leg is really, um, smaller than the other. And he walked funny. And, I knew, that he knew, that he, was talking about my mother. Because, he said that, "Oh, I talked to your mom," "Doesn't she have like, a crippled son?" And, you know, he described my brother. And I knew, that had to be. And I said, "Oh my God." I said, "Uncle" "Will you please tell me." "How can I get to them?" I was, awfully, exciting. So he said, "Well" "I don't recommend you go," "Cause its already nighttime." He said, "Its..its really dangerous." "You know," "the Khmer Rouge are now in the jungle." "And they're always coming out" "at night." "And, it, it takes a long time," "to get to the camp." "Why don't you camp out somewhere?" "Go to sleep" "here" "and then" "get up really early in the morning." "Because, I heard some men" "are going to this village," where my mother was. "To bring back supply." "And maybe, you can ask them." "You can sit on the wagon." "You know, those," "cow drawn, wagon." "You can go with them." And, so that's what I did. I tried to sleep at night. I was so excited. I said, "Oh my God. I'm...I'm so glad." This is, that I'm wrong, You know. Got up early. Went to the place where he told me, and I asked some people to get off the wagon But, then, when they say, "Yes" So I went. And I did find my mother. And by then, my two oldest sisters, had reunited with my mother. So, my two oldest sisters, my mother, and my little brother. So we all came back to Labek, to the village. And waited, for others to come. My older brother... who is also at a boy camp. And my two other sisters, Chana and Bopha. They...I think they weren't there yet. And, little by little... everyone came back. The last person... to show up was my older brother. We call him, Jim. His real Cambodian name is Vanara. So Jim never showed up. And we were like, okay... What should we do? We had no idea. Bophanny: And you know.... Moderator: Is this the one that left in Phnom Penh? Moderator: Or left? Bophanny: No. This is the...He is right.... Moderator: Escaped? Bophanny: ...before me. Moderator: Okay. He is the younger guy, he is not an older brother. I mean he is an older brother... But he's not a grown man. He was still a little boy like, like me. And he was at the boy camp. Bophanny: And I don't know... Moderator: Okay. where that boy camp was. You know. But we were hoping and waiting that he'd come back. But at the same time, we were really scared. Because, what if something had happened to him. And we were sitting here, waiting and waiting and waiting. And the Khmer Rouge would come back at night. We had to hide every night. And be absolutely, I mean, like we had to if we were cooking during the day, I remember, we had to cook really early, so we could put out all the fire. And erase trace of, life. Because at night, we could hear them. We could hear the Khmer Rouge coming through the village, Labek, looking for people. Or taking supply. And you know, so... Finally, when we were about to give up on him, he showed up. He showed up. Okay, and we said, "What were you, what were you doing around here so late?" He had gathered supplies along the way, and went fishing hoping to bring something to the house. You know. And he got.. he got scorned. But we were really happy. So we left, again, we walked, and went to, um, Swai Seysapot. And there, we didn't have a place to stay, we got there, we realized, that everybody, was there. And everybody, had already taken the home, Of someone. See the city of the town was also, I think evacuated. And all of a sudden, people are coming back in, and you just go, and you take a house. Moderator: Yeah. Bophanny: You know. And, we had no place to live. All the places were taken. So I remember, we lived, under a... A mango tree? Some kind of tree. For at least, a month, or so. Now you have to remember, here's my mother... with two, probably late teens, early twenties, um daughters. And then, two teenagers. And then my brother was, you know, probably entering teenager. And then me. And then Ty, my little brother. We were living. And we had nothing. I mean literally, nothing. So we lived here. And then finally we said, well, we have to, you know, put up some sort of roof. Because sometime, it rained. And, I remember, having to go and gather some leaf. And help my sister, sort of braid the good leaf. And sort of put up some stilts, so that we could have a roof that goes like this. And we could stay under it. And we met some men that perhaps were friends before the war. I don't, I don't remember them, really well now. But, um, I guess, people were always feeling sorry for us. Cause there were so many, um, children and my mom was alone. And they would help us. Um, put up a tent. So, so finally, www...after that little tent.. The people who owned this lot, of...I don't know if they really owned it. But, the people were already living in the house, and living in this lot said, "Why don't you?" "Uh...if you could get" "get some money" "and you know... Put up a...a" "house, you know, a thatched roof house..." "next..." They had like an empty lawn next to it. "You could do that." And so we got some friends, got some people to come over and help us sort of "made a house for us." next to the...the big house. And we were living in there for awhile. While we were living in there, my mom, my sister would make things, and try to sell, and use the money to buy food. And we were running out, of, of, money, of, of things. And, we just, my sister, my two oldest sisters, sort of became the head of the family. And she had learned that people could go, cause Swai SeeSapot is pretty close to the Thai border. Right? And that people could go to the border and buy things cause you know, we didn't have anything for what five years or so. Right? And so... Thai and their ethnic... Their economy had no interruption. And if you go and you buy things... and bring back and sell, you know, um, over the price that you bought, you can make a little bit of profit. And, so my sister said, "Okay" They wanna do that. So they left with my, one of my, I don't know, I...we call him uncle, but I'm not so sure if he was really our uncle. But, anyway, she left with uh, a couple of men. Go and come back. On her... on their second trip back or so; Being a smuggler is no life for young woman. You know. And she was... she made it pretty clear that she was terrified every time she had to do it. But she had to do it. because there was no other way to feed the family. But, I think on her second, on their second trip or so they came back and told mom, and said "Mom" "I'm going back." "And I'm not coming back." "Because I see that people are living there" "at the border," "and then you can steal into the border." "Maybe you can get into the," "the refugee camps," "and then you get sponsored." Cause she had learned all about this, when she made her trips. And my mom said, "We can't." "We can't. We can't." "How can you take the whole family?" "We have no money." "We'd have to pay somebody to guide us." "Right?" And all of us, You know me, Ty and...and Jim, we were all still little. And she was also, her health, detoriates by now. And um, there just so many small children. And to do that kind of trip, its extremely dangerous. Not to mention, the bomb. You remember, there's bomb, everywhere on the border. The landmines, right? And, but my sister said, "Ma, I can't." "I cannot live like this." "Next time I'm going," "I'm not coming back." And, my mother said "Okay." "When you put it that way," "You know. We've been together for" "all through this time." "We'll, we'll, do it together." So we get up all the little amount of gold or jewelry that we had. And hired someone to bring us across the border. I remember, the preparation. We had to only wear certain clothes. We couldn't cry. I couldn't cry. My little brother couldn't cry. And there were... And you had to, walk on the footstep of the per...people walking in front of you. So, we finally said "Okay." "We're gonna do it." And so we went back to Labek. Because that was supposed to be, uh, I don't know. But that the guy said, that, that was a good, crossing area. Whatever. This trip took us two days and one night. In my memory. I remember, the only thing that I had to do, my duty was, I had to carry, Excuse me. You know, this little, metal thing that soldiers use, Bophanny: to pack their rice in. Moderator: Mmhmm. I don't know what you call that. But.. Moderator: It's a tiffin, umm. Moderator: tiffin, container or something. Bophanny: Yeah. Moderator: Mmhmm. Bophanny: So that was my job, to carry this thing. And I do not remember, what was in it. Maybe it'd been empty, Maybe we can just carry it out and use for cooking later on. But my job was to carry that thing. And not lose it. And we had to walk straight in line. And step on the, you know, the footstep of whose in front of you. One night, I remember, we had to, stay, in some rice paddy. And sort of sink our body in so that the only thing was coming out was your nose and your head. And I remember, the mosquito. "Oh my God." It, was.... Just incredible. They just, zoom... And eat you up. Cause you remember, we're in the jungle. And you're not allowed, to move, to wiggle, to scratch. You know, and every time I do something like that, I would get a really dirty look, you know, from one of the adults. And I was trying really hard, to not, you know, move. But, it was just... in..I would remember how. Oh...God. I can't even describe to you. It was just horr... And the fact that we were wet. And the mosquitos love wet, bodies. And then at one point, I remember, the guy said, "Sit down. Sit down. Sit down." "Lay down. Lay down." He was screaming at us. And we had to get down on the floor. And then we saw some soldiers. We don't know whether they were Vietnamese soldiers or whether they were the Khmer Rouge. But they were coming around looking, for us. With their flashlights. We had to stay like that. Still. I'm sure maybe, it's just a couple of hours. But for me, it was eternity. And not trying to move if the mosquito bites. It was just, incredible. And then I remember a baby. There was a baby. On the trip. And the baby started crying. And I thought, "Oh God, that's it." "They're gonna come." "They're gonna shoot us all." You know, the... I was quite traumatic about it. And then we had to stop at one place. And sit, after all that commotion. And that was okay now. We had to keep going. We couldn't stay very long. Because we were afraid that people would find us. This time they said, Now we're getting into the part of the jungle, where there's gonna be really tall grass. You know. And, I was...I was very, I've always been very petite in my life. So I remember, they say, "Keep close." "Pay attention," "to the people walking in front of you." "Make sure your foot is on" "that, the footstep of the people in front of you." And all that. And all I could tell you was that, all of a sudden, I have no idea, how long, all of a sudden, I was walking. I was walking. And I looked up. And half of..the, the, line in front of me, gone. Gone. And then people were angry. And, apparently, we...we got lost. So they said, "Okay everybody," "Stay here." You know, they would... the guides, they were making, all kinds of animal sounds. You know. Trying to get contact. They had, taught each other certain signals, to use in the jungle. And, I remember, for the second time in my life, I thought I lost my family. Remember, the first time, was at Labek, when I came back from the camp, and nobody was there. This time, because, they were looking...looking, they couldn't find the other half of the line. And my mother, and my sibling, were in the other half. And I remember, sitting and thinking, this is it. This is it. But of course, as you know, they found each other. There was another part of the trip, that was really...scary. My mother, all of a sudden, collapsed. Fell down, out of breath, couldn't breathe. We did not know at the time, but later on. Now, knowing her medical history, she was having a mild... heart attack. She had, she has had, heart problem all her life. So... we couldn't leave her there, of course not. So my...I think my older sisters told me now, that they had...lied, to the guy. They told him that we had, relatives in America, and they had money. That if they, carried my mother, that we could pay them off.

Video Details

Duration: 20 minutes and 8 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Khmer Legacies
Director: Socheata Poeuv
Views: 69
Posted by: khmer legacies on Apr 30, 2010

Part four of seven.

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