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Camera Operator: So we're rolling and we can start whenever you like. Moderator: Okay Moderator: Um. Can we start with your name, and your age and where you live? Um. My name is Bophanny Hourt. I will be forty this year. And I live in San Francisco, California. Moderator: Okay. Moderator: Um. And let's start at the very begininning. Kay. Moderator: With what your first memories are. Your just. Your just very first memories. Bombing. Just really loud noises. And people were running. Um the adults in my family were very busy. My little brother and I we were very little. Um. We sort of, we tried very hard to Um. be a bother. Because we knew. we knew something bad was happening. But we didn't really understand what the whole scope of it. So we tried not to make trouble. We tried to be good little girl and good little boy. My little brother and I are um a year apart. So we were very close. And every so often, I remember hearing People in my family...the adults saying Oh the bomb dropped you know a couple of blocks away. And so and so that we knew lost their head. You know. And I was like oh you know sitting there. Just trying really hard to not be scared. Um, but it was a lot of noise. And then the next thing I remember we had to go and stay under the underground irrigation. We had an orchid garden. My father was an orchid lover. And, they dug, um, a big sort of bombshell under the orchid garden. And I remember at night, on certain nights we had to go under there with my grandparents and the whole family. and and I guess because maybe there was a lot of bombing. that night and that day. I didn't like it because it was dark and it was cramped. and I remember it was very cold because it was under a garden. And I remember maybe.... I don't have my timeline all made out but the next few days so I would hear adults talking and no one was talking to me or with me. But I could hear all the conversations you know people were saying... Oh you know this road or that road was closed. And there was no food because there was no market cause everything was closed down. And the next thing I knew my older brothers and um my mom were gathering all the weapons. and put it outside the door. And I remember they had an argument because, um, some members of my family believed that we shouldn't surrender all of the guns that we had. And we I think we had guns because my father worked for the military. He was a high ranking um military official. And so we had guns at home but I think that the Khmer Rouge wanted everything. Knives and all that. And I remember the adults were fighting about how much should we put out. And why and why not. And, I remember the white flag. You had to put in front of our gate. We had a big home. Um... and I remember people leaving. Um, lots and lots of people leaving. Our neighborhood was beginning to be more and more quiet. But, we weren't leaving. And.... I remember, the reason why we didn't leave... because we were waiting for my father to return. So, everyone basically was at home, except for my father. And...I think finally.... I don't remember exactly... maybe one of the Khmer Rouge came in and said that we had to go. Otherwise, there would be big trouble. Or we couldn't wait anymore and I don't remember what happened. But we also had to leave. So we packed up our two cars. And I had my grandparents on my mother's side, were with us. And they were in their 80's. Um, so we started driving out. And, I remember, we didn't have to go very far when all of a sudden you just..... I remember seeing like a flood of people. I mean everybody was on the road. And we couldn't go very far. We couldn't go very fast. My next memory was when my brother my youngest brother, Ti. Um... Had an accident. We were camping out and I don't remember exactly where.... But I know it was in Phnom Penh. Cause that's where we lived. But we were camping out and my mother was boiling water for us to drink and to cook. And I think my little brother was playing around, to put the place where we were boiling water. And it tipped over the whole kettle and it spilled on him. And I think he had a really bad burn. Probably second degree burn. I remember just being really horrified. Just seeing that on my little brother. His flesh was pretty raw and... I remember what we used.... to calm my brother down. Was the toothpaste. Cause that was the only thing that was cold. And I think I overheard people talking about helmets off from dead soldiers. Cause...I think we forgot to pack enough pots and pans to cook. And that's what we were cooking in. With. And other parts of my memory was my older brothers had gone into some sort of warehouse and had brought back some food. And so we were all really happy cause we had something to eat. And we were still trying to get out of the city but, but I think at that point we probably my guess. I don't know if that's a fact but my guess now that we ran out of gasoline. And you couldn't buy anything. The market system was completely um, closed. And I think we got stuck at that place. And then we had to push our car. And they came out and keep saying you have to get out, you have to get out. So, I remember sitting in the car with my, um, grandparents. Because I was real little and Tiy was also little. We couldn't walk very much. And my oldest siblings were pushing the car. So, um... and it seemed to me as child, it seemed, forever. And again, I remember not um...not talking very much. I think I was just very observant. And, um, we went and then we lived on the street. Um, I think out in the suburb of Cambodia. And I think that a lot of us were getting sick. I remember having diarrhea all the time. We didn't go to the bathroom. And, my grandparents, um... their body began to swell. I remember that was something new and strange for me as a child because we were healthy. And I didn't really understand why our legs particularly our legs and I don't know why. They were just, really tight, really shiny, and really heavy. Um... and my oldest siblings and I had this conversation sometime and.... I remember they were telling me. that, um... by now we were just so hungry. And there was absolutely no food. And even if you had money to buy no one would sell you anything. And, I remember them telling me that we had to go to this pagoda. I think that the... Khmer Rouge or "Angka" was putting out these radio announcements saying that oh you've come to this certain place You know.. And then the place where we went was at the pagoda. That you, would you know, you could stay there and there would be food, you know.... there would be enough food. So you don't have to go around looking for food. Food was so important at that time cause we didn't have anything to eat. So, we, we went. We went. And, I cannot remember how reunited with my father. By the time we went to this pagoda my father was with us. So, somehow somewhere um, he found us. And, or we found him. And, that was the last place that I remember seeing my father. He voluntarily left the family. Um, he knew that there was great danger. for him to stay with us. Because he, um.. I guess was the enemy of the state. And he was well known. And he specifically told my mother that we would have a better chance of surviving if he were to separate himself. Um.... And one day, I remember Umm..everybody in the family was crying but I wasn't. because I didn't understand. And... I remember sitting on this sort of like, stepped you know... ah, the house is in the pagoda they're, they're all raised on stilts. And I was sitting on the stuff and people were inside were crying and I didn't understand why. And, later on my father came and sat next to me and said that that I had to be good. To my mother. and not make trouble. That's all he said. And then, he left. And, I thought... that was quite normal. Because he was always leaving, anyway. So I thought, maybe he was going to go to work. But now, I realize that, that was, goodbye. Camera Operator: Excuse me, Camera Operator: I'm sorry to interrupt. Camera Operator: I heard the refrigerator come on Camera Operator: And its kinda, its a little bit loud. I'm picking it up on the mic. You might wanna, can you close that door, maybe? Camera Operator: Yeah that's a good idea. And that was the last time. Camera Operator: That's better. Moderator: Mmhmm. Camera Operator: Let's see how that sounds on the headphones. Camera Operator: You could still hear it. Camera Operator: But I think cause its raising logs Camera Operator: It won't pick it up too much. Camera Operator: I mean, you can unplug it but.... John, there's another door on this side, maybe we shut that door also. Camera Operator: Oh good idea. You have to really bang it to shut it. Camera Operator: There we go. I don't know if that, that helps. Camera Operator: Yeah, I think that's good. Moderator: Is it, rolling? Moderator: Okay. Camera Operator: Yeah, I have your stuff. Moderator: Um.... Moderator: Do you want to continue with that story? Moderator: Is there more? Yeah, I think I remember, that now I realize that was our goodbye. and, that was the last time any of us had seen him again. Moderator: Can you just give me a little bit of background? Moderator: Um... Moderator: How old were you Moderator: at this time Moderator: and how many family members Moderator: did you have and where were you living? Um... We have always had people living with us and I don't really know why. But I think part of the people, the people who working for my father.... Um... My grandparents were living with us. Um, my mother had nine children. And all of us were together. My two oldest brothers had their spouses with them. And my oldest brother, um, had two kids. But, when we were moving out of the city as we were being evacuated Um, my oldest brother couldn't stand the way, we had become. And he... said people can't do this. People can't just come into your house and kick you out. And, you know, we have every right to go back to our home. And my mother was, very, tired and weary and, you know, she said you know, you are a grown person. A grown man and I can't stop you from doing what you wanna do. And so, he said, mom, I'm not, I'm not doing this. I'm going back. I'm going back to our house. I'm, I'm you know, we have everything in our house. And we're not gonna live like this. And so he took his wife and his children. And that was also the last time we ever saw them. So we were left with my oldest, second oldest brother, his wife, five girls and two boys. And we had a neighbor son with us at that time. And I don't remember what happened to him. And I think he also left at some point. While we were moving along living on the street before we got to the pagoda. Where I was just telling you that my father said goodbye. Moderator: So do you have any memories of Cambodia Moderator: before the Civil War was going on Moderator: and the bombing? Moderator: Like, do you have memories of peaceful... Yes... Moderator: times? I was getting ready to go to um, preschool, I suppose. That's, the what we know here in America. And, they had wanted me to learn English. Um, all my older siblings had been learning French. But, the Americans, because of the Vietnam War and the American influence, they definitely knew that I was going to learn English. Because it was going to be more useful. And, Tiy, with my younger brother was going to learn English too. Isn't that funny that I end up being in America? Not knowing.... And, I remember going you know, having, um people taking me to school. And I get allowance and you know, I...I life was...pretty easy. We had people at home helping my mom with all the children. And my sisters went to private school. And my second oldest brother was going to come here, I think for education. But, we decided to wait for his departure. After the new year. As you know, the invasion took place right before the New Year. So, he never left. I also remember, spending lots of times with my relatives on my father's side. Um, my aunt, my father's younger sister I think was the only female, um, professors in Phnom Penh or maybe in Cambodia. She, I know had gone to school. And, um, in Czechoslovakia. And she taught, I think mathematics. So, you know, we were very proud... Um, life was eas..... Pretty easy I think. Um. I could have anything and everything I wanted. Um, we had parties... during different occassions or celebrations... holidays. Um, so I think it was... kinda normal but then all of a sudden, I remember, just sort of that the bombing, is what stuck in my head. That the loud noise and the people rushing around me. As, if... the only way I could explain to you its like I'm in a movie and everything I'm....I'm....still I'm in slow motion and everything, all around me, is being fast forwarded. And it was a very short memory. And the rest of my childhood memory is pretty much when the Khmer Rouge took over. Moderator: Did you know who was bombing or what the war was about? At the time, no. When I came here, you know I read more. And I watched tv. I, at the time, no. I had no idea, why, it was happening. Who was doing what to whom. Moderator: Um, and was your family, an, an ethnic Chinese family? My father, um, was Chinese. Um, his parents, my grandparents came from China. So he is second generation. But they never kept the language. So, my father didn't know how to speak Chinese. And, none of his siblings did either. Um, but they look very Chinese. Um, our last name is, my last name is Chinese. My mother is Cambodian. So, yes, I'm half Cambodian and half Chinese. Moderator: Um, so, tell me more about the.... Moderator: I guess, you uh, your had...your family uh had already evacuated at that point. Moderator: And then your father left. Moderator: And then, what, what happened after that? Um... we figured out pretty soon. We meaning not me... my older, um, siblings that... that place was a trap. And, I remember... Moderator asks: What, what place is that? The pagoda. The place where they were feeding you and you had lots of food. You sort of lived, somewhat of a carefree life. Because people would disappear. And then, they just, we don't know what happened to them. They're just gone. And so, my family knew that it was a trap. That we need to get out of there. And so we, we left. We packed up and we left. And again, we were on the road. We were pushing the carts... and trying to go somewhere. And I, my memory now, is blank. The next thing I remember is, that we were at a city, near a river. Um, a city, that is very close to Phnom Penh. And again, they were taking us, to another place. And I think by then, we lost our cars. We lost a lot of things that we had packed up and came with us. And my grandparents also passed away. First, my mother, my grandmother, and then my grandfather. Moderator: And, and, what time period? Moderator: How, how many? Moderator: Do you know if it was weeks Moderator: or months that you had left Phnom Penh Moderator: and then ended up at this place? I would say, within, a month or two. Not very long. Cause we were always on the road. And..... I think that they were trying to gather people. And send them off somewhere. But we didn't know where. And by, my next memories, we were in this little... suburb town, outside of Phnom Penh. And, um, they told us they were going to take us to a place. But they wouldn't tell us. And they just packed you up. I remember riding.... in this truck. Um, you know one of those covered trucks. They really packed you in. And they take you to this place. And I remember it was really dark.. and you couldn't see anything... not even, you know a foot in front of you.. and I remember I had to hold each others hand..... And we had to, we slept in terrible places. And then, they said, okay, you're gonna get on a boat.

Video Details

Duration: 20 minutes and 3 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Khmer Legacies
Director: Socheata Poeuv
Views: 119
Posted by: khmer legacies on Apr 30, 2010

Part one of seven, San Francisco, CA, Feb. 3, 2010.

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