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My Grandma This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   My grandma always tells me how lucky we are to live now, to have what we have and tobe able to attend school. If we go to school, she says, the future is prettycertain. I know that remark is usually a signal for story time.

Mygrandmother's experiences during Samey Pol Pot (the Pol Pot Era) were not unique.The Khmer Rouge, a communist guerrilla group lead by Pol Pot (Prime Minister from1975 to 1978), caused the deaths of over two million Cambodians. Any survivor ofthe Cambodian Holocaust could share an equally horrific story. As one ofGrandma's countrymen so aptly said, "It will take a river of ink to describeadequately the horror of our experience."

On April 17, 1975, aneight-year civil war ended as Khmer Rouge guerrillas captured Phnom Penh, thecapital of Cambodia. Driven by a fanatical Maoist ideology, the Khmer Rougeembarked on a ruthless campaign to create a classless, agrarian society. Theybegan by ordering the evacuation of all cities. The Khmer Rouge turned Cambodiato Year Zero, as they would call it.

While bloated corpses lined the roadsleading out of the city, Grandma's children were separated from each other, whichwas just the beginning of her painful experiences. Children, slowly starving,toiled endlessly in the fields, surrounded by rice and fruit they were forbiddento eat. A group of people captured while trying to escape to Vietnam wereexecuted with bayonets in front of other villagers who were forced to chant,"We must kill them!"

The Khmer Rouge killed people through massexecutions, but most were killed by malnutrition, disease, lack ofmedical care and overwork. Everyone was forced to work (even those as young asfive) 12-14 hours a day, every day. Children were separated from their parents towork in groups or serve as soldiers. People were fed one watery bowl of soup witha few grains of rice a day. If you were not killed because you were aprofessional, you were sent to a labor camp. Anyone who complained wasimmediately eliminated.

My grandma ran away with her two daughters,Saroung (my mother) and Ry, and her two sons, Rith and Seang. She had another sonbut he disappeared. The four of them survived and went to a refugee camp where600,000 Cambodians went after the Vietnamese invaded and liberated the Cambodianpeople. The odds of remaining alive under Pol Pot's rule were a little more thantwo to one. My family was eventually sponsored to emigrate to the UnitedStates.

My grandma can never forget her "Hell on Earth"experience, as she calls it. People were killed for wearing eyeglasses orspeaking French; the worst crime was burying children alive. The Khmer Rougekilled anyone they didn't like, anyone who didn't work hard enough, or who waseducated or came from a different ethnic group, or even those who showed sympathywhen their family members were taken away to be killed. Everyone had to pledgeallegiance to the Khmer Rouge government, Angka.

Cambodia was turnedupside down during the Khmer Rouge years, and to this day the country continuesthe daunting task of healing physically, mentally and economically.






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This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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