Group Writing: The Road to Perdition

 

The Road to Perdition was a short one for my family. April 17, 1975, the day after the country finished celebrating a very tense Khmer New Year, Phnom Penh residents were greeted with the sight of black-clad soldiers pouring into the city. My mother remembered having watched, along with her brother, from the balcony as soldiers who were not much older than her then ten-year-old self were welcomed by some city dwellers. 

“They said it’s just three days” recalled my grandmother of the day’s event. “They said we have to leave as the Americans are going to bomb the city.” 

Those who refused to leave were killed in their homes. By midday came the mass exodus from cities all over the country. 

As we learned later, the majority of people decided to go back to their families’ roots, the places of their births. My grandfather, having studied in China and having never trusted Communists, had a different idea. Right away, he knew not to go back to his birthplace as his family was well-known in the area. Or to go to his brother-in-law’s for that same reason. With no concrete destination in mind they decided to head northeast toward Kratié Province, where grandma came from as well as where grandpa spent most of the 1960s managing a paper mill.  

My great-aunt, fearing they would be recognized, suggested that her husband and my grandfather leave through the back, separate from the rest of the family. The next few hours were the long hours of her life, grandma would say when she recounted that fateful day. Many families were separated in the chaos. Many died on the road from hunger and dehydration (April is the hottest month of the year). And many, many more were slaughtered along the way.  

My family was on the road for a few days when they, along with many others, were rounded up by Khmer Rouge soldiers into military cargo trucks. They ended up in the Village of Thmey, Dang Kdar Commune of Steung Trang District, in Kampong Cham Province. 

With half of the family killed by the end of 1975, my grandmother still credits that fortunate pickup on the road to them being alive today. That and my grandfather’s good instant karma. But, that is a story for another day. 

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  1. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    What an appalling story, and so well told. Unlike central Europe in the Thirties, the world knew what was happening almost immediately, but by 1975 there wasn’t much America could do about it. We thought the new regime was inhuman; it sank in slowly that it was something closer to antihuman. 

    • #1
  2. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Just watched the Donut King that showed film of Phnom Penh in those last desperate days.  I was young then and just remember the arguments around settling refugees.  I was truly appalled when I saw what your family and all Cambodians went through and wish I had understood better back then.   

    • #2
  3. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    I don’t know what to say, other than I’m so happy that your family found their way here.

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    The story of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge is chilling. It boggles the mind to think of the cruelty and viciousness that took place. I’m glad that at least some of your family survived, LC.

    • #4
  5. LC Member
    LC
    @LidensCheng

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    the world knew what was happening almost immediately

    The sad thing is this is something that continues to happen after this particular genocide. 

     

    • #5
  6. LC Member
    LC
    @LidensCheng

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Just watched the Donut King that showed film of Phnom Penh in those last desperate days. I was young then and just remember the arguments around settling refugees. I was truly appalled when I saw what your family and all Cambodians went through and wish I had understood better back then.

    I should get around to watching The Donut King. 

    • #6
  7. LC Member
    LC
    @LidensCheng

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    the cruelty and viciousness that took place

    I like to hope there is no more appetite for this kind of evil, but humans are prone to repeating themselves. 

     

    • #7
  8. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    LC (View Comment):

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Just watched the Donut King that showed film of Phnom Penh in those last desperate days. I was young then and just remember the arguments around settling refugees. I was truly appalled when I saw what your family and all Cambodians went through and wish I had understood better back then.

    I should get around to watching The Donut King.

    It was very good

    • #8
  9. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    What do you think of Yeonmi Park and her experiences?

    • #9
  10. LC Member
    LC
    @LidensCheng

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    Yeonmi Park

    I haven’t read her memoir, but I’ve seen her famous speech. And I’ve read about her overall escape. It is incredible how much her and her mother went through to get to South Korea. 

    • #10
  11. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    LC (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    Yeonmi Park

    I haven’t read her memoir, but I’ve seen her famous speech. And I’ve read about her overall escape. It is incredible how much her and her mother went through to get to South Korea.

    I loved her interview with Jordan Peterson. 

    • #11
  12. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    This sobering account of a family fleeing near certain death is part of June’s theme: “Journeys.” Stop by now to sign up for the July group writing theme: “We Hold These Truths (or Fictions).

    There are two major monthly Group Writing projects. One is the Quote of the Day project, now managed by @she. This is the other project, in which Ricochet members claim a day of the month to write on a proposed theme. This is an easy way to expose your writing to a general audience, with a bit of accountability and topical guidance to encourage writing for its own sake.

    • #12
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