Cambodia: Surviving against all Odds

So excited to get onto the letter “C”, which will keep me busy for awhile, since it outnumbers all the other letters when it comes to country names. War is a unfortunately universally theme recurring in literature. The suffering of Cambodians under the rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge is something I wish no one. Unfortunately people live similar lives even today. Soul of a Tiger: A Miraculous True Story of a Family Who Survived the Cambodian Genocide by Sreyreath Kuy is a true story of how a family lived and survived the horrors in Cambodia during the cruel regime.

Rachana was a stubborn, and not the most well-behaved child and young woman. She did not comply to age old Cambodian tradition of marrying the man her parents had chosen for her. He was indeed picked as the perfect husband for her, but she wanted to rebel against her father. The man they had picked for their daughter reminded Rachana too much of her father, whom she had started to resent. Instead she married a man who was nothing like her father, and she lived to regret her own choice even before she was married.

Rachana also rebelled by educating herself, and becoming a teacher. This should have sealed her fate during the Khmer Rouge regime, but against all odds she, and her family, survived. Educated people were mercilessly killed, but farmers had a chance of surviving. Rachana survived by calling herself with the nickname her father gave her, Cha-Cha, because Rachana would have given away her background. Her husband had worked for the government, which meant that his fate should also have been death, but he too got away with calling himself a farmer.

Rachana and her family members, like most other Cambodians, had to leave their homes without knowing the reason why, or where they were heading. People ended up either being killed, killing themselves, or going to working camps. Life was extremely difficult, filled with hard work and little food. No one knew which day they were going to die, but the chances of dying were good to excellent.

How Rachana survived is a miracle, actually many miracles, since there were several times during 1975-1979 she should have ended up being executed. This is an amazing story of survival. It is wonderful to see people maintain their sanity while living through hell. It is absolutely fantastic to see them survive against all odds, and sticking together as a family. The author is also at times brutally honest with how disappointed she was in herself; the way she behaved as a youngster, the way she chose the wrong man for herself, and her feelings when family members let her down.

In a way it is great to read about just the family, and what happened to them, but I have to be honest and say I would have liked a bit of a general overview from time to time. For example I would have liked to read a bit more about the Khmer Rouge, even though information is easily accessible online. This is however an insightful read about a family’s life journey before, during, and after a genocide. Sometimes the truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

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