Formidable: Escape from Cambodian Genocide

A Story Told by Rita Pin Ahren (Cambodian Diaspora)

“My parents call me their lucky child. We escaped execution because I was born. Three days after my birth, a truck from the Khmer Rouge regime came for us. Because my mother was too weak from childbirth, they left my family behind but loaded my aunts and uncles. They never returned. An estimated 1.5 to 3 million Cambodians were killed by the regime led by Pol Pot. The village chief told my parents that we were still going to be killed. But first, they had to help with the rice harvesting. He told my parents to dig their own graves.

Thankfully, we escaped. My family finally made it to Thailand after several months of hiding and traveling by bicycle. From there, my parents chose to migrate as refugees to Idaho. We had a political sponsor. Although my parents were well-educated, they didn’t have the documents to prove it. They also didn’t know any English to tell their story or get good employment. My dad, who had a high-level position in the Cambodian Ministry of Finance, took a job at the Holiday Inn chopping vegetables.

My parents worked several jobs to take care of us. I saw their incredible love in how much they toiled to put food on our table. During the genocide, food was scarce. Today, they overfeed their granddaughter—a simple act that shows how badly they want a better life for us after all that we’ve endured. I am inspired by their resilience and amazing strength that saw us through war in our homeland and the hardships of starting over in a new country. My parents are older now and more vulnerable and I want to take care of their needs as their bodies get weaker. Without a question, we will take care of them. It is now my turn to be strong for them and keep them safe.

I have told my daughter about our family’s refugee story and how we escaped genocide. I told her that she comes from a family of warriors.”

NextDayBetter Storyteller: Candice Quimpo

About The Campaign:
Our #DearGrandparents Storytelling Series powered by NextDayBetter and AARP celebrates the sacrifice, resilience, and triumphs of Asian American Pacific Islanders for Grandparents Day.

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