‘When I came to Australia as a refugee I worked hard, very hard, especially at science and maths, because I wanted to become a nuclear physicist and build an atom bomb to kill the Khmer Rouge.’
The opening words of Soour Gov’s story sum up the anger and determination of his early adolescence in Australia after surviving the genocidal policies of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge. He had lost his father, mother, sisters and brothers—yet he slowly found the means to recover from his experiences.
‘In September 1978, I heard that I was on a death list. My informant was the mother of a teenage murderer who did Khmer Rouge dirty work.’
The opening of Tek Heang Ya’s story expresses the fear and desperation that were ever-present in Pol Pot’s Democratic Kampuchea. Tek Heang lost both her sons, who starved to death at four and five years old.
The stories in Leaving Year Zero are compelling, vividly involving the reader in the experiences of six Khmer individuals and their unique responses to a society gone badly wrong.
All six now live highly constructive lives in Australia, bringing up families and contributing skills and understanding to the community.
Praise for Leaving Year Zero:
This is a powerful and beautiful book. Richard Lunn skilfully and sensitively brings us the seldom heard voices of Khmer refugees, survivors of Pol Pot who are now living in Australia. Their stories illuminate a horrifying period of history, but in spite of their sufferings, their resilience and generosity of spirit are memorable. These stories also remind us of the generous contribution most refugees bring to our country.ANNE DEVESON, , JOURNALIST, FILMMAKER AND BROADCASTER WITH A LONG INVOLVEMENT IN HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES
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