A few weeks ago I was turned on to a book written by a local (Yorktown, VA) author. It came highly recommended and was described to me as a tragically moving and horrifically gripping tale of survival, one that needed to be read by all. The fact that the author is a good friend and neighbor of someone I work with was a factor in my deciding to pick up a copy. I am so glad that I did.
The Sieve of Angkar recounts the barbarity experienced by a then 15 year old girl and her immediate and extended family over a 4 year period beginning with the Khmer Rouge taking power in 1975. Sovannara Ky was the 6th of 10 children born to a well to do Cambodian family but in April of that year, she and her family were forced from their spacious home and driven to the countryside as pawns in the playing out of a cruel and brutal communist vision.
I too was 15 in 1975. For the next 4 years, my struggles were those typically experienced by an Air Force brat who had moved from time to time to new places until finally finding a place to settle when my father retired in 1977. In those same 4 years, I experienced what I might then have called adversity. I struggled to meet new friends or to prove myself all over again to baseball coaches who knew me not. I survived new schools and new surroundings. I worked hard during those teenage years to make money for myself and for my family especially when my father had a tough time making ends meet shortly after retiring from the Air Force in ’77. While friends went off to college in the fall of ’78, I worked 40 or more hours in a grocery store week in and week out and continued to help my family get through some lean years.
Little did I know that thousands of miles away during those same 4 years, a young girl of the same age would be facing fear, angst, starvation, disease and even death. While I thought I had it tough in Warner Robins, Georgia and later Hampton, Virginia, Ms. Ky toiled in forced labor camps, separated from her family and working long hours daily in oppressive heat while being fed rice and gruel not fit for my Irish Setter.
These were the thoughts I could not shake as I clicked through my Kindle version of The Sieve of Angkar. These are the thoughts I still carry as I think through what she survived and what horrors she must still be reliving so many years later.
I encourage my readers to pick up a copy of the book and be amazed at the courage, the persistence and yes, the faith that carried Sovannara Ky through her teen years and beyond. It’s a book that will leave you counting your blessings while admiring the perseverance shown by a young woman forced to grow up way too fast.
In the coming days, I’d like to send a list of questions to Ms. Ky about her experiences in the hopes that she will answer them so I can share them here with each of you. Please leave a question you’d like answered by Ms. Ky in the comments and I’ll attempt to get them to her.