Wannabe Martha

Still trying to figure out which Martha

A Sophie’s Choice of Sorts

on October 25, 2013

“Tirith wasn’t at school today. His brother wasn’t either,” Paul announced at dinner. Tirith was his best friend, the son of an attaché to the Cambodian Embassy in Paris. His younger brother and Mike were friends, too. “They weren’t at school yesterday either.” My parents got very quiet. Dinner took on a somewhat strained feeling. We knew something was wrong, but were not sure what. My mother changed the subject. Tirith and his brother never came back to school.

A few weeks later, the phone rings. It’s Tirith’s father wanting to know if his sons can come over to play with Paul and Mike. A date is set. The family arrives and the boys race down the hall to the playroom. The adults adjourn to the living room. I am busy with my own affairs.

Later that evening at dinner, Dad asks the boys if they know why their friends were no longer at school. “Yes. Their Dad had to leave the Embassy and become French or they were going to die.” My dad looks at my mother, who nods her head. “Sort of,” he says. “The Cambodian government was taken over. The new government ordered the Ambassador and staff back to Cambodia.” Paul butts in “yes, but they can’t go back because they would be killed. All their family is dead because they didn’t go back. Tirith says their Dad had to choose. So he chose to stay in France. And now everyone else is dead. Tirith says they would be dead too if they go back. So they can’t. They had to ask the French to let them stay and they did and now Tirith’s dad runs a grocery store that’s why he’s not at school anymore.”

(In 1976, the Khmer Rouge took control of Phnom Phen and recalled all diplomats, with threats of execution of family members remaining in the country. Some returned to find their families executed anyway and faced the same fate; others refused and sought asylum with host countries, with the certain knowledge that this meant the death of their relatives. Between 1975 and 1979 over 1.7 million Cambodians would perish.)


2 responses to “A Sophie’s Choice of Sorts

  1. FuzzieWuzzie says:

    What a terrifying thing to expose a kid to. Words fail me.

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