This was the first of the interviews that I did. I speak with people in pain daily, but this situation was different. I am used to, as a therapist, having the either expressed or implied permission by my clients to intervene. I have permission to help them move into the pain and the experience to be able to move out of their history and to go on with their lives. In my role as interviewer, I did not have this permission, to do anything like psychotherapy would have been intrusive and inappropriate and would risk re-traumatizing the person interviewed. I did not understand or appreciate how much the role of psychotherapist provided a certain armor for me against the pain of the person victimized. This surprised me and I felt much of what Mr. T told me very deeply.
I have done minimal editing of Mr. T’s words, as I want his voice to come through clearly, where I have edited it is for clarity. Any comments I have made I made in italics, and all mistakes are mine.
Viet Nam and the war, which the Vietnamese now call, “the American War,” is ancient history for some. At the time of this interview it was about twenty years after the war and Mr. T had done what he could to leave the past, but the past is never behind us. As Shakespeare said, “What’s past is prologue.” As we continue to fight the endless wars in the Middle East, this is evident. For Mr. T the past was not over. Trained as a doctor, he could not practice in his new country. He worked as a social worker helping others adjust to the new country.
Several months after this interview, on a dark and rainy night I met him at his request. He had wanted to tell me, “You must finish this.” He said this with urgency, he wanted to have the world understand his experience. I hope he is alive to read this when it is in print.
I was born in 1942 in Quang Tri, a small city south of the 17th parallel, the line of of demarcation between the north and the south. I went to elementary school near Quang Tri and at that time, because we didn’t have high school in Quang Tri, I went to another big city, Hue, for high school.
I graduated from high school and went into medical school in Hue. Be that time, the war had been going on. The war between the north and the south. In 1954, when the Vietnamese people defeated the French in Dien Bien Phu, the Vietnamese agreed that the country must be divided into two parts, one is north and the other south, and they used the 17th parallel as the border. Vietnamese who wanted to live under democracy went to the south. In 1955, the Northern leaders decided that they wanted the whole country instead of just the northern part, so they engaged in another war to invade the south. They called it, “to liberate the South Vietnamese people.” The South Vietnamese people didn’t want to be liberated in their way. I mean, by Communism. The United States wanted to help the South Vietnamese people to defend their democracy, the Russian and Chinese Communist people wanted to help the North take over the South. They wanted lands, more people, whatever they can have. When the war had been going on, I was in medical school. I graduated from medical school in 1970, and right after that I was drafted into the South Vietnamese Army. Everyone was drafted, just like in the United States. I was 26 or 27 at the time. My mother and father were alive at the time, but I spend a lot of time out of the family because I had to go to another school. I have three brothers and one sister. At the time I was single but engaged. I was drafted to fight the Communists. There was a way to avoid the draft at the time because the medical college wanted me to stay with them and become one of the staff. If I did this, the military would leave me alone. The nation would not draft me because I could be teaching to build more physicians that the nation needed but I decided to go into the army. I don’t know why. It was a crazy act at that time.
I thought the war was a right war. If we don’t protect our family, our house, who is going to do that? That was my crazy thinking. I went into the army and I was thinking that I was doing the right thing to protect the South against Communism. I really don’t like Communism. By the time, I went into the South Vietnamese Army, there was a lot of demonstration against the war happening in the United States, especially after the 1968 Tet Offensive. The Vietnamese Communists considered that year as the turning point in the war because the American people turned out to not like the war and didn’t want their children to die 10,000 miles away from home.
The American government at that time, President Nixon, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, talked secretly with the North Vietnamese, and then forced the South Vietnamese government into an agreement with the Northern Communists. The agreement was signed in Paris in January 1973. According to the agreement, the United Stated armed forces would begin the withdrawal but not the North Vietnamese armed forces. They stayed in South Vietnam, wherever they were. I brought with me some newspapers that reflect what the Americans were thinking at the time. It is very graphic. I went in this morning and tried to go through all my files. I was almost late.
It is a very long story. I was talking about the turning point of the war. The American armed forces started the withdrawal and left the responsibility of fighting the war to the South Vietnamese Armed Forces. In the meantime, the North (the communists) received all the help from the Russians and the Chinese.
As the Americans were leaving, the North continued to receive help. According to the Paris Agreement, there should have been a sanction of military support or supplies to the North. There wasn’t. The agreement was that they were to stay where they were. One day after signing the agreement, they started to violate the agreement. They vowed that they were going to take the whole of South Vietnam with or without the agreement. The Americans withdrew and we had to fight the war by ourselves. At that time, I thought we were going to lose the war because we didn’t have any support from anyone other than ourselves. There was no way out. Two years after 1973, in April 1975, the Communists began a big offensive with tanks and artillery, and they took South Vietnam. We lost the war. The Communists rounded up every South Vietnamese serviceman and put them into prison camps, what they called re-education camps. So, I was taken there.
The life in the camp was terrible. We had to do labor work from six o’clock in the morning to six o’clock in the late afternoon. Rations were poor. After the first year, we said that everything that moved on the ground could be eaten. After the second year, we said that everything that exists on the ground could be eaten. We are everything that we saw. Hunger is a terrible thing. The only thing the prisoner thinks much of the time is, “What are we going to have to eat the next day?” Every day they have orders to the prisoners that you have to go into the forest or into the fields and do a certain thing, what they called “the duty of the prisoner,” to do whatever they assigned to you. The assignment is always over your physical condition and if you get sick that day, the assignment goes along with your ration. If you do 100% of what you need to do that day, you have a 100% ration but even with 100% ration you are still hungry, but you must do it. If you are sick one day, tomorrow your ration is going to go down to 50% and the next day 30%. If you are sick you are not allowed to stay home. You know you are going to die by starvation if you stay sick.
There had been many escapes by the prisoners at that time. In my room I had a close friend that one night talked to me about leaving the situation forever. I said, “What can I do more than this?” He laughed. He escaped that night. After that, I realized he wanted to say good-bye to me. He might not have trusted me enough to say what he wanted to say. I never saw him again, but I heard they were all killed on the way out.
There was another escape that happened in my camp two years later in 1977. This time, they were not friends of mine, but I knew them. One of them was a physician in the South Vietnamese Army. The next day they brought his body back to the camp and said he committed suicide. I didn’t believe them. They killed him. During the night, the Communists may go into your camp and pick up somebody, some prisoner and take them out and we’d never see them again. So, we don’t know what happened. After working a 12-hour day, we went back to our camp and we were not allowed to go to bed, even if we were tired. We had to sit up and talk about what we did during the day. I had to find something wrong with my friend in the group, to accuse him and he had to do the same thing to me. If I said I didn’t see anything wrong with him today, I am not a good prisoner. To become a good prisoner, I had to find something or create something, bad about my friend. He had to do the same thing to me. What they tried to do is divide us up, to create suspicion and distrust within us.
They always told us that if we were good prisoners we would be released soon and be reunited with our family. It was a beautiful thing they hung over our head. To get that, you must do this thing, tell bad about your friend, report to them whatever your friend says. If you don’t do these things, they even come in the night, pick you up, take you to their headquarters, offer you tea or a piece of cake for you to betray your friends. If you didn’t say anything to them when you went back to the camp, your friend is going to think, “What did he say over there?” “What did he do so that he has all of the privileges,” even is you didn’t tell anything. They created suspicion among us. That happened only in the first year. The second year, we knew their tactics, so we stuck together close. We told each other what they offered to us and that we didn’t tell them anything wrong.
Yes, that first year there was a lot of sedition among us, but the second year we knew that the beautiful thing they hung over us-the release day-is drawn cake, you can see it but you can’t eat it. We said that if we don’t love each other, nobody is going to love us.
We began to understand after a while. It takes time. It takes a lot of time before we realized that all those tactics were traps. The second and third years we realized that they were never going to release us and that we could possibly stay here the rest of our lives or until we died. If we don’t help or love each other, that’s bad. In fact, they released me after three years because my wife and mother bribed them. Before that time, even in the nighttime, we sleep close to each other. During the first year, we didn’t dare to talk to each other because we didn’t know who was going to report us but the second year we started to talk to each other about our families, our lives, what we did before prison time.
I think this helped. It created hope in us. That meant that we were not like them. We were human beings and didn’t use one human being against the other. Another thing is the Communists prohibited us from keeping knives, even a spoon or fork. We were not allowed to keep those things but as I mentioned to you before, a friend of mine who escaped, made a knife. We needed a knife to survive. If we caught an animal, we needed a knife to kill it and to do the cooking. He put it under his mat. They used to search our room two or three times a month, without letting us know when they were going to search. If you meet a civilian on the way to work, you are not allowed to communicate with them. If you do, they will shoot you. One of the prisoners, on the way to work, threw a piece of paper to one of the civilians, a note to his wife. The next day, they had a trial, to try him. We had to wake up early in the morning and go to the trial. When we went there, we saw a coffin. They dragged him up. They said this prisoner didn’t obey the rule of the camp. He wanted to relay a message to his wife, and this was forbidden.
They told us that if anybody wanted to stand up and defend the accused, they could. Of course, no one wanted to stand up. It made us feel helpless and demeaned.
There had been a suicide in the camp. You’re supposed to have nothing with you. Your belonging were only a pair of pants and a t-shirt. The rule of the camp prevents you from keeping even wire or string. If you see anything, you can’t take it back to the camp. One of the prisoners picked up some electrical wire. He hanged himself with the lock of the door, sitting. I don’t know how he did it, but he did. We were sad about what happened but talked about the fact that he released himself. He was no more there. What helped us survive is that we always said our bodies were there, but our minds were outside the fence. You can keep my body and do whatever you want to my body, but my mind is over there.
Fir the first few months we talked about the betrayal of the Americans. Whatever they said, they said they were going to be our ally. They said they were going to support us and defend our democracy. Where were they now? There was a lot of anger.
The communists didn’t want to shoot us because they said, “Why should we buy ammunition and shoot you? We’ll let you die by starvation or disease and nobody in the world is going to say we killed you. We didn’t kill you, you died by yourself.” To win in this situation was to keep alive. If you died, they won the fight. Do whatever you can to keep yourself alive. I think we were fighting but in a different way. No shooting at each other but in a different way.
I think we hated them during the first year but later, we talked to each other and said they were also prisoners. To keep us here, they have to stay here. They had a little bit more freedom than us, in that they could go to a city and buy something, but they spent all of their life around us. Why didn’t they let everyone go and go home and enjoy their family? It was ironic.
They did what they did because they were indoctrinated. They believe in something we didn’t believe in. They believe in Communism. I have a story about what was different about them and us.
Sometime in 1973, one of the South Vietnamese Army officers, a Lieutenant Colonel at that time, he was the commandant chief of the regiment of the South Vietnamese Army. During an operation he arrested a forty-year-old communist. His papers were found in his backpack. Within a half hour of the arrest a woman and her children, aged eight and ten came up to him and begged him to release her husband. The Lt. Colonel released the Communist. One of his subordinates said, “Colonel, we cannot do this because I already reported to the General that we caught a communist. He was a high-ranking Communist and we cannot release him to his family.” The Colonel said he would take on the responsibility of his release. The Communist went back to his wife and two children. In 1975, two years later, the same thing happened but the situation was the opposite. The prisoner captured was the Lt. Colonel and the one who arrested him was the Communist. The wife and children of the Lt. Colonel begged the Communist for his release, but the Communist said no. This is a true story. That is the difference. That is why we lost the war.
The way they think is not like we think. We don’t expect them to do whatever we do because they think differently. I was incredibly angry at them at the time but not now. They don’t think the way we think. I don’t blame them.
What changed my anger is a lot of inside thinking. Nobody was right during the war. The war was completely wrong. It was a war that nobody won. They didn’t win the war either.
I have tried to communicate with people about the camps. They don’t understand. They don’t take it seriously. Some did but most of them didn’t. I talked to you and you took it seriously, but some don’t. It’s okay because they didn’t go through it and how can I expect them to understand what happened?
I think people don’t want to listen. People like to forget about that war, like it never happened. They don’t want to have anything to do with that war because it was a wrong war. It was wrong few people benefited from that war. You and I did not benefit from that war. I only talk about it if people ask but I never initiate the story first. I thought they didn’t want to hear this kind of thing. It’s sad.
I think people know of these things. I think people know about torture and abuse but because life is so tense here people don’t have time or energy to think about these things.
I have been living here for ten years and I know how life is here. It’s not like life back in Viet Nam. We were very relaxed, even though there is killing all around every day, we are very relaxed. That is why we survived the war. The war has been going on over there for thirty years and has become a daily activity. How can you take war seriously? That everyday you can survive with that, everyday you wake up and eat breakfast, wake to see all those shootings and killings, it’s war. Does anybody expect a war with no killing? That’s not realistic.
It’s interesting to think of why I decided to talk to you. I’ve been telling myself that this is the last time I talk about this thing. My family is here, and I should put these things to rest and go on with my life. When I was in the camp, many friends of mine were sick with malaria, tuberculosis, liver disease. I don’t know what made them say this, but they said they didn’t think they were going to survive this camp. Anyone in our group had the chance to survive and go out of there and talk to people about what happened. I did survive and I think it is my duty to tell people. I don’t know whether my friends are out there looking at me and are happy or not, but I hope they won’t tell me not to talk anymore. I cannot live with this every day.
Before I went into the camp, I remember I was a very eager, competitive, happy person. When I got out of the camp, I was completely different. A friend of mine told me I was a philosopher when I got out of the camp. I said that might be true because that was the way to survive the camp, to say things that might not be realistic.
I have changed. Life doesn’t mean anything. You live today, you may die tomorrow. Before I went to camp, I was proud of myself, thinking that I’m different. I’m ready for some fun. I fought the war against the Communists. People avoided the draft, but I didn’t. One day in the camp I was on the way to go to labor. I went through the place that the Communists raised rice. I was so hungry at that time I wished no one was around so I could jump in and take some rice to eat. My friends were around, and I told myself I could not do that. So, I had nothing. I did not have the right to say or do anything. I was like an animal when I was hungry. I lost all my pride, my self-esteem. You have nothing to be proud of.
They said we were nothing and not to expect the other people to have something. If they treat you like that it’s because of something they believe in. It’s not their fault. Under some circumstances people can do something that they never thought they could do. I never thought in my life that I would compete for a piece of rice. I was very bad when I was hungry. I don’t know what happened at the time but many of my friends gave their food to me. I didn’t remember how I behaved but they told me to eat this. They said they were full and for me to eat some, but I know for sure they were not full. Nobody is full in the camp. I think I was saying something about wanting to die, and how could I live like this and be hungry every day? That is when they gave me some of their food.
I have become more easy to cry. I almost never cried before the prison term. It’s quite easy to be sad but I’ve become very forgiving. I try to understand how other people are behaving because I went through some kind of behavior I never thought I would do in my life. I remember a friend of mine. He was so hungry that he went into the kitchen and stole some of the rice. He was caught by the Communists. They brought him up in front of us and said he was stealing our food. He stood up and said he was not stealing anything, that he was just very hungry and went into the kitchen to get something to eat. They said he was stealing from the people. I don’t know what happened that day. They put him in a deprivation container for five days, but they didn’t do more than that. He got out not able to stand but only to crawl.
I think family is one of the ingredients that was necessary for me to survive. I had been dreaming that one day I would see them again, and that kept me alive. One day I would see my wife and sons again. My family is here with me. They kept me alive.
I have become more a easy-going father. I think before the prison time, whatever my children or wife did that I thought was wrong I would tell them right away. But after that, whatever they do is okay. I want to see them happy. Whatever they do, if they feel it is right for them to do, is okay. I lost my pride. Right or wrong, I don’t have those kinds of things now. I’m like other people.
My family had a difficult time. They were living extremely hard by the time I was in the camp. I didn’t spend much of my time with the family. I’ve been married twenty-three years. When I was drafted into the army, I married my wife. Two or three weekends after that I was stationed right at the front, away from my wife. After the war, I was in prison camp for years. When I was released, I escaped by boat and then got to the United States. Seven years later, in 1990, they came here to join me because I filed the papers here. Two years before the war, years in prison…when I tried to escape, I was caught two times, so I spent two more years in prison camp for a total of five years. Then I spent seven years in the United States alone. Of all the twenty-three years we’ve been married, I’ve been with my family only about nine years. One of my sons behaved impolitely and I corrected him. I said that’s not the way to behave and that he should be polite. It’s sad. Maybe that is the way that I wanted it. When I graduated from medical school, they were ashamed that I can stay there, that I would chose that way. I think that is why I choose to go into the military.
I am responsible for some of the situation, at that time. But then after that, it was on that decision that these things followed. You made a wrong decision. You must bear the results.
The reeducation camp experience influenced my understanding of everything. During the prison time…I am a Buddhist and the Buddhist prisoners said there was no Buddha at all. If there is Buddha, why are these animals here to do all these ugly things? I hear from Christian people that there is no God, that God should kill these people. Later, I didn’t hear anything like that—after the first year.
I am still a Buddhist. I think the serious thing that affects me is to see all my values, all of what I believed in, turn out to be wrong.
I was proud of myself then what happened in the camp and I felt that I don’t have anything to be proud of. I’m supposed to be the breadwinner in the family, but my wife had to do all those things when I was in the camp. Yes, I felt ashamed. Yes, I think that was the first feeling. Then I came to the point that I have nothing, so there is no shame, because I am nothing.
If society expects you to be like this or like that, I have nothing. I don’t have to be like that. I’m what I am. So, now I don’t feel shame. You feel shame when somebody expects you to be something but you’re not. Or you expect yourself to be something but you’re not, so you feel shame. I don’t have anything and don’t expect myself to be anybody. I just expect myself to be a human being, doing what my heart tells me to do. When you become nothing, you don’t have to make any decisions. You just let life drift.
I’m not happy with that, but I try to like it. What is the important decision I must do? I made it, the wrong one, the decision to go into the army.
I’m not doing what I’m trained to do. I get up in the morning, do what I must do and go home, just like a machine. I have no interest in what I’m doing, I try to find something interesting, to idealize. The sad feeling is in there. Trying to do something and it turns out to be another thing. I would like to go back to being a doctor. I think that’s what I’d like, but I want to put it aside because it may not be realistic.
I know for sure it is not going to happen. I often think about that. I miss it because it’s something inside. When I went into medical school, I didn’t think I’d make a lot of money, but I loved to help people. What I thought may not be right, but…I don’t know…
Not being able to do this, it is also makes you become helpless. It’s another thing added in, that you’re helpless. You have nothing. The ability to make decisions is related to the helplessness.
So, what I am saying is that not having a sense of expectation yourself or living up to the expectations of others is really about helplessness.
In the first year in the camp, we didn’t trust each other at all. But later on, I was telling myself that it doesn’t make any sense to not to trust my friend because they trust me. They got me food when I was hungry. The distrust happened again when I got out of the camp. When I got into the real life. I was under the Communism regime even when I was out of the camp. I had to report to the Communist authority everywhere. Even outside of the camp I had to write down what I did every day until I reported to them. What I had done, where I went, to whom I spoke. I became distrustful again. I lied to them. I lied very well.
The second time when I tried to escape, I was caught by the Communists. If you were in a re-education camp and tried to escape, the penalty was death. They would have shot me. So, I had to lie. I had to completely redo a whole story about my life, a whole name, a new age, different address. When they called me up for interrogation, they said they didn’t believe me. They told me they thought I was one of the South Vietnamese Officers. They didn’t believe that I didn’t have anything to do with the war. I told them I was a civilian, but they didn’t believe that. They said to tell the truth and if I lied, they’d shoot me. I had to decide very fast whether to tell them the truth or keep going with my story. If I tell them the truth, I’d already lied to them and they’ll shoot me. If I lie, I have fifty per cent chance that they will believe my story. So I lied.
Sometimes, the distrust, it comes back sometimes. I still notice a distrust of people in political power. I hate them at the first encounter, but then realize and rationalize that I have no relationship with them. The first time I saw the police, I looked at myself and checked to see if I was doing anything wrong. That was my first reaction. I realize now, that here, it is safe.
I’d like to tell you another story about how my family has been affected by the time I was in the camp. When I was released from the camp, I went back to my family, but I was not allowed to live there. I had to go to a new economic zone and my family lived in the city. My second son was about five years old at that time and I lived irregularly in the house. The company system is that you have 10 families under the supervision of one communist security officer. My five-year-old son whenever he saw that man would tell me to hide because he was there. I was very hurt because at that age he didn’t deserve those kinds of fears. I feel that I am the one who created all those fears, and am a burden for the family, and I tried to escape. Escaping by boat is like suicide. It was very risky, but I was telling myself that I was a burden to the family. I shouldn’t live there in the house even if they loved me very much. What I brought back to them was fear, was the discrimination.
For a few years when I got out, and for the first few years when I came here to the United States, I had nightmares. I’d wake up and have a dream that I was still in the camp. I would wake up with a lot of fear and later realize I was here in the United States. I hated knocks at the door, because in the camp whenever we heard a knock at the door something bad was going to happen in the nighttime. Even when I went back to my house, I was afraid because they can go into your house and search at any time they want. They would knock at your door at midnight, like death. I hated that.
Most of the time in the camp, I was not there, my mind was elsewhere, but not since I’m out. They had my body, but they did not have my mind. My mind was outside the fence. You cannot break my mind, you can break my body, that’s okay. In the camp, yes, I wanted to die, but not outside the camp. Inside the camp, I wanted to die many times.
My physical condition became weaker in the camp as did my mental condition. I became another person. Very passive, very forgiving, very lazy—don’t do anything. I had to try to do whatever I had to do, but I don’t try anything that is going to be better. I don’t know why. I was telling myself what happened if I only die? What is important for me now if I would have died ten years ago? What is important? I’m already dead. Then a few years later, recently, I thought they had broken my mind. When I was in the camp, I didn’t realize it, but now I realize that what they did in the end may have affected my mind, but I didn’t know this until recently. I don’t believe it’s ever the same afterwards. Maybe they did break my mind and I don’t realize it. If they did, they won the battle.
It is not a good thing, but it’s okay whatever it is. I have been telling myself and a friend of mine that the damage is beyond fixing. Don’t ty to fake it because it’s beyond fixing. Just put it to rest and go on with your new life, as if all those things never happened. Forget it, don’t repeat it, don’t say it again, just forget it. Go on like you were born today. I don’ know how to fix it even if I tried. I think about it every day. It’s sad but I don’t know how to get rid of it. I believe the damage is beyond fixing.
I try to see one of my friends. She’s a psychologist. She’s had no experience with dealing with these things. There is a difference in the culture, something that cannot be imposed on another culture, something like psychology, it doesn’t work well.
For example, saying good about yourself. Back in Vietnam, we are taught we should be humble. We were taught to be very humble. Let the other say good about yourself, but never say good about yourself. That is one point. Or with expressing yourself and your emotions, we try to express our emotions by converting it into a physical condition. In my thinking, I may say I have a bad headache. In my society, we don’t talk about our feelings, our thoughts, our fears, only about physical problems.
It has helped to talk about this. It helps me now. Every time you talk about it now, you feel lighter. You don’t feel heavy, there’s a drop in your sadness.
My wife became very generous to me. Even my children. They told me I’ve been through a lot, to relax and take my time. They tell me they’ll help me. They tell me not to take a lot of responsibility on myself. My children have grown up now, are working and helping me pay the bills. My wife is working, too. In fact, my working hours have been cut to twenty hours per week, not forty hours like it used to be. I have a lot of support in the family. I’m very happy to have the family.
My family helped me to survive in the camp and under the communist regime when I was out of the camp, and over the seven years of separation. I didn’t have a single day that I didn’t think about them. At the time, of separation I feel a lot of guilt and shame. Whenever I eat something or sleep in a warm place, I think about them. There is not a single day I didn’t think about them during those seven years. Sometimes I would tell myself to forget about them for a little while so I could go on with my life, be happy. Whenever I thought about them, I feel sad because they were in Viet Nam and I was here. These things I ate, they didn’t have back there. I sleep in a safe place, they don’t.
With the people who are new to the United States, I tried my best to understand them. Two or three years ago, the U.S. Government signed an agreement with the Vietnamese Communists to let those people, like me, come to the United States. Many of them are here. Whenever they go through a tough situation, I like to go over and they come to my house and ask for my experience. I’ve been telling them what I went through. Most of them try awfully hard to hide their emotions, I know, but those emotions surface another way in the family, for example, conflict between father and children, husband and wife. The children have been Americanized very quick. They learn things from school and when they come home the conflict of the two generations happens. They come to me and say they don’t know why their children, or their wife doesn’t listen to them anymore.
I know it helps for them because I know they went through things I went through in the camp, maybe sometimes their experience was worse than mine and I want them to be happy and to accept the change. The change is too fast, and we cannot catch up, we are not young. Most of us are over fifty years old, some sixty.
When I go out and help the other people, I am also helping myself.
For me, seeing the victims of the Hurricane Andrew in Florida and the earthquake in Los Angeles, seeing those images on the TV re-created what I’d been through in the camp, losing my house, losing close relatives, losing everything. There is a chance for these victims to make their life again. A chance to remake their lives, because many of the people who went through this won’t lose a career or weren’t trained to fight. These situations remind me of what a slim chance we have to live the rest of our lives. It is very slim.
I like to be close to the people who have gone through this. We try to group together. We identify together.
Buddhism says that the root of our unhappiness is greed, ignorance, and anger. So, you try to resolve all of them. That helped, even the time in the camp, to see the Communists not having authority either, in a different way.
People need something to believe in, to survive. Good people die soon in the camp. I don’t know why. People that I saw as good perished, either suicide or by other deaths. They were so good that they couldn’t be mixed up with those bad things—that was not the place they should be.
I am pleased with the fact that my children are doing good in school, I like that very much. My wife loves me very much. There has been no single instance. She wants to please me in any way. I think that is special treatment for me because of her understanding.
I have wondered if there is any treatment for me or for friends of mine leaving there and still struggling with what they went through. Can anybody find a way to help us? I think we need help, but we don’t know where or how to get that help.
I have gone through talking about this many times. I have been struggling with myself every day about what to do to put all those things to rest, but that is unrealistic. I know I am thinking about this thing every day. Every one of my behaviors, my reaction mechanisms, I draw from all those experiences in whatever I am doing now. So how can I forget if I use all those experiences to deal with people now?
We must be realistic about this, you become another person, a survivor. You cannot go back to what you were before. I’m telling you about me. I cannot go back to what I was before, but I may become a new person, a survivor.