WILMINGTON - On May 26th at 7 p.m., the Wilmington Library will host “Stories of Survival” - a Living History event featuring two courageous and inspirational speakers. The firsthand accountings of their unbelievable struggles provide a message of hope and strength to anyone facing adversity in their life.
Seng Ty, a survivor of the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, will explain how he, as a seven-year-old boy, lost his home, his family, and his world. His five-year ordeal is unimaginable to us today. Yet he managed, on his own, to make it to safety. His story has been featured in nationwide media sources such as Time magazine and 60 Minutes.
Mary Recko, a survivor of the Holocaust, was living in occupied Poland during World War II. She will share how she and her family were taken from their home after the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. A mere child of five, she was kept with her mother in a concentration camp. She tells her story through the recollections of her own nightmares and the stories shared by her mother.
“There is something powerful about survivors’ personal stories,” says Charlotte Wood Assistant Library Director. “And what happened to these two happened during our lifetime.” She firmly believes people will learn much, but also be encouraged and inspired by the presentations. “World War II wasn't that long ago and what happened in Cambodia sound so foreign. It's like science fiction to us. But it did happen. They are witnesses to what happened.” Wood feels with all the trouble spots in the world today, the stories are truly meaningful and relevant.
Registration is required and begins 30 days prior to the event. Register at www.wilmlibrary.org/events or by calling 978-658-2967.
Seng Ty: An orphan on the streets in war torn Cambodia
As the United States was leaving Vietnam in 1975, in Cambodia the Khmer Rouge extremist guerrilla forces took control of their government. As a young boy, Seng Ty was thrilled as many others were, because the Khmer Rouge seemed to promise peace and stability to the war torn area. It wasn't long, really only a matter of hours, before they learned that it was all propaganda.
The Khmer Rouge plan was to establish a new order. To do this, they would remove people from the cities and send them to rural areas as laborers. Many would simply be executed. Minorities were targeted. Ty and his family were forced to march with thousands of others from their home into the jungles. His family was separated, and eventually he would find himself working in the rice fields of northeast Cambodia, near the Thailand border.
He was in the “Killing Fields.” Disease, malnutrition, and overwork would kill many people. Random executions would take many more. It is estimated well over a million people died under the regime of terror.
The Vietnamese invaded Cambodia in 1979 to end the reign of brutality and genocide. But the country was still in a state of great instability and poverty. At the age of 12, Ty lived on the streets alone. He eventually made his way to a refugee orphanage in Thailand and then to the US in 1982.
Mary Recko: A child who stood in front of a Nazi firing squad
Nazi Germany overran Poland in 1939. In 1944 there was an uprising in Warsaw as the Polish people tried to take their country back. It failed, and in the aftermath then 5-year old Mary Recko was taken from her home with her parents and one sister. “Germans with guns came into our house and took us,” she says. “Whatever we had on, that was all we brought with us.” They were marched into a field-like park area where she lived in fear for seven days. Then they were transported by train to concentration camps, and the real terror began.
Recko is lucky to be alive for all the obvious reasons. But also because she and her mother and sister were actually in front of a firing squad. The execution was stopped by a German officer. And Recko is not Jewish. She represents just one of the over five million non-Jews who were also persecuted and/or killed by the Nazis.
After the war ended, she spent five years in “displaced persons camps.” They tried to go home, but there was nothing to go home to. Warsaw had been destroyed. The struggle to find and rebuild a new life continued. Eventually the opportunity to come to the United States was presented and she, together with what was left of her family, came here.