Monoram Hang was a nine-year-old living in Phnom Penh when the Khmer Rouge came to power in Cambodia. His father was a Commander in the Army and was killed almost immediately. His mother had given birth only two days before and the whole family was made to leave their home and walk out of the city about 50 kilometers into the jungle. They were split up and sent to different work camps. In 1984 or 1985, his brother helped him cross into Thailand where he lived without permission in a refugee camp. He then received medical training and met his American sponsor, coming to Minnesota in 1988.
One of 13 children, Henry Nelson was born Chaophan Raksmey in 1954 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In 1975, he was a student living in Battambang. The Khmer Rouge came into town and captured his father who was a captain in the army. He is presumed to have been executed. Nelson and his remaining family members were sent out into the jungle with the rest of the village and made to work in work camps. He survived multiple attempts on his life before escaping to Thailand. Nelson worked with the Vietnamese and other groups as an interpreter. He came to the United States in 1982 and was eventually reunited with one sister in Minnesota. Nelson changed his name several times while on the run from the Khmer Rouge; he took the name Henry Nelson when he became a U.S. citizen.
Chamreun Tan grew up primarily in Battambang City in Cambodia. He was working as a police officer in Phnom Penh City on April 17, 1975 when the Khmer Rouge came to power. He became separated from his parents and siblings and was sent to the village Phum Chhouk to work for the Khmer Rouge until 1979. He married in 1981. Tan attempted to leave Cambodia more than once and was sent back, eventually living in Thai refugee camps until coming to the United States in 1984. He held a variety of jobs in Minnesota and at the time of the interview was a financial worker for Ramsey County.
Thaly Chhour was displaced from her home village during the fighting that preceded the Khmer Rouge regime. She moved with her family to Phnom Penh City where they lived until 1975. She was 14 when the Khmer Rouge came to power. Her father and brothers died in 1976. Her sisters and mother survived, despite starvation and repeated illnesses, but were not better off in the refugee camps near the Thai-Cambodian border. After they arrived at Khao-I-Dang refugee camp they were sponsored to come to the United States. They arrived in Minnesota in 1981.
Sumaya Yusuf and Bibi Abdalla
Sumaya Yusuf and Bibi Abdalla were part of a group of fifteen young Somali women from St. Paul public schools who worked with the Minnesota Historical Society on the Somali Skyline Tower Oral History Project. In 2004, this group created two films about what it is like to be Somali in Minnesota: “Two Homes, One Dream: The Somalis in Minnesota” and “What’s with the Hijab?”
Hared Mah grew up in Somalia and lived in Kenya before moving to the United States in 2001. He attended Wellstone International High School and at the time of the interview had been accepted at the University of Minnesota.
Mohamed Jama was born in Nairobi, Kenya but grew up in Somalia. Jama moved to Minnesota in 1992 with his immediate family. At the time of the interview he worked as a teen outreach worker for the Street Works program.
Maryan Del came to the United States from Somalia in 1992, when she was 14. Del lived in Virginia with her aunt before moving to Minnesota in 1996, when she was a senior in high school. At the time of the interview she worked for the Confederation for the Somali Community and was head of the Somali Girls Power program.
Yang Cha Ying
Yang Cha Ying immigrated to the United States on October 7, 1980. Prior to his immigration he was an assistant to the mayor of Por Far, Laos. Yang Cha Ying also served as a soldier from 1950-1953. At the time of the interview he was retired, though he acted as an advisor for the police when making domestic calls.
See Lee was born in Thaj Thoos, Loom Heej province, Laos, around 1920. She is a Blue Hmong. She did not attend school. Her maiden clan name is Lee and she married into the Yang clan. She married her husband when she was sixteen and they had seven children; her husband was still living at the time of the interview. They immigrated to the U.S. in 1980.