HOF060: Kingkeo Savejvong

Kingkeo Savejvong was born in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. She was the eldest child of the family. She lived a part of her childhood in Marseille, France from 1966 to 1973. Soon after the family’s return to Laos, the Communist regime was established in the country.

Her father was a public servant and her mother was a midwife. Soon after the social and economic upheaval in Laos, her father and many of his colleagues were sent to re-education camps. Her father was held in the camps for about 2 years. During that time, her mother continued to work while looking after the children. In their father’s absence, she and her siblings needed to “grow up” quickly given their circumstances.

After two years, her father was finally released from the camp. For a time, the family continued its usual routine until one day, when the youngest daughter disappeared. Her parents were frantic to learn about her whereabouts. They were eventually told that their daughter and her school mates were sent to Vietnam to pursue their studies under the new Communist regime.

That experience was what prompted her parents to make the decision to leave the country as they feared for their other children. Her parents first arranged for the family to stay with a relative and then her father was able to pay for them to be ferried across the Mekong River.

The family managed to reach Thailand where they hid in tobacco fields the first night of their arrival. The following day, they walked to a small town and were directed to the local police. The family was jailed temporarily until Red Cross officials arrived to claim the refugees. The family was held in a transition camp for a short time and then transferred to the Non Khai refugee camp where they remained for approximately three months.

Ms. Savejvong obtained a job as an interpreter during her stay at the camp. She worked with both the United Nations and with Canadian Immigration. She and her family were offered asylum in Canada. Her parents were reluctant to go at first, unsure about what to expect. Her mother wanted to return to France because of their past experiences as former French residents.

She was determined to go to Canada and eventually convinced her parents to choose Canada as their final destination. The family arrived at CFB Longue-Point in Montreal in October 1979 and after a short stay were sponsored by a group of Catholic parishioners from Louiseville in the East of the Province of Quebec.

Ms. Savejvong eventually settled in Montreal where she pursued her studies. She continues to work as a registered massage therapist in Montreal.