HOF134: Milana Ward

When the war ended in 1975, Milana Ward’s father received word from a contact that he was targeted to be sent to a labour camp and would not be safe under the new Pathet Lao regime. He and his wife decided to leave behind their life and careers in Vientiane, Laos. He was a pharmacist and she was a nurse. They made their way to the home of Milana’s maternal grandparents on the border town of Savannakhet. In 1980, her father successfully crossed the Mekong River into Thailand. Soon after, Milana, along with her mother and sister, followed suit with the assistance of her grandfather. They disguised themselves as fishermen, hid five-year-old Milana and her older sister under a pile of banana leaves in the hull of a fishing boat, and made a risky attempt to cross the Mekong in broad daylight. Once they crossed the river, they were reunited with her father and made their way to a refugee camp. Milana’s father, who was fluent in French, volunteered with the camp medical services, making contacts that would help the family resettle in Canada after a relatively short stay of six months.