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Ke Zia’s Refugee Story

Ke Zia is from Mae La Mo refugee camp in Thailand and also lived in Myanmar (Burma)

I was born in Thi Moe Te village which is in Thailand. We are four siblings; three girls and one boy.
Thi Moe Te village broke into two parts during a civil war in 1995 between DKBA (Democratic Karen Buddhist Army) and KNU (Karen National Union). The village is split into two parts, one on the Thailand side and one on the Burma side. I was born on the Thai side but my family are from the Burmese side. I started school when I was five years old. My father passed away when I was seven years old. After my father passed away, my family moved back to the Burmese side of the village. I continued school in that village until I was 11 years old.
I still remember when I lived in Burma, all the adults in our village dug into the ground to hide from the Burmese. Early in the morning all the parents feed their children and send them to hide underground. The adults tell us that if the enemy comes, they will explode the bomb. Then in the afternoon parents come and get their children and feed them again. All the adult people stay in the village and stay alert to the situation. If the enemy comes, the adults will hide underground. The adults say that when the enemy comes they are afraid that the children cannot run fast enough to hide underground, so the children must stay hidden. I was very young so I don’t know very much what was going on at the time.
When I was 11 years, there was a war between DKBA and KNU called the Manar Blaw War. There was fighting every day. That is why we had to run away from our village. We moved to Mae La Mo refugee camp in Thailand.
My whole family includes my grandmother and father’s family. There were a lot of refugees like us in the refugee camp. In the camp I continued my education. I grew up in Mae La Mo refugee camp. When I lived in the refugee camp, I felt no freedom because we could not go out of the camp. When I was living there, in 2009, our family heard that the American Government accepts Karen refugees for resettlement. Our family discussed resettlement into the United States and we decided to come to this country. Our family came to the United States on April 10, 2013.
When I arrived in America, I felt that everything was very new for me. When I lived in my country in the refugee camp, I never saw tall buildings or different kinds of people or different cultures from different countries. Also the transportation is very smooth and we don’t have to be afraid of the police. It’s very different from when we lived in Thi Moe Te village and the Thai refugee camp. Now I have lived in America for 20 days.
Ke Zia offered this story through participation in the Pre‐Employment Project. This is an employment service for new arrivals provided by our DHS partner, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) of Portland.