Cambodian Princess to share her story at SH Author talk

Having endured Khmer Rouge, Oni Vitandham publishes her account of survival
The Friends of the Signal Hill Library will present author Oni Vitandham, who will discuss On the Wings of a White Horse: A Cambodian Princess’s Story of Surviving the Khmer Rouge Genocide Monday, April 28.
It is her account of being an infant princess hidden in the jungle by her royal father for protection, only to become an orphan at the hands of the Khmer Rouge army. Later, she becomes a refugee on the streets of America.
Never knowing her parents, she was raised by godparents in a secluded cave in the Kompong Speu province of Cambodia. On April 17, 1975, the Khmer Rouge invaded Cambodia, beginning what would become a genocidal massacre of the Khmer people and their culture.
That same day, Oni’s godmother left the safety of the cave to gather food, but she never returned.
What began as a search for her godmother developed into a quest for her own survival. At the age of four years old, she witnessed the murders of both her godparents by Khmer Rouge soldiers and spent the next seven years of her life as a refugee in her own country, wandering the brutal terrain of Cambodia, then Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. She was captured by foreign armies on several occasions and placed into labor camps, but miraculously was able to find the means to escape each time.
Nonetheless the innocence that is in the heart of every child was taken from her and in its place remained the fear of mortar fire, land-mines, starvation, disease, and violence. Death was something she witnessed every single day.
Eventually, Oni arrived at a refuge camp in Thailand from which she was able to immigrate to the United States at the age of eleven, but her dreams of a new, peaceful life in America would not be realized for many years to come. Although free from the immediate threat of war, as an orphan and immigrant she was far from freedom.
During her teenage years, Oni was faced with the challenge of adapting to the culture of a new country without the support of family or friends. Her guardians in America were abusive and cruel, and it began to seem as though she was losing her will to survive. The obstacles she faced began to loom larger and larger before her, pushing her to the breaking point.
After years of struggling, she finally managed to establish a productive life on her own here- although it would be many more years until Oni would truly come to terms with her past. In so doing, she learned to embrace her future and become a voice for the country and people she left behind.
Copies of On the Wings of a White Horse will be available for purchase at this free presentation at the Signal Hill Park Community Center Monday, April 28 at 7 p.m. For more information, contact Carole Molloy at (562) 989-7323.

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