February 27

Never fall down


Neverfalldown2It’s a while since I’ve read a book the likes of this one.  I won’t be forgetting this story.  It’s written by Patrical McCormick.  It’s a novel, but based on the true story of Ahn Chorn-Pond, a young man who survived the Killing Fields of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge.  This is not a comfortable read and nor should it be.  We learn how Ahn’s family life, safety and happiness disappeared with the appearance of the Khmer Rouge, forcing him and thousands of other Cambodians into work camps where human life was not valued and atrocities were an everyday occurrence.  What is intriguing is the camaraderie and loyalty which grew up among those that Ahn became associated with in the work camp.  Although starving, we see in the book many occasions where much sought after food is given away to friends, one child protects another and keeps secrets to keep the other alive.  For Ahn, survival came in the form of music.  He was chosen to be involved in a band or orchestra which played patriotic songs of the Khmer Rouge.  We see the “power” afforded to Ahn as a result of this, and how it ensures his survival, and a marginally easier existence.  His journey to freedom in Thailand,  is fraught with danger and even when there, the poisonous tentacles of the Khmer Rouge are still present and dangerous.  Ahn’s final deliverance from danger is miraculous. Ahn Chorn-Pond is now a world renowned speaker on the topics of Cambodia and he founded Children of War, an organisation that aids children held hostage by war and violence.    He is the founder of Cambodian Living Arts, a group that helps preserve the traditional arts of Cambodia by pairing young students with the feew master musicians who survived the Khmer Rouge.