Kamp Girl’s Story

By Tsultrim Dolma

I was born in the late 1960s in a small village in eastern Tibet. From a small age, I heard and saw that our town officials did not treat their own villagers well. It made no sense to me. Why were they punishing their people who had done nothing wrong?

I didn’t understand because family and neighbors were afraid to tell me in case town officials overheard. When I asked questions, I would get slapped because the grownups were afraid.

There weren’t many old men in the village. They had died fighting the Chinese or were in prison. Some young boys dressed as girls so the Chinese would not kill them.

The Chinese took people’s land away and made it communal. They made my father work in a different town and my mother had to work the farm. When she went to work, she wrapped blankets around my brother, my sister and me and tied our legs so we wouldn’t get hurt. She would come home to feed us lunch and then go back to work in the fields until night.

Everybody was hungry. Their faces were so swollen from eating grain that you couldn’t see their eyes. I remember kids lying on the road because they were too weak to move. Thankfully, this wasn’t true for my family. My parents had a little barley and a yak so we had milk to drink. My parents fed me overnight and then we’d go outside to get the smell of food off so the town officials wouldn’t take the food away.

I wanted badly to get an education. There was no school in our village, but I could get an education in the nunnery in Lhasa. I ran away to Lhasa without telling my parents. I had to walk for over a month. When I got to Lhasa, I saw protests with flags that said, “Free Tibet” and “Chinese go home.” I wondered who the Chinese were, because no one spoke of this in my village.

For three years, I lived with my aunt who was a nun. I became her student and learned about our people’s history. One April I joined a protest demanding Tibetan freedom and human rights. The Chinese threw tear gas and took us to prison. They handcuffed us behind our backs, tied our ankles together and beat us. They came to interview us every day and used different torture methods. They kept us in the sun all day with no food or water. They used electric shock.

I was in prison for about four months. When I returned home, the people in my village secretly thanked me and gave me food, but they said I should leave because it was unsafe. Some told me to go to India because the Dalai Lama was there. Others said to go to the U.S. where there was always food, lots of land, and beautiful sunsets.

I walked for almost a year and escaped to India. If the Chinese had caught me, they would have put me in prison for life or killed me because I had spoken out. In 1992, I was able to come to the U.S. In 2002, I became a citizen.

A lot of Tibetan people have the same story.

""Tsultrim Dolma is from Tibet. She has lived in Amherst since 2008. She works at UMass from 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. five days a week. She comes to The Literacy Project, Amherst, four days a week from 9:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. When she was young, she worked on a farm with her mom and papa.


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