LISTENING PROJECT: Escape from the Killing Fields

Hoy Yi is from Cambodia, although he has been living here in Petersburg for over 20 years. In this compelling interview with co-worker Erik Holl, Hoy tells the dramatic story of how he survived the “Killing Fields” of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s. Their conversation happened to take place on the 25th anniversary of the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia, April 17, 1975 .

For four years, Hoy and his family were forced to live and work on a cooperativefarm in a very small village, far from their home. They lived in a rough shelter Hoy built out of mango leaves and grasses.  A former elementary school teacher, Hoy became a delivery man, dragging rice on a trailer behind his bike from one cooperative farm to the other. Hoy’s life was threatened five times, because the Khmer Rouge suspected teachers and other professionals as enemies. Hoy’s life was spared each time by the intervention of the “president” of his cooperative farm. In the excerpt below he tells the chilling tale of how he waited up one night waiting to be taken out and executed. 

Hoy’s survival and escape story are inspiring. He also tells of the daunting task of remaking a life, coming to the U.S. with no money and learning English and eventually getting a degree in diesel mechanics. He was hired by Mitkof Lumber Company in the 1980’s, and has been here since. Perhaps you know Hoy from his big smile and friendly greeting as he works as both a mechanic and janitor for the City, or from seeing  the beautiful Tiger Lilies planted in his garden along Haugen Drive.