Gen­er­a­tions gather for refugee re­union

Central Leader - - NEWS - By TAO LIN

It was 1939 and China was suf­fer­ing the dev­as­ta­tion of an invasion by Ja­pan.

Thirty women and chil­dren fled the de­struc­tion and headed to New Zealand. Twelve of them came from the small vil­lage of Hargee in south China.

Sev­enty-five years later, de­scen­dants and rel­a­tives of those 12 sur­vivors gath­ered for a re­union at the Chi­nese Com­mu­nity Cen­tre in Man­gere.

One of the or­gan­is­ers, He­len Wong, says around 100 peo­ple turned up, aged from 10 to 97 years old.

The idea for the re­union arose around 2005 when a small group met and de­cided the time was right to gather ev­ery­one to­gether and put the older peo­ple in touch with the younger gen­er­a­tion, Ms Wong says.

‘‘The younger peo­ple didn’t know about the hard­ships the older peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enced.’’

A panel spoke at the re­union about their mem­o­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences of the vil­lage. Many pho­tos were on dis­play which ap­pealed to the younger guests, Ms Wong says.

‘‘They thought it was valu­able in learn­ing about where their fam­i­lies came from.’’

The refugees were ini­tially al­lowed in the coun­try on a twoyear per­mit but were granted per­mis­sion to stay af­ter the New Zealand Chi­nese As­so­ci­a­tion and the Pres­by­te­rian Church pe­ti­tioned the gov­ern­ment.

Many of the fam­i­lies set up fruit shops or worked for some­one who owned one. None of them own fruit shops now, Ms Wong says.

‘‘Par­ents wanted the best for their chil­dren. Those who came have made quite a good life for them­selves. They have been very suc­cess­ful.’’

Percy Kai Fong, whose fa­ther came from Hargee, was one of the pan­el­lists at the re­union. He was born in Ro­torua but has been go­ing back to the vil­lage reg­u­larly since 1993.

It has de­vel­oped greatly since he first vis­ited, with mod­ern hous­ing now built all around it.

The re­union was a chance for ev­ery­one from Hargee to get to­gether, he says.

‘‘I know quite a few peo­ple but there were still a lot I didn’t know.’’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.