(A second version by Elaina Weber follows)
By Emma Kilroy
When I was young we lived in a small village. I was the oldest of seven siblings (there were three sets of fraternal twins after me!). Daisy Leung was telling her immigration story at an advanced English as a Second Language class at the Consortium for Worker Education in Chelsea.
My mother was a farmer. My father, I don’t know what he did. He wasn’t a farmer. Maybe he did business then? But we moved to Hong Kong to escape Communism. We were very poor, going from being farmers to living in Hong Kong. Then my dad worked for his brother’s company. It was my grandfather’s business, but my father’s older brother inherited it, so my father worked for his brother. We lived in the mountains because we were still very poor, and very simple. We had to walk up three hundred stairs to get home every day! But I got to go to school in Hong Kong in the city.
When I was a teenager, my father left his brother’s company and became successful with one of his friends in a business venture. He was an agent for importing concrete from Japan to China. He did well and we had some more money, so we moved into the city. But because my family was from poverty, we continued to save and live simply. My father wanted to leave some money to his children, but only for the purpose of studying. I finished my education in a university in Hong Kong, and then I worked as a teacher for a bit.
Afterwards, I graduated from secretary school in London. I met my husband there. He finished college in Taiwan, and we were married. He was also very poor. My husband’s father had been a great general in the Second World War, in Taiwan, which wasn’t Communist. He was best friends with the president, the last Qing emperor, and was one of the only three people at his funeral.
My brother came to America in 1984 to go to college. He stayed and got a house. He wanted to bring my whole family over, but my sister and I were already married, so we didn’t qualify. He found a lawyer to help us, and we came to New York in 1989 during the Communist Revolution. 1989 was very famous all over the world for Tiananmen Square. We watched it on TV through the night all the time.
Today my son has come to New York to study at Columbia. My daughter ilves in China, and she also shas gone to study in London as I did.
By Elaina Weber
Daisy Leung, a Chinese immigrant who agreed to talk about her story of coming the United States, was born in rural China, but her parents soon fled with their children to Hong Kong to evade Communist policies and to find a better food source for their family. In the village where they settled, Daisy’s mother was a farmer. Her father was a businessman, maybe, or someone who crafted; Daisy could not recall.
“We didn’t have anything. No money, we borrowed that,” Daisy stated.
The family even borrowed jobs. Daisy’s father worked for his brother’s company, which was given to him by their father when he could no longer run it. When the company fell through, Daisy’s family had nothing left to borrow, and her family fled for a house in the mountains.
Here, though work wasn’t easy, they finally had enough to eat.
“The food was very simple, and I was very young. To eat, I needed to walk down 300 stairs to a well for water, then 300 stairs back up again,” Daisy recalled. “I was always exhausted forever.”
This trip discouraged Daisy from doing most things, including going into town and even going to school. However, her father had a dream for her. Daisy, the oldest of seven siblings, would go to America to study, and she would live a more comfortable life than he had.
When Daisy’s father found a job working as an agent of concrete sales from Japan to China, their family finally experienced the success they needed to make this dream a reality. They saved every penny and lived as if they were as poor as they had always been.
Daisy watched as each of her six younger siblings dipped into the funds and flew to Canada or New York for school. In 1972, her youngest brother came to New York for college, but Daisy was still studying in Hong Kong.
“My English wasn’t good enough,” Daisy said, “or maybe it was my self confidence.”
But it was a divorce that finally drove Daisy to come to the U.S. After raising her kids mostly on her own, she left the man who fathered them. Her mother and brother in the U.S. worked hard to get the legal tracks straightened out for her arrival, and she found herself working in the U.S. only a year later.
It is unclear whether she ever wanted to come to the U.S., or if she thinks the change was worth it.