“You didn’t want to stay in one place too long… My dad was on a hit list,” social studies teacher Anouxa Vixathep said. Vixathep was born shortly after his family fled a civil war in Laos, and at the age of four, found himself living in a refugee camp.
“My family were refugees from Laos over to Thailand. There was a war going on in Laos, and my family fled Laos to Thailand while my mom was pregnant. I was actually born in Thailand because of that,” Vixathep explained. Since his family had no place to go during their time in Thailand, they ended up living in and out of a refugee camp. As if the situation wasn’t complicated enough, Vixathep’s father was literally on a hit list.
“Since my dad was in the Thai army and the Thai army had worked with the American military that was in Southeast Asia at the time, he got put on a preferential list to get out of the country as soon as possible because if he got caught he was going to be killed,” Vixathep said.
At the time, Vixathep was too young to really understand the gravity of the situation so he spent much of his childhood unaware. He didn’t even hear the full story until well into his adult years.
“This is all stuff I am learning really recently. Maybe just a few years ago all the details started coming out, [my parents and I] sat down and talked. My brothers and sisters knew a lot more about it than I did. It’s an emotional story,” he said. While having secrets and major changes in the family was difficult, Vixathep is grateful they got out when they did.
“So there’s the Vietnam war that’s been going on in Southeast Asia up to this point. There’s a war in Laos as well: A civil war between the communist faction and the nationalist faction,” he said. This climate was not a very safe place to grow up and given his father’s involvement in the war, he decided the best option was for the family to leave.
“I remember quite a bit about the trip. It was on plane, that was the first time I had ever been in a plane. The first city in the United States I lived in was Cleveland, Ohio. We had a family that sponsored our trip though their church,” Vixathep said.
Vixathep’s father actually had the choice between moving to America or France. He decided that America had the best opportunities and he knew more of the language from working with the U.S. military.
Had he chosen any different Anouxa Vixathep’s life would have been drastically different. He wouldn’t have been educated the same, met his wife, or ever become a history teacher at Sandy High School. Vixathep is thankful to have moved to the United States.