A place to call home

By Piia Wirsu

Prity Ranasampang left her birth home when she was four years old.

It would take more than two decades to reach Australia as a humanitarian refugee.

For most of her life Prity has been a refugee, it was an experience and a title she was glad to leave behind.

“We are proud now the refugee name is gone … After coming to Australia we are so proud, ‘refugee’ is just deleted so that is a good thing,” Prity said.

Born in Bhutan, Prity’s parents took the family and fled, along with thousands of others escaping racial cleansing.

“They told us, ‘If you don’t leave Bhutan we will do things’, maybe they will put the people in jail,” Prity said.

Bhutan is one of the world’s greatest per-capita generator of refugees, with one in six Bhutanese nationals living in exile.

In the 1990’s many southern Bhutanese were forcibly evicted, or voluntarily fled the persecution and repression they faced in the country.

Prity’s family arrived in a flood of refugees to Nepal, where they were placed in a refugee camp.

As refugees, Prity and her family were often treated a sub-class citizens.

Prity’s husband Til, also a Bhutanese refugee whom she met in Nepal, said they were unable to legally work to support their family, they would be abused and sometimes have things thrown at them.

“There’s not any facility for any money or to get a job,” Prity said.

Despite this she set up her own small shop to provide some income, selling clothes and knitting traditional Nepalese hats. However, due to her status as a refugee she received nominal money.

In the refugee camp, wood fires provided heating and cooking, but if they were caught by authorities collecting wood from the forests to feed their fires they faced harsh treatment

They would be berated, possibly slapped or beaten and perhaps even jailed.

However, the refugee camp did provide education for the children, something Prity said was a good opportunity.

Prity would sit in a rustic classroom where a single teacher would manage a class of up to 65 children of varying ages.

“We have an examination and if we pass the examination we will pass the next grade, if not then we still study the same class we have to repeat it so because of that the ages of the students is different,” Prity said.

Despite these challenges, Prity has good memories of Nepal and looks nostalgically on her childhood memories.

She said she likes Nepal because it is where she experienced, “everything, my life, my loves, my childhood”.

As a child, Prity remembers playing simple games with whatever was at hand.

“Here in Australia there are lots of toys for playing, [in Nepal] there are no facilities like that,” Prity said.

Instead she and her friends would run together, create competitions and play games like skipping and musical chairs.

Prity’s childhood memories are filled with friends and community, which were a feature of her life there.

“The best thing about living in Nepal is … we have lots of friends, we enjoy [together], we share our thoughts with each other and help each other and celebrate our festivals together,” Prity said.

“I miss Nepal, three years after coming to Australia I went to Nepal to visit my mum and dad, my friends, my relatives.”

When Prity travelled to Tasmania eight years ago, with her her husband and 10-month-old son, it was her first time on a plane, an experience in which she delighted.

“The exciting thing is when you are flying to the place and you look down, it’s very exciting,” she said.

Having a sense of identity when your life spreads across three countries can be complex,

For someone who has spent most of her life without a claim to place, it is little wonder Prity’s dream is to have a home. For her, owning a house makes it a home.

Prity calls the rental house she currently lives in just a house, she looks forward to when she and her husband can buy their own – only then will it become home.

When asked Prity still says she is from Bhutan, although she has no clear memory of her birth country.

“Bhutan is like my ancestor, my grandparents they were born in Bhutan they usually go through from birth to old in Bhutan,” Prity said.

“I [would] like to visit Bhutan … we hope we will go to Bhutan one day in the future.”

Prity and her family became Australian citizens on July 3, 2014, and the date is stamped in Prity’s memory.

“I’m very proud to become Australian, I am very proud to be living in Australia,” she said.

“In Tasmania is we get lots of opportunity to do anything … we can do anything in the future in Tasmania

“My dreams is I can be living together with my family, enjoying the many different cultures and enjoying Tasmania with my family.”

Prity’s children will have a very different childhood than she had. They will have facilities, security and a country they can call home.

They will grow up knowing they belong.

For Prity, she and her husband will continue to work towards their dream of a ‘home’ they can call their own.

The Examiner

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