A Long Journey-GialangYu
by Yichun Luo and Huazhu Liu
This is a story of Gialang Yu, an eighty-year-old Chinese man who lives in Leeds. Gialang is a member of the Leeds “Lychee Red” Project. He was born in China, moved to Vietnam as a child, then to Hong Kong because of the Sino-Vietnamese war. Finally, he took a long journey to the UK and made his home in Leeds.
The word “home” is strange, but familiar to Gialang. Although he has lived in different cities in many countries all through his life, he did not stay in his “home town” for long.
During his lifetime, Gialang has lived in Vietnam and the UK for the longest periods.
In 1979 the long peace was broken by the Sino- Vietnamese War and the troops opened fire on the border. Though the battle line did not reach the capital city where Gialang lived, the locals resisted and abused Chinese people every day. Gialang was hence forced to leave the city where he had lived for 30 years. He escaped to Hong Kong by ship. Remembering the experience, Gialang says that he had no alternative but to accept the fact and face the challenge of leaving home again. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, Hong Kong accepted 230,000 Vietnamese refugees from 1975 to 2005, and Gialang was to be one of them. Life in Hong Kong was not that hard - except that he lived with other refugees in a warehouse. You could hardly call it “home”. After a year Gialang went on his journey from Hong Kong to the UK by boat. Every small boat carried around ten people, all of them hoping to get to a peaceful land. But the journey was full of danger: a large number of them died on the way or were killed by pirates. It was a tough journey; Gialang felt so grateful when he finally arrived at his destination. He was a fighter! At last, he made a home in Leeds and his long journey was over.
Gialang is a regular at the Lychee Project
Gialang has witnessed a real military war and is now experiencing the worldwide pandemic “war”. He has particular feelings about the two different wars. Forty years ago one could directly ‘feel’ the conflicts among people: conflicts on the border, the abuse he faced, and how hard it was for Chinese people to escape. At this time Gialang felt that the difference between life and death was decided in a flash. But he did not feel scared and chose to accept and overcome it instead.
40 years later, this virus crisis is different. It seems that the enemy is invisible and the spread global. As Gialang says, we human beings usually concentrate on large forces that are more powerful than us. We ignore some microscopic things, such as viruses. However, this particular virus is mysterious and scary. Gialang feels sad and sorry for everyone who has been seriously affected. “Because of the safety precautions, they might be lonely and unable to see to their families”, he says. Despite the situation making him sensitive and emotional sometimes, he still keeps his heart full of gratitude for a long life. Maybe those of us who have lived a long time are able to overcome hard times with grace? He thinks we should trust all the doctors and volunteers who are helping people. He thinks we should support the government’s work and obey the policy. He says, “We will overcome the hardship one day.”
Gialang appreciates his long life and he appreciates the country he lives in. He believes the UK puts a particular focus on the physical and mental well-being of older people. He is supported by a generous welfare system and has a good life. He gets care and help from the community who keep him company. Despite the virus, people still feel warm because of the kindness and help from others. He thinks it’s better for the older people to keep a bright mood and a positive attitude during this time of isolation.
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