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StoryCorps Mobile Tour: Richard Yang tells his daughter about the family's journey to the U.S. from China

Virginia Yang and her father Richard Yang.
Virginia Yang and her father Richard Yang.

From StoryCorps Mobile Tour’s stop in Wilmington last year, we bring you an excerpt from a conversation between Richard Yang to his daughter, Virginia. Richard describes the family’s flight from mainland China during the civil war.

The conversation comes from the StoryCorps Mobile Tour visit to Wilmington — the first in-person interview sessions since the Pandemic hit over two years ago. Since its founding in 2003, StoryCorps has recorded countless intimate conversations across the country – all of which are archived in the Library of Congress, and many of which you’ve probably heard on NPR.

Victoria Yang: So Dad, I know that you have a lot of stories from growing up that maybe I've heard snippets here or there, but never fully the entire story. And I know there's one in particular that I want to hear about from when you guys were in China,

Richard Yang:  I consider it a life and death story.

So, we have to roll back time. It was 1949 and I was four years old, at that point. China was going through a civil war. Sometimes those things can be very brutal, and you won't be able to survive.

So my mom, and my grandma, my younger brother, and then three sisters, we managed to be onboard on the bus. And I mean, that is the no modern bus, I don't think there was even an alternator or whatever, that kind of stuff, you have to crank it up like you do on the push lawnmower to get the engine started. And later on my mom, your grandma, made up some comments, she said, you know, it was very fortunate because in that kind of environment, you know, those troops, if they want do something, just say, ‘Okay, you guys get out of the bus, we’re taking over.’ They got a gun, they got, you know, everything. And what do you expect family to do, you know, we're going to be stranded?

But anyhow, after that, and I grew up in Taiwan, then graduated college and went into the export business.

VY: So, you decided to move the family because of opportunity. I mean, I can't imagine kind of having to come into a different culture, a different language, and Wilmington, you know, coming straight from Taipei into Wilmington, such a small town, kind of how that felt?

RY: You know, the Communist Chinese Party is a very brutal organization. They are, they were very cruel. And I think, you know, that's one reason we run away from China to Taiwan. After we left China and your granddad, he was one of the three wanted person by the Communist Party. And that you know, the problem with that is we always say this, ‘if he ever gets caught, a death will be a mercy,’ because they are not just executing someone, they will torture, and enter then also the whole family will be possibly destroyed, most likely dead. So I need to provide a safer future for my family – [that] means to you. That's why I choose to come to the U.S. You know, you look at most of the young immigrants who come to this country. What they are looking for is the opportunities. They're looking for the freedom, they're looking for the democracy. And I mean, that is something that this country the most great country.

And that’s a chapter of our life, and I'm glad I have some opportunity to share a little bit of my story with you. But good or bad or whatever is not important. I mean, everything we talked about, it was true, it was what happened.