Seeing no improvement taking place in Tibet my parents decided to escape to India.: Becoming Minnesotan

Wangyal T. Ritzekura, c.2005.
  • Name - Wangyal Ritzekura
  • Age at interview - 52
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 08.19.2005
  • A view of Dharamsala, India, the seat of the Tibetan exile government.
    A narrow, busy street, Dharamsala, India.  Photo courtesy Wangyal Ritzekura.

    Escape, Oppression, Tibetan

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    Essential Question

    Life in the Old Country: What makes a country a person’s homeland?

    Politics & Government: How are other systems of government different than the U.S. government?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Wangyal Ritzekura was born in southwestern Tibet, in a time when the Chinese were gradually invading more and more of the land that was the independent country of Tibet. Eventually, China claimed Tibet as part of China, and many Tibetans fled to neighboring countries of Nepal and India to avoid the persecution of the Chinese government.

    Of the Tibetans who stayed in Tibet, the children were often sent away to distant places in China to be “re-educated” as good Chinese citizens.  This separation was forced upon the family, and sometimes for a long time. 

    However, the refugee children who fled to Nepal or India also sometimes had to separate from their parents.  Unlike the forced separation under the Chinese, the separation at places like Patankot was for a short amount of time, and it was so that the parents could go to work in one place and the children could attend school somewhere else.

    Tibetans still look to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama as their leader.  He continues to lead the thriving government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India.  

    To learn more about Tibetan history and culture, visit our Tibetan Community page.

    • Chapter 1

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    Narrator: Wangyal Ritzekura (WR)

    Interviewer: Tenzin Khando (TK)

    WR:  I was born in a small town called Dzonga which is to the southwest of Tibet and which is quite close to Nepal and India.

    TK:  Since you were born in Tibet, when did you migrate to India?

    WR:  I think I was about seven, eight years old when invasion started and in the hope of getting the situation better my parents with five children stayed in the border for about two years. Seeing no improvement taking place in Tibet my parents decided to escape to India.

    TK:  And was there a specific place where you migrated to in the beginning?

    WR:  Well, all of the Tibetans first came to Himachal Pradesh, the state where we had Dharamsala, the headquarter of His Holiness and as we came I think we had to spend some time on the way because of the transportation problems and I remember the place where we reached first. Patankot, which has a railway station. Interestingly, it was at Patankot where children were separated from the parents. Separation was one reason why we escaped to India. But then the separation in Tibet would have been separation of children who’d be taken to China whereas separation at Patankot was for the reasons of children going to school and the parents going to road construction sites.

    Related Glossary Terms

    His Holiness

    A title given to the Dalai  Lama, the supreme head of Tibetan Buddhism and spritual leader of the Tibetan people.


    Noun:  A military action in which the army of one country enters another country with the purpose of conquering the area or changing the established government there.


    Verb:  To change habitations across a border; to move from one country or political region to another; to change one's geographic pattern of habitation; to move slowly towards, usually in groups.  (migrates, migrating, migrated)


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
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