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Om Escape from Shangri-La
Kelsang and Dukar Kaiser, my sister Elsa. Kel sang, Duwhat and Kaiser, I said, trying to remember the very unusual-sounding name, though the contrast with the obviously German family name had me puzzled, when the attractive young couple left. Our next-door neighbors are Tibetan by birth, German Swiss through adoption. Their life stories, although short, read like a movie plot, my sister Gloria explained. I met the beautiful Kelsang and Dukar Kaiser again a few months later when my husband and I visited my sister. We barely made it to Bhutan in 1959. Eventually my family settled in Dharamsala, India, practically next door to the Dalai Lama, Kelsang offered. Two years later in 1961, my family was also forced to flee the country, Dukar contributed. In my ignorance of genetic code, I found Dukar more Tibetan looking. He impressed all of us with his vast knowledge on many subjects, which he expressed with an articulate command of the English language. Although his persona could have been viewed as reserved, he was both gregarious and sociable. Why dont you ask them if you could write their life stories, Elsa? I think they would like it, Gloria suggested. They did, and I spent the next few days interviewing them. The story unfolded slowly, though only partially, due to their tender age: they were five and seven years old when they fled Tibet with their family as political refugees. The moments they never forgot were the fear and the horrors of what they saw, the constant hunger, and the weariness of the long journey. After many months of research and three moves, military transfer, from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts and back to the Atlantic, I was able to put together a story based on the personal tragedy and triumph of these two youngsters.