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Anna’s Story (part 1): An Army Dancer

Anna is one of five daughters who grew up in an area that, until recently, was the largest producer of heroine in the world. This meant one in every two children was forced into drug-funded rebel armies.  Anna became one of those children, at only 11 years old. 

An Unwanted People

In the early 20th century, China was in a state of division. The Chiang-kaishek Nationalists fought against the Communists after the end of the Second World War, but eventually they were defeated. Some of the Nationalists fled to Taiwan. Others were trapped in the South–West region of China and fled for their lives across the border into Burma. 

Anna’s grandparents found themselves among these Han Chinese who were internationally displaced, unwanted, and starved. 


Anna and her sister in the army. 

Anna and her sister in the army. 



At 11 years old, Anna finished 6th grade and was sent to an army camp where she thought she would study medicine. But she was never taught anything medical, not even how to read a thermometer. Instead, she and her sister were chosen to be part of the dance troop. 

At first, Anna was happy to be part of the dance troop. But soon she was exposed to dark and ugly reality of life in a rebel army. The dancers travelled long distances to perform, and despite their exhaustion, were forced to dance all night long. During the day, they built roads or labored in the fields, planting rice, corn, yellow beans, and trees. It was the work of adults forced upon children. At times, they were not allowed to leave the field, and spent the night sleeping outside.

With all the hard work, Anna found herself getting sick quite often, at least once a month. Her memories of that time are of hunger, fear and exhaustion. 

Drugs and alcohol were prevalent in the army camp, even among the children. The leaders were often drunk, and would call for the children in the middle of the night to shoot at them or make them work. Once a week, the whole camp would gather for a meeting where the leaders would criticize the children, spit at them, and verbally abuse them.  

Watch for Part 2 of the blog to learn how Anna escaped the army and where she is today.