(Twilight Over Burma is a book written by Inge Sargent, Burma Lifeline's President. Below is the press release associated with the book from 1994. The book is currently in press and is available through local bookstores, the University of Hawaii Press, Amazon.com, or Barnes and Nobel online.)
University of Hawaii Press, 1994
Almost every young girl at one time or another dreames of becoming a princess in a far-off land. Inge Sargent actually lived that dream. Most storybook tales end "happily-ever-after". Unfortunately, for Inge, hers did not.
It's 1952, a young Austrian girl attending Colorado's Women's Colege in Denver on a Fulbright exchange scholarship meets and falls in love with a Burmese student, who is attending the Colorado School of Mines. Their courship leads to marriage in 1953. Sao Kya Seng brings his young wife, Inge, home with him to live in Burma. What Sao failed to tell Inge before they were married, however, was that he is Prince of Hsipaw, an autonomous northern state in Burma's Shan mountains, and she would be wife and Mahadevi (Princess) of Sao Kya Seng, Saopahlong (Prince) of Hsipaw.
Inge immediately fell in love with this remote, exotic land and its people. She worked at her husband's side to bring change and modernization to their primitive country, eventually making them one of the most popular rulers in Southeast Asia. They implemented a series of social and economic reforms. Although it greatly annoyed the Burmese army, the prince gave away his rice paddies and refused to accept feudal payments on the land. He imported chickens and cows to imporve the country's stock. He taught the hill people how to plant and rotate crops and helped his countrymen explore and develop minerals as well as precious gems. The princess, too, was busy modernizing the small "delivery home" and bringing in trained nurse mid-wives. She instructed new moms on how to improve their babies diets after they were weaned, thus drastically reducing the 75% death rate among infants, and, she founded a tri-lingual school.
In 1962, the couple's idyllic existence was shattered by General Ne Win of the Burmese army in a violent military coup, which tragically saw the prince kidnapped, imprisoned, and secretly executed. Inge and her two daughters, ages three and six, were placed under house arrest, their money and properties confiscated. Finally, after two years under watchful eyes of the new military regime, Inge and her daughters were able to escape to Austria with the help of friends and other officials. Were it not for her Austrian passport, Inge is convinced that she and her daughters would have been put to death, too.
Twilight Over Burma is the story of a great happiness destroyed by the evil, of one women's determination and bravery against a ruthless military regime, and of the truth behind the overthrow of one of Burma's most popular local leaders.
The book ends with her escape from Burma with her children.
Upon arriving in Austria, Inge worked as a private secretary and interpreter for the Thai ambassador in Vienna. She never ceased inquiring after her missing husband through organizations such as the international Red Cross, Amnesty International, and the United Nations. Finally, after two years in Austria, Inge came to the sad realization that no one could hide someone as well known as her husband this long. She became convinced that he had been executed because he wouldn't make a deal with the army. "He was not corruptible, he was ethical, he lived on principles, he was loved by his people, he was a born leader, so they killed him, but they have not admitted it to this day."
Inge and her daughters came to America where Inge went back to school and received her teaching degree at the University of Denver and her master's degree from the University of Colorado. Today, following a 20-year teaching career, Inge spends her time as a writer and Hospice Volunteer. She's very proud of her daughters. One is working on her PhD in organizational psychology, and the other, a licensed MSW, was working as a clinical therapist and is now raising a family. "The life was so hard on my children. The sudden departure, not knowing what happened to their father. It was a difficult adolesence for them." As for Inge, "One of the main lessons I have learned is patience. ...There is a fine line between fighting and accepting. You have to know when to do each. ...I have also learned there are no guarantees. We thought this was going to be a long life together. It was ten years and we were extremely happy and then it was gone...ten years of really indescribable happiness and partnership...is more than some people have in their entire lives.