Yin Ling Mok, Netherlands

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The immigrant

As I was looking into my own understanding of freedom I simply had to photograph my mother. I understand freedom because of her everyday’s life, because I live my freedom through her sacrifices. My mother was living in two opposite worlds, Hong Kong and The Netherlands, where she felt alienated in both. After she was granted a Dutch passport she integrated through her children; she felt freedom because of us. She built an empire based on her hopes and beliefs. She was both the king and the queen in the patriarchal society where she was determined to raise her three girls and one boy wanting the best of both worlds. With a legacy of over 40 years she looks back with a smile and a tear. Her heart has been broken and mended many times, yet the greatest fear is to end up alone in a world where individuality is more important than family.

  1. Young and Beautiful

“They told us that they needed laborers in The Netherlands. When I arrived here as an undocumented immigrant, I felt lonely. My husband was working long hours in a Chinese restaurant. I didn’t speak the language, the neighbors were never at home, but I, fortunately, met the nicest people who helped me so I could hold on to my beliefs: We wanted a better future for our children.”

  1. The Future Generations

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“These family photos are my everything. We were living on welfare, but I have always tried to give my children everything we had. My duty was to raise them right, decent and honest. As long as they are giving their 100%, I don’t care what the results are. Look at me, I have only finished primary school in Hong Kong, how can I expect anything from them? Witnessing how my four children have obtained their Master’s degrees are my greatest and proudest achievements.”

  1. The Best of Both Worlds

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“I came here when I was 22 years. Every day I’m aware of my privilege, that I’m lucky to be able to enjoy my freedom in a Western world where people are open-minded, expeditious and, most importantly, respect independent women. I have been part of this tolerant society most of my life, and I have always felt that they gave me room to educate my children’s background. Yet, to be honest I kind of forced the bilingual upbringing on them. Ah, they will thank me later!”

  1. Her Unknown Future

“My husband passed away last November. These days I feel melancholic where I don’t want to let go of my past, I neither want to think too much of my own future. The current political debate worries me. I still believe that my grandchildren will grow up in a peaceful world, but we are destroying our planet with fear and hate. They used to welcome immigrants with open arms, but now they are horrified by each other.”

  1. The Peony

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“I’m old, look at my wrinkles. Any moment can be my last. My children ask me all these questions about retirement and where I want to be buried. This, here, is my home: My children and grandchildren are living here, my husband is buried here. I feel Dutch, I am breathing the Dutch air for over 40 years! I have planted seeds in this world, watered them with love and care, now they are blossoming beautifully in my presence; I have done my duty.”

© Yin Lin Mok