Memories of Tibet revisited

Created date

August 1st, 2009
MA_0809_dalai lama_pic1
MA_0809_dalai lama_pic1

Verena Rybicki, who lives at Brooksby Village, recently met the Dalai Lama at a special gathering in New York. Verena Rybicki recalls riding through the Himalayas on a man s back inside a tea crate. She was just 4 years old, and that and the following weeks she spent in Tibet were significant not just for their place in her life story, but for their uniqueness in history.

Rybicki traveled from India over the Nathu La mountain pass to visit her father, who was working as a doctor to a British political mission in Lhasa, Tibet, from 1936 to 1937. Very few Westerners saw Tibet at that time, before it became occupied by the Chinese; today, Rybicki is one of the few living people who can claim such an experience.

"My childhood was a series of chaotic happenings," reflects Rybicki, who spent her youth in India and England and now lives at Brooksby Village.

Special visitor

Verena Rybicki peers out from a tea crate as she is carried to see her father in Lhasa, Tibet. It would seem near impossible to top such memories, but this spring Rybicki and her family may have come close they attended a small audience with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political leader of Tibet.

At the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, the Dalai Lama personally greeted Rybicki and her family, along with four other Westerners and descendants of those who visited Tibet before the Chinese takeover in 1950.

"He was very interested that I had actually been to Tibet," Rybicki says. "He s obviously very devoted to his country."

Rybicki presented the Dalai Lama with an album showing her family s experience in Tibet. It included a photo (below) of Rybicki peering out from her tea crate.

"He thought that was very funny," Rybicki says of the Dalai Lama s reaction. "He was very jovial."

Sharing memories

Rybicki also presented the Dalai Lama with a copy of her father s memoir, Amchi Sahib: A British Doctor in Tibet 1936-37, which she edited.

About two years ago, shortly after the book was published, Rybicki and her husband got in touch with a couple of researchers studying Tibetan history. They were especially fascinated by Rybicki s story and the many carefully preserved photos and Tibetan artifacts that were still in her possession.

Rybicki has donated many of the items to local museums, including the Peabody Essex Museum, and she remains in contact with the researchers, who were responsible in part for the recent New York event.

Interwoven experience

The weekend trip was also a family reunion of sorts for the Rybickis, who invited their two children one of whom came from Minnesota and three grandchildren to the event.

"It was quite an experience for me because my father never got over being in Tibet," Rybicki says, which is also why he dedicated much of his memoir to those two years.

Rybicki herself is an accomplished writer, responsible for launching one of Brooksby s writing groups. She is at work on her own memoir, which she says will surely include her meeting with the Dalai Lama.