China Elevator Stories

The day I left China

When I left China in 2019, I never thought I would not see my children again.


Ruth Silbermayr


Before my check-in at Beijing International Airport to leave China for Germany on 30 June 2019, I wait in front of the airport, watching a flock of swallows fly high above me in the sky, while the sun is setting over Beijing. I plan to stay in Germany for just over three months in preparation of my husband’s residence permit for Europe. Even though my heart feels heavy with the knowledge of having to leave my children behind in China, I also feel optimistic that I will be reunited with them within four months in Austria, believing my husband’s words when he promised he would take them to Austria with him. I knew that giving them the opportunity to grow up in Austria was the best thing I could offer them for their future.

My marriage was filled with horrific abuse. By the time I had become pregnant with my first son in Shenzhen in 2013, I had heard, not only once, from my Chinese husband, that he’d have me killed if I ever left him, or if he ever found me with another man.

As nighttime falls, I check in my luggage and walk through security at the airport. Once in the secure area, I look for a place to get something to eat. I find a Burger King where I while away the time until my departure and have a video call with my kids. I swallow the tears that well up in my eyes while I talk to my boys, and leave China three hours later on a Turkish Airlines flight to Hannover via Istanbul in the early morning hours of 1 July 2019.

Have you ever had to separate from your children?