Aung San Suu Kyi finally touched down on Tuesday in the country she used to call home—England, where she lived a normal homely life with her husband and two sons.
It is sure to be an emotional return for the Burmese pro-democracy heroine; perhaps a mixed bag of feelings for a woman who sacrificed so much for the land of her father.
In an interview with BBC World Service in London, Suu Kyi said, “I want to see old friends again, and to rediscover all the places where [I used to spend time].”
She expressed an inkling that the trip—her first to Britain in 24 years—might be laced with sadness.
Suu Kyi used to study at St Hugh’s College in Oxford where she received a B.A. in philosophy, politics and economics in 1969.
After she graduated, Suu Kyi went to live in New York with a family friend and worked with the UN for three years. She married Michael Aris, a British scholar in 1971 and gave birth to her eldest son, Alexander, the following year in London. Her younger son, Kim Aris, was born in 1977.
Suu Kyi also earned a PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, in 1985.
After stints of living and working in United States, Japan and Bhutan, she settled down in England to raise their two children.
However, Suu Kyi returned to Rangoon in 1988 in order to nurse her sick mother, Daw Khin Kyi, at a time when instability reigned in Burma. After she was swept up in the pro-democracy movement she never again saw the cobbled streets of Oxford or the green pastures of southern England.
Her husband’s visit to Rangoon over Christmas in 1995 turned out to be the last time that he and Suu Kyi met.
In 1999, when Aris was diagnosed with cancer, he appealed to the Burmese government to grant him a visa to visit her wife for the last time, but they rejected his request.
Suu Kyi, at that time, was allowed to fly to England to meet her husband. However, she did not believe she would be permitted back into Burma and so she declined the opportunity.
She spent most of the next 20-odd years under house arrest in Rangoon, reading and listening to the radio.
Despite everything she has been through, Suu Kyi has never voiced regret for her agonizing decisions.
She told the BBC World Service: “I have never regretted it [staying under house arrest in Burma].” She said the decision was not hers alone, but was also partly down to her colleagues, but said that the results were “beginning to pay off.”
On Tuesday night, Suu Kyi will celebrate her 67th birthday party with hundreds of her supporters in Oxford.
“The world has become your home,” Bono said as he greeted Suu Kyi in Norway.