The day of Black April is fast approaching: 37 years since South Vietnam was lost to the Communists, along with every true form of Freedom and Justice the country had known.
Every year around this time, in my family and many others, memories are stirred up about the Fall of Saigon, the aftermath that triggered the journey to Freedom by millions of Vietnamese refugees – called “boat people” – and how grateful we are to be living now in a country of great opportunity and limitless Freedom.
This year, I would like to honour the memory of my parents’ own journey to Freedom. With every past, there is a future.
For my parents, the journey that first brought them to the shores of Freedom was followed by a return trip to those very same shores almost 3 decades later. On this return trip in 2010, they relived the memories of their harrowing experience, but also found closure to put all the hardships and regrets behind them. Everything had come full circle, as my mom said.
Today I am writing about something I know of only in stories, something I understand only through words and not through experience. But all of my life I have dwelt upon it, and it has inevitably become a greater part of me. Today I write about the experience of the boat people, specifically of the two boat people I know better than any — mommy and daddy; Mi và Ba. I hope to show some part of their experience through the photos they took when they recently returned to the shores of their long ago refuge. My dad must have taken over a thousand photos those 2 weeks they traveled along the coast and islands of Indonesia, visiting and fixing up as many former refugee camps as they could. Here I have selected only a few, and explained them in as few words as I could after bugging my parents for the story behind them for half a day.
Note: I find that to see the full descriptions of each photo (not just the thumbnail caption), you may have to open each in a separate tab. That way you can read the stories behind them. From there, click on the photo to view it in its highest resolution. Thanks.
Enjoy! But more importantly, perhaps it will give you something deeper to dwell upon.
All my life, having listened to my parents’ stories and recounts as well as those of many other people who lived through those turbulent times, simply saying I am grateful to their sacrifices and to the miracle that has allowed me to be where I am today and live as I do now is utterly inadequate in describing my true feelings. But I can’t seem to find the right words to say it. For all they have been through, my parents are surely the most courageous, compassionate and persevering people I know, and I am so proud and thankful they are my parents. I am so proud and thankful to be among the children and grandchildren of boat people, soldiers of VNCH, and Freedom fighters and activists.
Moreover, I would like to add how grateful I am to the people and countries who took in boat people like my parents and welcomed them with open arms to their new lives of Freedom and Democracy. Without the compassion and generosity they received, many more of our people may never have made it to the shores of Freedom. That said, let us never forget the million who did perish – those who lost their lives on the Journey to Freedom – those whose bodies and spirits are still lost on the Pacific Ocean, on remote islands and forlorn shores. Let us pray they find peace.
May the memory of Black April and all those who lived through and perished for it endure in the hearts of our people. Remembering the past has never held us back; it only makes us better people for the future. As long as there is injustice, inequality and corruption in the world, we cannot stop fighting for a better tomorrow.
If you would like to learn more about the Archive of Vietnamese Boat People, which organizes pilgrimages like the one my parents went on, feel free to visit this link:
Their organization will be holding a fundraiser / information session / boat people gallery viewing in the GTA in September this year, so keep following this blog for updates. 😉