In 1975, Vietnam was taken over by Communist from the north. Since that day many people who worked for the South Vietnam government were in jail like my father. Everything was changed, life became miserable, and we had no religion and no freedom.
I was living with mum with thirteen people I was the only child at home. Mum worked in a clothing store, mum’s business. So my family was middle class, life was hard when the Communist came. We had to live with worry and fear with the local government watching because one of my uncles being a priest the communist doesn’t believe in religion and after the end of the Vietnam war, my father was put in prison for 7 years as he was a pilot for the South Vietnam Government.
In 1982, when my father was released from prison. One day my father told us he will try to leave Vietnam and he started planning for that. Ever since my life has had a big change. Mum and I both stayed back in Vietnam as dad said he will bring us over to the USA. Some of my uncles escaped one at a time, except my father he was unlucky. Originally he was to join my uncles in the USA but that didn’t happen so he decided we will leave Vietnam as a family.
So in August 1982, Mum, Dad and I had escaped Vietnam we left everything behind I was only twelve years old when I escaped. After thirteen days I arrived in Malaysia. Every trip has a different pitiable story, my trip had a story too. When I left Vietnam on a small boat with about one hundred and fifty other people, my boat was unseaworthy because it was a very small fishing boat and wasn’t made for the rough ocean currents, but it carried about one hundred and fifty other people. The engine was very old and it didn’t seem like we were gonna make it. We realised now how important escaping was, it was too late for us to return. In that situation we had a hazardous voyage, so we decided to keep going with hope for any ship on the sea to save us because the weather was very good and we just hoped and prayed together.
When we had been out to sea for about a few hours, the engine had broken down. We did not have any sails or paddles to keep the boat going, so the boat kept moving without any control or guidance. The food was scarce and can only last for a few days. So most days we just drank water when it rained or we drank some sea water. When we escaped Vietnam it normally takes about 7 days to reach the refugee camp in Malaysia obviously we hadn’t reached it yet. So my father asked the captain of the boat if he has any idea what he is doing or how to reach Malaysia. The captain was clueless on how to reach Malaysia so my father being responsible he took over and captained the boat as he had an idea where he was going. In the past, Dad had been studying in the USA for a few years so he knew what he was doing as he just followed the stars and believed in hope.
We were desperate and exhausted. Suddenly on the thirteenth day, our boat came to shore. We did not know where this place was until the police came and we knew we had arrived in Malaysia. After that, they took us to Pulau Bidong Refugee Camp, it was a small island of Malaysia. Now I thought that this was too good to be true. I stayed at the refugee camp for about four months. When we were at the refugee camp everyone wanted to live in the USA as it was the “dream” to live in. So everyone was waiting for the USA government to come to the refugee camp so they can apply to move to the USA and start over. But dad had changed his mind as he had heard of “Australia” is a young country and an great place to start a new life. So when the Australian government arrived at the refugee camp a few hundred people applied to move over to Australia. But when dad was applying he had to lie that he was co-pilot as if he had said he was a pilot there would be issues with the military and government. But thankfully we were granted to move over to Australia and start over as a family.
We finally came to Australia under a sponsorship by this family. I arrived in Sydney in January in 1983. I felt very strange when I arrived, I saw many things. The traffic, the houses, the life were all different in my country and many gardens filled with beautiful flowers. I started to learn about the Australian way of life and I finally felt safe. I was worried about my new life here, and whether I would be able to fit in because my English was very poor.
Dad was able to get a job at an factory and we got a home at Dean Park. Also, I have two younger sisters that were Christine and Caroline which were born here in Australia, now there were 5 people in the family now.
At the moment, mum and dad are retired and still live in the same house we first moved into when we arrived in Australia. While I currently have a family of four with my oldest child Ciaran going to Oakhill College in Year 10 and my youngest child Nathalia going to Marian College in Year 9. While my husband Anthony is living in Singapore for work for the next two years by himself. But this isn’t a first time living overseas as my family has already lived in India and Singapore but that’s another story to be told.