My Adolescence and the Extinction of a Social Class

I was the witness to the three historic events aimed at the extinction of a social class.

I was the witness to the three historic events aimed at the extinction of a social class.

Comments about this post on ABC Open 500 words – I was there.

I was a witness to three historic events aimed at the extinction of the bourgeoisie in Vietnam.

The Communists think equal wealth’s for all,
Severe campaigns were planned in secrecy,
One’s for the old regime money downfall,
One’s to eradicate the bourgeoisie.

With quota, money exchange were well planned,
Tears, sweat once shed for the invalid note,
The bourgeoisie’s assets were taken and,
They were dumped in barren land that’s remote.

Three decades later bourgeoisie return,
They live on sweat and tears of citizens,
They’re mighty leaders govern with concern,
To build quick fortunes up to billions.

The country still is communist in all,
The Communists deny same wealth for all.
(Sonnet poem)

September 1975

People queued to exchange quota of the old money to new one. Mum mourned the piles of old money she had shed so much tears and sweat to earn. Some people went mad. Others committed suicide.

Each family had only 200d (VND) of the new currency. It was the amount that Mum spent after selling a tael of gold to buy food for Dad in the Northern communist jail. Since then we lived on those gold taels Mum had bought when she’d been working as a children wear designer, producer and wholesaler. Others survived by selling furniture, personal belongings. Second-hand markets mushroomed around Saigon.

March 1978

Soldiers, factory workers were mobilized to administer the asset inventory of the bourgeoisie. As Mum ceased her business after Saigon Fall, we weren’t targeted. Our neighbours told us the “inventory people” stayed in their houses nearly three months and tried to uncover hidden treasures they thought could be in the hollowed walls or in the garrets. They also encouraged our neighbours to “honestly present” all their jewellery and money to the government. A neighbour jeweller became insane. The eerie night often echoed her curses of the Communists.

Some months later 1978

I woke up to learn that my “bourgeoisie” neighbours had been forcefully moved to desolate land of the new economic zones (NEZ) during the night! Their houses were given to Northern communist officials.

What applied to the “bourgeoisie” was also applied to the families of pre-1975 Saigon’s high-ranking military men. We lived like those chickens left in the cage watching their mates beheaded nearby in the market and anxiously awaiting our fate.

Dad was in jail and as a 16-year-old eldest with four siblings, I felt helpless being a girl. If our family had been sent to NEZ, I wouldn’t have been as strong as a boy to build a house or work in the fields. Thus I disliked anything girlie because it symbolised weakness. I preferred simple to womanly clothes. I changed my flowery writing style to a straight neat one. I refused to cry and was unable to cry decades later.

Image credit
by grjenkin.

I was the witness to the three historic events aimed at the extinction of a social class.

I was the witness to the three historic events aimed at the extinction of a social class.

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