I wish I could turn back the time so that,
I would then push my Dad to quickly flee.
“Run, Dad, and save your life no matter what!
The Communists won’t spare you, let hear me!
Commander’s duty – you fulfilled at last,
We don’t want you killed – let hear us all plea!
You’re not safe but we are, so let’s run fast!”
30/04/1975 marked the fall of Saigon, the failed evacuation of my family, the Communists’ capture of my Dad followed by a series of failed attempts to escape Vietnam by myself.
My family constantly worried that the Communists would forfeit our assets then take us to the barren land of the “new economic zone”, like they had done with some of the high-ranking officers’ families.
Every night, Mum and I listened to BBC then Voice of America on the radio on low volume as to not be caught by the Communists. We hoped to hear news of interference from the Free World, especially from America, on the fate of imprisoned officers like Dad.
We sent Dad’s military training documents with the United States Army Schools in the 60s and 70s to my friend in the US. She sent them to the US Government, but for a long time it didn’t yield any results.
I thought if I could escape out of Vietnam, I would get direct contact with the US Government or the free world to raise their attention to Dad’s imprisonment, or I would try to sponsor my family to live in another country.
The thought of rescuing Dad and my family gave me courage to brave the disasters of the sea and the Communists’ bullets.
In 1979, my sister and I were in a canoe on a river waiting to board the big boat when we heard gun shots. My friends were shot dead on another canoe. We spent the whole night hiding on the river bank then found our way back to Saigon in the morning.
A few months later, my sister and I were in a safe house before boarding another boat the next day. My sister got discouraged and didn’t want to go. She told me she would wait to be sponsored by me. We all went back home after that.
The next time, my boat was captured near international waters. The man sat next to me was shot dead. There were five others injured on the boat. I told the Communists I was a 15-year-old so I wasn’t put in jail. All the captured women were raped by the Communists.
The fourth time, the trip was aborted before anyone got on board the big boat for fear the Communists had got wind of the plan.
Eventually I successfully escaped from Vietnam in November 1983, four years after my first attempt.
Dad was released after I arrived in Australia. His application for visas to America was approved in 1985 but the Communists didn’t allow our family to leave.
My family finally reunited with me through my sponsorship.