Searching for Siblings

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I now believe that I am one of three siblings that were in the orphanage. I always knew I had a brother. But just the other day I was looking at a few photos (in my album) and I saw there was a photo where there’s another child touching me with great fondness while I’m being lifted up by one of the nuns. At first I thought this was my brother as the child looked very similar to him.

On closer inspection, matching the clothing of that of my brother and this other child, I see that it isn’t my brother, but a girl I hadn’t really noticed before and she is in another photo which enabled me to match the clothing. Looking at the two children, I think they look alike. I also noticed on the rear of the both the photos there is a hand-written cross. One cross, when the photo is held up to the light, you can see the boy who is meant to be my brother. On the back of the other photo, the cross is where the girl who is touching me. So I wonder about the significance of these crosses. I know one is my brother. Does this mean that the other one is my sister?

So now I weep softly because I didn’t spot it before. I weep for the loss of my father who chose me from the orphanage, I weep because I know he personally took those photographs and I weep because I know he must’ve known the truth behind the relativity of the crosses on the back. I now break my heart that it didn’t mean so much to me to ask when he was alive, for now he is the only one with the answers and he took those answers with him when he left.

I hope that is my sister. I’ve always wanted a sister. I always knew that I had a brother and I always knew that if I travelled this journey, the decision to search for my brother would have to be made. Now I have to make another decision but now that decision to “make a decision” is no longer “shall I, shan’t I?” I feel I owe it to myself to at least try. If I fail then at least I’ll know I gave it good crack of the whip, but I ask myself each day, if I didn’t travel this road, would I regret it having not tried. Yes, I would.

And so I walk this path, hand in hand with others who are walking alongside me; some are walking behind me in my footsteps; some have walked before me and I walk in theirs; some are following with one eye closed, some with fear, some with terror, some with excitement, some with suspicion and apprehension. All these feelings are fine, but with no memories there are no attachments, I have thought of every outcome … abandonment, untruths, no details – I’ve even thought about the possibility of their deaths before I’ve made contact, and all I seek is the truth, if it hurts to learn it, it will make me stronger, but it will continue to make me whole.

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Author: Viktoria Cowley

Viktoria Cowley has a birth certificate to prove she was born, however, the date of this she knows not to be true. In fact, she knows very little about her first few years of life before she was adopted by a British family, father Douglas and mother Jennifer and brother Jonathan. What she knows about life before this is still a mystery, Viktoria was in the Lam Thi Ny orphanage in the district of Gia Dinh, Saigon, having been supposedly 'abandoned' by her mother. Viktoria does not know her birth name as it was changed when she entered the orphanage to Lam Yen Hang, neither does she know when or where she was really born. Her parentage is also a mystery - having been told two conflicting stories, however, following a DNA test, both stories have been proven to be untrue, and instead of being 100% Vietnamese, is only half Vietnamese so can only assume she is the product of a serviceman and Vietnamese mother. Viktoria's adoptive father worked for the British American Tobacco company in Vietnam at the time and had chosen her from her orphanage and started the adoption process back in 1974. Douglas had finished his tour of duty at the end of 1974 and had made arrangements for Viktoria to be accompanied by a friend to the UK in June of 1975, however by that time, Vietnam was coming to its end and the careful arrangements were no longer going to work. Operation Babylift started and Viktoria was flown to the UK when the then-Foreign Editor of the Daily Mail, Brian Freemantle, instigated the UK Babylift, helping to bring 100 Vietnamese orphans to safety. She quite often refers to herself as being "the baby in the middle" of three on the front page of the Daily Mail of 7 April 1975. Viktoria lives with Paul and they have a son, Harry, named after Brian Freemantle (Brian's middle name) in recognition of Operation Babylift. She often states she doesn't know whether she would be where she is today if it hadn't been for him as all records and information had been destroyed and she wonders if she would have even made it to her 'forever family' had he not stepped in. Harry still remains Viktoria's only genetic connection that she knows about to date. Viktoria has appeared on many media programs over the years, including BBC One: Inside Out South East (2009), BBC One 'Airmail Orphan' (2010), BBC One South East Today (2009), BBC News 24 (2010) BBC The One Show (2018) and has done various radio interviews, including BBC Radio Five Live with Nicky Campbell (2010); BBC World Service, BBC Radio Scotland. Viktoria has various online resources for collating and sharing information with others and is attempting to write a story based on her Operation Babylift beginnings.

One thought on “Searching for Siblings”

  1. On behalf of Trista:

    Hi Vikki,

    I can relate to your thoughts of siblings. I knew I had to search for my family when I was having lunch in Little Saigon, CA, and found my thoughts of how strangers passing by me could be blood related. It’s funny now that I’ve found my family and know that they were in the same cities at different times of my life and I could have passed by them several times without ever questioning it again. I’m grateful for my families’ reunion which also included my birth mother in April of 2001. I was able to establish a relationship with my family that makes my life meaningful and purposeful.

    Cherish your pictures and the the flight to the UK with your siblings. Just know that opening your eyes to the possibilities is Gods work. They are with you even if you never find them in this lifetime. I am willing to start the DNA project after i return form my trip to the UK. Reading your blog was a sign for me.

    Respectfully,
    Trista

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