Another Sister from Another Mister

I saw a girl on a documentary some ten-odd years ago. She went back to Vietnam to try and discover some facts about her orphanage and adoption. Sadly, she didn’t get all her questions answered.

It was this very documentary, Children of the Ashes, that pricked my curiosity enough to watch it, and it was after having seen this documentary, that convinced me enough not to take that route myself.

I decided to keep myself in my closet.

And there I stayed…

… however, when saw this documentary, I wanted to wrap my arms around her. She had captured my heart.

So when I had made contact with her earlier in the year, it seemed only natural that I should feel a natural warmth toward her, an understanding that only another adoptee would feel.

I had the chance to meet with her a few weeks ago.

I travelled to Northampton to meet her. But what was so special about this visit? Firstly, being one of the girls from the documentary, meeting Safi was like meeting a TV personality, I felt like I already knew her; and secondly, unlike any other meet, it was in her home. It was real, I took a glimpse at Safi, met her husband, her children, her dog. For an instance, I was involved in her life, stepped in her house and it became so real.

It was the best weekend ever. Emotional? Yes. Exhausting? Yes. Fantastic? Yes!

Visiting the park, dining at a Vietnamese restaurant, making Vietnamese Spring Rolls, watching documentaries….

I’m not the emotional type. Not one to let my guard slip, but for once in my life, this was so different. I knew it would be. It’s so difficult to put into words, one of those “you had to be there” scenarios. For all the reasons I detailed above, Safi being the first adoptee I saw on the documentary, and actually sharing a bit of her life in her house with her family, made this meeting so real. It wasn’t just adoptee to adoptee, it was heart to heart, mind to mind, I would swear we were sisters!

Viktoria & Safi

The first time I had to reach for a tissue was during the viewing of Safi’s documentary. This is the first time I had seen it in years (although I remember it well). It was the first time Safi had seen it with another adoptee.

The second tissue-reaching moment was when I said goodbye. I felt I’d found a friend, a true friend. A long-lost friend. I knew I wasn’t saying goodbye, I was merely saying “so long”, but I still hugged her and didn’t want to let her go.

Safi is a beautiful person, with the world of love in her heart and I’m so pleased I met with her and I’m so much richer for having done so.

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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 “Another Sister from Another Mister”

  1. Vikki

    It was a pleasure to meet you to. I am truly honoured that you found time to come and visit me. Let that be the first of many get togethers and ever lasting friendships.

    Your sister

    Safi xxx

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