Questions and answers die with them

1919346_1214520919202_2718415_nMy mum died on 27 January 2017.

She had been ill for 4 years precisely.  Having had a fall and breaking her femur on 26 January 2013 she spent some time in hospital and needed specialist nursing care, unfortunately never saw independent life again, despite striving to achieve it, mum was never well enough.

Life had been tough for that four years.  Harry was born the previous November so he was only 10 weeks old when mum had her fall, and luckily I was on maternity leave from work so was able to tend to her in hospital and find a good nursing home for her.

It’s a sad situation that Harry had never seen his ‘Gargee’ out of nursing care and was something that mum found really difficult to cope with since the only thing mum really wanted since my brother and I had become adults was to be a grandmother.  My brother lives in Los Angeles and although he was already a dad, being a grandmother to Logan was impossible, only because it came down to geography.

So after four years, mum decided she had had enough.  We had a wonderful Christmas together.  We’d moved into a lovely new house in 2017 and mum came for Christmas.  We tried to make it a special occasion for her with Paul’s parents as well, but mum had lost her hearing very suddenly during the year and, despite various tests, no cause nor cure could be found, so as lovely it was to have her there, it was still quite a lonely experience for her as it made it difficult to be fully included in the experience.

So, shortly after Christmas, mum had another fall.  She’d hurt herself quite badly on the way down and after a night in hospital was discharged, however, a few days later a hernia mum had had for years with no bother had suddenly strangulated and was slowly killing her.  Again, she needed to see a doctor at hospital but, this time, I had been given the news that mum desperately needed an operation to save her life but the assessment that she was not fit enough to withstand the operation, mum was sent home for palliative care.

Mum died less than 24 hours later.

So I didn’t manage to ask my dad questions of my adoption.  Now mum had taken so much information with her.

The questions I had were now down to me to answer.

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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.

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