40th Anniversary of Operation Babylift

This Monday marks the 40th anniversary of the day that nearly 100 orphans were airlifted out of Vietnam following the end of the Vietnam War. First of all, I just can’t believe I’m old enough to celebrate 40 years of anything, and secondly, since the 35th anniversary so much has happened.

I’ve met up with a great many Vietnamese adoptees, both from the UK airlift, and airlifts arranged globally and it’s clear that we all share a common ground and common feelings.  Meeting the Adoptees in Vietnam for the 35th was a magical experience, spiritually, emotionally and personally.

I was also involved in many radio interviews, a local interview on BBC South East, featured on BBC1’s Inside Out and even an interview on BBC News 24, which all covered the story of the Babylift 35 years on. Inside Out followed my journey to Vietnam as I tried to find some more information surrounding my orphanage and parentage. 

I have met up with Brian Freemantle, the then Foreign Editor of the Daily Mail who played an instrumental part in the Airlift UK bound. This was a very important meeting for me as it added another angle and further depth to the story, since all the adoptees were babies and young children, so it was important to receive an adult’s version of the story from right inside where the action occurred. 

I’ve also met with David Tolfree who volunteered with Project Vietnam Orphans (PVO) in Vietnam.

I fully intended to go to Vietnam again this year for the 40th anniversary, however with my son being so young, thought it was not the best timing, and perhaps rather overwhelming for him. I’ll take him one day in the next few years, when it won’t be so daunting for him with so much action, can handle the heat better and hopefully make the 45th anniversary in 2020. I think it’s important for the second generation to find out about their roots.

It was hoped that BBC’s The One Show would cover the story, however, disappointingly, they have decided to run with a story about Dark Horse.

Alternatively, BBC World Service will be picking up the story with a radio interview on Wednesday with some other adoptees sharing their stories also, hopefully with some adoptees in Vietnam right now.

I keep getting asked about the spelling of my name and I’d like to confirm that my name is spelled Viktoria, not Victoria, the conventional spelling. I’ve always been different and I love being different!

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Sussex Press Agency Debuts On BBC Inside Out

An Eastbourne woman’s journey to find out her past in Vietnam is the story behind a BBC Inside Out which was featured on BBC1 Monday 9 November 2009.

Co-Produced by Paul Gibson from the Sussex Press Agency, the piece which was screened by BBC1’s Inside Out South-East is part of a longer documentary which highlights Viktoria Cowley’s journey to find out her background, after being adopted from Vietnam during the fall of Saigon in 1975.

Above: Polly Evans and Rob Smith from BBC South-East Today talk to Viktoria Cowley Live on the programme.

Viktoria was one of the 99 babies airlifted to the UK during Operation Babylift which was organised by the Daily Mail. 34 years later, Vikki has set out to discover her past and meet as many of the other adoptees who were on the same flight as possible. BBC Inside Out will feature Viktoria discovering a photograph of herself on the front page of the Daily Mail in 1975, and travel to London to meet a group of other Vietnamese Orphans.

April 2010 marks the 35th Anniversary of the airlift, and thousands of people will travel to the country to re-unite and mark this special anniversay. 2,500 babies were airlifted from the country during the Vietnam war, but only a handful came to the UK.

BBC Inside Out will also be producing a 30 minute special programme inconjunction with the Sussex Press Agency early next year as the crew travel to Vietnam with Viktoria.

Over a two day period, Viktoria Cowley completed fifteen radio interviews and one live television news discussion programme. These were as follows:

BBC Radio Kent, BBC Radio Sussex, Sovereign Radio, South-East Today, BBC World Service, BBC 5 Live, BBC Wiltshire, BBC Radio Derby, BBC Radio Berkshire, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC World Today Programme, BBC Five Live, BBC World Service. Other Coverage included; Eastbourne Herald, Hastings Observer, Bexhill Observer, BBC Magazine.

The programme is also expected to be screened on BBC World Asia in the near future.

Read more about Viktoria’s story

You can also listen to two of the interviews for a further 6 days:
BBC Radio Sussex: Monday 9 November 2009 – The Breakfast Show – click through to 2hrs 12 mins.
BBC Five Live: Tuesday 10 November 2009 – The Breakfast Show with Nicky Campbell – click through to 2hrs 39 mins.

Read more about the Sussex Press Agency.

A Ticking Off!

I have realised that my writing style and writing frequency has changed over the course of the time I’ve been sharing my thoughts and feelings with this blog.

One reason is time. When I did my creative writing course a few years ago, I was warned that this would be one of the main excuses for not wiriting and was encouraged to not surrednder to this – I HAVE TO MAKE TIME TO WRITE!

However, being too busy (another excuse stemmed from the first) with the documentary in different ways; filming, making and keeping contacts, trying to find out personal information from different agencies has made it difficult to write and I must admit I’ve sort of forgotten a bit about it.

So here I am, having given myself a slap on the wrist and an apology to you for not keeping you up to date – my next entry will be the wonderful reunion I spent with other Vietnamese adoptees in London last weekend.

Live Transmission of Documentary Feature

We’ve had news that we need to do some PR events which sound REALLY exciting and will update as soon as I have further news. But for now, pop this date in your diaries:

Monday 9 November (a month today) BBC1 – Inside Out – 19:30 GMT

Sadly, Inside Out is regional but you can view on BBC iPlayer …for up to 7 days after transmission (BBC iPlayer won’t work outside the UK – sorry!)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0071ms1

Watch the trailer here:

Never pass up on an opportunity

Life hands us many cards and it’s for us, as individuals, to determine whether those cards make a good hand. Some cards are Kings and Queens, some are little numbers which, when put with other cards make a good hand. Some cards take the form of Jokers, but I rather like to call them Wild cards!

I was offered a Joker quite some months ago. It was a shot in the dark, however, I decided to add it to my hand, not knowing what would become of it. This is what happened:

I was searching the valuable tool on the net which is YouTube for footage of the Babylift, Vietnam War and documentaries. I saw a comment that someone had written on one of these videos. Someone had recognised themselves in a piece of footage from the Babylift. So I decided to make contact. Searching that person’s profile, there was no way to contact them other than through YouTube messenger service, but I just dropped a line to say hi and how I would like to get in contact with them.

Some months passed and I checked my YouTube account for a reply, but to no avail, even though I’m signed up for email alerts, I didn’t want to put this down to fate, even up to a few weeks ago there was nothing. I was sure that if this person wanted to get in contact they would’ve done by now and so I had signed this one off.

Even so, I felt that my communication would’ve proved valuable on the off-chance of making contact. The ball was in their court, it was out of my hands. I wasn’t going to pursue, I had to respect their privacy.

Then, all of a sudden, out of blue, just the other day I got an email alert. It was this person responding to my message, apologising for not having been in contact simply because they didn’t use YouTube much. She gave me her Facebook username and told me to contact her there, which I duly did. Within days we were connected. I have been meaning to drop her a line to say hi but weekends are always busy, promising myself to do it later on.

This morning I get an alert on my mobile phone to say that she’d left a message on my wall. She’d been through my orphanage pictures and she thinks she recognises herself in some of them. Does this mean she was in the same orphanage as me? This is a magical moment that I just had to share with you. I’m currently at work at the moment but I had to get something in writing to share with you all.

When I get home, I’m going to make contact. I need to find out more.

Viktoria embarks on another journey. This is extraordinary!

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.