The One Show

The One Show - 29 March 2018

I knew it was approaching the anniversary of the Babylift.  Since I’ve been searching for answers I’ve been very conscious of this time of the year.  This year was no different.

Until now…

Out of the blue I receive an email from The One Show.  I must admit, to begin with I thought it was a bit of a hoax.

He explains his name is Glen and he’s a researcher for The One Show.  He explains he’s covering a story on a man called Vance from Northern Ireland in his search and the fact that he is in Vietnam currently, having found his birth mother through a DNA test.  He was a baby on Operation Babylift in 1975 and all of a sudden it starts to fall into place.

I met Vance just two years ago when he did his own documentary and I even introduced Vance to Brian Freemantle, the instigator of Operation Babylift, all those years ago, when he was the Foreign Editor of The Daily Mail in 1975.

So I call him back and this Glen is a right laugh!  I found him really easy to talk to and really enjoyed our conversations, telling him all about my past and what I know (and more importantly, what I don’t), and he’s so interested – bless him, I know he needs to pay attention but I can wax lyrical about my story, my sure his eyes glazed over at some point, but being so easy to talk to I’m sure this has secured my place on the show.

So, before I know it, I am firming up details of appearing on The One Show and now they want Brian to be on the show as well since I have told them I will be bringing him as my guest.

That evening, Wednesday 28 March 2018, I will never forget.  I am being interviewed next to Brian Freemantle by The One Show’s Matt Baker and Alex Jones right next to Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans (Miss Saigon) talking about my former life – such a surreal experience.  Other guests on the show included Mariella Fostrop & Rev Richard Coles and George Ezra singing his new song, ‘Paradise’.

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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!

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.

Identity Confusion: Fact, Fiction, Feeling

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I’ve had a few hours to myself to try and process the information in that email and I have to ask myself “How do I feel now?”

I have to remind myself that the facts of how I came to be adopted cannot be changed. I have to remind myself that my life is so much richer for having lived in the Western World. I also have to remind myself that the answers uncovered will not change the way in which I live my everyday life. On top of that, I also remind myself that I never thought I would ever find the answers to these questions, so I feel very fortunate that I’ve been connected to the people who worked in Vietnam at the time of the Babylift that can provide valuable insight.

However, despite all of that, I find myself feeling emotions that I never thought would be possible and I’m not sure why. I have always been able to detach myself from situations and emotions and not be affected by them – that’s not say I don’t understand, empathise or feel compassion because I do, but I am able to simply look at things from outside the box.

So why do I feel the way I do? Firstly, let’s deal with the question: How do I feel?

So many emotions. I’m so grateful that I can find some insight into the manic processes of the time of Babylift and how desperate the times were in order to save as many babies as possible. I’m also extremely grateful that I was one of them. However, I feel slightly saddened at the possibility that I could be in possession of a document that survived a baby who did not. I also feel gratitude for the possibility that the demise of a baby had allowed me my freedom, if that was indeed the case.

There is also hope. If this is my real name then it provides me with some direction, although I’m led to believe that Tran is the second most common name in Vietnam so I have much work to do on that front.

If this is the name of a baby who didn’t make it to the Babylift, at least I have their name and can give thanks for that and keep a silent moment for her, for now I could possibly be living two lives, one for myself and one in her memory.

One of the sections of the email makes me extremely sad: “The orphanages remain full and culture plays in as well with that. There are all sorts of omens with the Vietnamese that might make it lucky or unlucky to have a child and might cause a parent to abandon it.” I think I need to do more research into the culture of omens and asian luck to fully understand this. This is a hard fact to get my head around and having lived in the western world for what is practically all my life I may never be able to understand this as the reasons behind it may just sit so far removed from what we understand here in our culture.

It goes on: “… read the part about paperwork and how horrible it was as we tried to save the lives of those children with us but were forced to produce documents when none existed … Birth certificates were expensive and meant little as they had so little to do with the kids. I think the worst part of this is realizing how horrific the abandonment rate was/ is.” I understand this, it’s a disturbing fact but if that’s what had to be done in order for me to live my life in freedom then I thank those who worked tirelessly in obtaining the necessary paperwork – any paperwork – for me to do this, even if this was in the shadow and memory of some forgotten orphan; it makes my life so much sweeter, so much more worthwhile and although there is the possibility that I could’ve been abandoned, I feel that the attempts to save my life weren’t in vein.

“If I were any one of you kids I would search and I might also be rather frustrated or downright angry if I thought that people were careless with my identity. It was just that the papers meant so little. When I first went to Viet Nam to work I watched death after death and I remember they came in and told us that paperwork for ten children had just been cleared by Germany and that it had taken a year to get the papers done and therefore ten kids were going to get to go home. The problem was finding ten kids even close to a year old. The original babies had died for the most part and I watched astounded as ten kids were simply picked some about six months old and sent home to the families because the paperwork had made it, the kids had not. It was as though the two never qutie meshed with each others.” How very sad. Heartbreaking. But let’s try and look through the bleakness here, that I may never get to know what had happened to me. I feel that the information in this email provides more of an insight than I ever dreamed I would receive so I feel blessed that I got this far. But because of the complexities, because of the necessities, the time restraints and all the other factors that made the Babylift so rushed and vital, I find the whole mystery of my existence rather exciting!

Adoptee Reunion in Vietnam 2010

1914645_172002573901_3716035_nSeveral adult Vietnamese adoptees are planning a reunion tour to Vietnam in April 2010 for a few weeks. We will be visiting places of personal significance yet will also have plenty of time for recreation. We are sending out this survey to adoptees as a way to gather input so we can make this trip as meaningful as possible.Simply click the link below if you want to join us for the reunion:


Adoptee Reunion in Vietnam 2010

A BIG day collecting newspaper cuttings from Operation Babylift. So much information!

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34 years to the day.

We took a trip to the Colindale North London Library to find the newspapers relating to the Babylift back in April 1975.

It had taken some four telephone calls to try and track these papers down. From the Daily Mail website I found their contact page and phoned the number in relation to back copies. Call (020 7740 0200) for availability and costs of back copies. (A small charge will be made for these services; lines are open Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 5pm).

I was then referred to another telephone number where all the papers of issues over 9 months old are held. On phoning this number I’m referred to yet another number as the issue is pre-1980 or something. Luckily, this is the last number I had to phone, Colindale North London Library, otherwise known as the National Newspaper Library: 020 7412 7353. Appointments are necessary to ensure they can make copies of the relevant papers available. ID is also required and permission to film on premises.

It was an extremely good day as we found exactly what we were looking for, the front page of the Daily Mail dated Monday 7 April showing the babies that had been brought to the UK and landed the day before, I was on the front page of that paper.

A truly unique and moving experience.

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Stunned … she’s just found out that one of her Vietnamese names means “Angel in the Full Moon”

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So do we translate each part of our name and make a story of it or do the pick the most prominent one? Since I think I have a given name by my birth parents and a “false” name by the orphange, here goes:

* Lam Yen Hang
Lam: Jungle or Dense Forest
Ye^n: Peace, Safe, Stand Still
Ha`ng: Angel in the Full Moon (<— I like this one!)

* Trang Thi Minh, Tran
Trang: Not yet known
Thi: Poem (<– the most common middle name for girls)
Minh: Jade
Tran: Not yet known (<– very common surname)