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.


The possibilities are endless!

After liaising with my brother, who very kindly bought me a ticket to LA last year, but I didn’t go as planned back then, and as it’s transferable, so I’m hoping that this will take me as far as Bangkok, with only a ticket from there to afford.

So it looks as though a trip to Vietnam is very possible at the end of October this year.

It’s become glaringly obvious that I need to get to Vietnam this year before the Reunion, as I seem to be the only person who’s not yet been back and I have many avenues to explore before meeting others. Not only this, the events that are scheduled for April next year means that my own personal discoveries have a limited capability, and so I want to be able to immerse myself in the Reunion knowing I’ve done everything I can without wanting to do my own thing.

So we need Visas now and all the other things that make it possible to go and be comfortable and I need advice and interpreters and accommodation and – oh, so much to think about!

But, the dream that sparked off at the beginning of the year could well be coming to fruitition … I’m going to Vietnam, I’m going home!!

Will there be anybody else going to Vietnam at the end of October? Would love to meet you! x

Mini Reunion – London Town

Peter, Kim, Gemma, Le Thanh & Viktoria

It was hoped that we could get something arranged so some filming could be done for the documentary, as this was the biggest meet up that I had been involved in was taking place so far, it was quite important that plans were firmed up so it could be captured on camera. Unfortunately because we had people coming from different areas, having people meet up together was tricky. It was hoped that we could meet at the O2 as this was a prominent landmark.

It became clear that this wasn’t going to happen since the day before it became apparent that the District Line and DLR tube lines were out of service due to weekend maintenance which put paid to that plan. Also, permissions would have be changed and applied for and time was far too short to be able to cater for this. Sadly, this meant that the cameras had to stay in situ on the living room floor!

Kim, Viktoria & Gemma

The weather couldn’t have been better if it had been pre-booked. Some of us had previously met before, and a couple of us had met for the first time.

I met Le Thanh outside Victoria Station and the meets were staggered from then on with people arriving at different times at Moon Under Water pub in Leicester Square. On reflection, this worked extremely well so I was able to meet with each person personally and in good time and have a good chat with them without being overwhelmed by the whole situation.

The Reunion was a lovely occasion, and thoroughly enjoyed by all, polished off quite nicely by a meal at the Viet Noodle Bar on Greek Street in Piccadilly. It was quite strange because although we were practically strangers, the fact that we share this unusual and unique fact that start our lives off, this is the only bonding fact that we needed to ensure that a conversation ensued and the bond is something I’ve never really experienced before. Having a common connection that many of us don’t remember is enough to form a lifelong friendship, I still have difficult fully explaining this but totally understand it.

Viktoria, Gemma & Le Thanh

It was mentioned that all of us adoptees or Asians have “Foot-in-Mouth syndrome” and perhaps there should be a study on it. There were even a few adoptees who agreed there was a likeness between them and this fact cannot be ignored – because we all went in our own directions after that airlift and without proper documentation, this is a very real fact, that through these reunions (and upcoming plans to have DNA tests recorded) a sibling could well be discovered.

It’s amazing how the food seemed to bond us together; the aroma & textures appeared to weave its magic smells on us, except the smell of the fish sauce was not to my liking, plus it appeared that the fish sauce wanted to bond with my hair!! To others, the smell of fish sauce reminds them of the Mekong Delta.

So now we’re all looking forward to more reunions in the coming months and of course the big reunion in Vietnam April 2010.

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!


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.

Vietnam Orphans Evacuated

Orphans are evacuated from war torn Vietnam and have been brought to Britain for treatment and some will be placed with British families. ITN T070475