Profilers: Diana Chavando, Jackson Summers, Ya Xuan Sherry Wang
From Vietnam to America
Who impacted you during the war?
The one that impacted me was my husband, if you read the story that I wrote about, he had his old history about suffering under the Communist, and he hated (them), and the other are the people around me, the people in the armies, the soldiers around me, that they devote for the country, they were so kind, they loved the country, they fought, they sacrificed. And all those things seen day by day, impact me, and build up my love for the country. The American came to our country, they were so nice, very nice, but they don’t understand, they didn’t understand our culture. That is the key problem; they didn’t understand. We love them, because we know that they come to help us. But the key thing is that they didn’t understand us, that our culture, our tradition. And that is the reason why they didn’t understand the Communists.
What was your stance on the war?
My stance was very firm. We belong to the south, and we love the South Vietnam because that is the opportunity for us. Since 1954, our country divided into two sections, South and North and 1 million people evacuated from the North, run away from the Communist, to move to the South, and we carry with us our culture, our books and everything we wrote and whatever we say, we say that in that 20 year from 1954 to 1975, we saved our culture. Because in the North, when the Communist took over since 1954, they destroyed books, they killed all the writers; they kill everybody who have any idea. And they want people to be blind, and follow them; listen to them, with no question whatsoever. So our culture was destroyed in the North, but we saved it in the South. That’s why, the reason why, we appreciate the Americans, the Americans didn’t save our country at the end, but at least they gave us the 20 years to protect our culture. And that it means very important for the future of our country. Without them, we lost everything. Our stance in the war, we didn’t think that we would have to fight to protect our country. Because after the Geneva Convention, Vietnam divide into South and North. And we stayed in the South and the North people invade, that is we have no choice. We see that in the war we have to fight back to protect our South Vietnam.
What was your job before you came to the United States?
I had been in several jobs, and the last two jobs were with banking. The first one was with the Vietnamese bank, and then after that I applied to the First National City Bank, which is an American bank. And I work with them for over one year before they immigrated us to U.S.
When and how were you evacuated?
In 1975, April 23rd of 1975, that’s the date we left Vietnam. We cant live with Communists, we have no choice. They (First National City Bank) order all the American officers to leave the Saigon office because it was not safe for they to stay in Saigon anymore, bombarding and everything. And so we only have the local staff stay in the office, and the one in charge, at that time, he got the instruction, the cable telex from the head office and giving us the instruction and the promise that “we would immigrate you if you want to go with us, and we will take care of your welfare in the U.S”. Then he also told us that “you have to leave in secret, you cannot tell anyone; not your family, not your relatives, not your friends, you have to go as you go to work.” They also tell us, that is the bad part, we can only take you and direct dependents from Vietnam, which are my husband and my daughter. I am the only Child, so I told them right away that I can’t leave my mother by herself, I cannot leave her at home. So that’s the reason why my mother was the only parent who could accompany us.
How did you feel after you left the country?
But for us, at that time, we didn’t enjoy anything at all. Our hearts were broken, and we were so worried, and I was so worried about my husband, I don’t know where he was. I was worried about my country, everything, and I was so sad. Our feeling at that time was like numb. You can’t believe in how sad we were, at that time. It is just unbelievable. In just one moment and then we left everything behind. We left our country, our friends, relatives, our house, and whatever we have, we left behind, we left the country empty-handed.
Well our first reaction as I mentioned to you, I was numb. My reaction was like mostly negative. We arrived into Camp Pendleton in the middle of the night, raining,cold. For us, it was June, but it was very cold for us. We come from Vietnam, which is a tropical region. It was very,very cold. We didn’t have a sweater or anything, and we walked in the dark. So our reaction of America at that time, we were so scared.
What were the Challenges of Life in the United States?
First of all we didn’t have any knowledge. We were not prepared. We were not prepared for this evacuation at all. All along I don’t know during the war we never thought of it. At least I can speak English, but language was very difficult for me. It was the first challenge because whenever I talked people could hardly understand me and whenever they talked it took me a while to figure out half of that. You could imagine how bad it was and feeling dumb and deaf. It was very difficult. Another thing was that we had nothing. Nothing at all, not even clothing. We had only one pair of clothes. And it was so difficult for us to buy anything to wear. And I had to cut my husband and my daughter’s hair by myself and everything, and I let my hair long. We did have money but later the bank lent to us some money. They lent to us half a year of salary for us to start our life, three thousand dollars, for us to start out life in the country.
Another difficulty was the transportation. We didn’t have, my husband drove his jeep in Vietnam, but not in the U.S. so we had to depend on others to pick us up or take the public transportation and it took forever. And I was so weak when we came to this country. I was so weak, I can just like faint easily. It was so much pressure. And another thing that only two days after we arrived in Los Angeles, we left the camp, and only two days later we had to report to work. We were not prepared we had no clothing. And we went to work but good thing that they have someone to pick us up for the first two weeks.
Another difficulty is that we were homesick. We missed home. We missed our relatives and our friends. And another thing was that we were so worried about them. We didn’t know what happened to them. Only our friends that escaped from the North went to the South and told us about what they went through. Many of them had to kill even their own parents in order to go with the Communists, in order to be accepted in their party. They had to kill their own parents, their own family. They were not human beings anymore. I had only one niece and her husband and she lives in Connecticut which is far away from me and the first time we called each other we were crying, crying on the phone, we were not able to talk. We got to find each other at least one, the only relative we had in the U.S.
Another thing that I have to say that the Americans are very kind. Very very kind. Very open-minded. But another thing that the Americans, sometimes they are naïve about the world, too naïve about the world. They see black and white, but they don’t recognize that there is a grey area in the middle, that that grey area is a dangerous zone. A dangerous zone where you do not know who is your enemy, and who is your friends. And just like I go back to the war in Vietnam, you remember there was the My Lai, the court case that brought some American solider go into the court for killing the Vietnamese civilian? We in the Vietnam, we understand the reason why they kill. Because those soldiers, we know them, our relative came home and told us he was giving out candies to children they love children. They were so kind to children, and everybody loved him. But at night those people killed them. It was not because they wanted to do it. But because the communists. The communists, they come at night, when the Americans soldiers and Vietnamese soldiers went back to their center and then that’s when communists, the Viet Cong, come over to their house [and said] “you have to do this, you have to do that, or else I will kill your whole family.” So they had to listen. Daytime you had to be their friend but nighttime you had to kill them.
And there was one man, he was so kind, and his wife was pregnant. And they came over and said “you are a part of the Americans” so they killed his wife, who was pregnant, right in front of him, opened up her womb, and pulled out the fetus. And then next, they killed his son, the baby of two years old. And last, they killed him. They let him suffer all through that. And then they cut his head, they chopped his head and hang it on the pole. You can’t believe the Viet Cong. They are not human beings they are devil.
Video Picture Citations:
First National City Bank. N.d. Http://vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net/. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.