Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ha Ngoc Kim-Loan Remembers Vietnam

Kim Loan, Entertainer. Ha Ngoc Kim Loan.

(through translators Nguyen Thi Kim Anh and Tran Thi Ngoc My).
The reason I left VN was because I wanted to go back to school. I graduated from HS in 1968 and I started singing. I wanted to continue my education because if I stayed I would be hampered in my singing career. I went to Germany where I was ready to start college education. I was enrolled in college, but as soon as I completed my language preparation course, Imet my future husband who decided that I should not continue my education. I was to study economics. I met my husband and he said that too much education would turn me into an old maid. The University that I applied to and was ready to go to was in Cologne. I did not start college really because as soon as I got the admission acknowledgement, my husband made me stop. This cancellation of my education plan, I did not return to a signing career, although I did sing for the VN students in Germany. I told my husband that my purpose of going to Germany was to further my education and not to be a tourist. Finally, he conceded and enrolled me in a vocational school in a program that would not take up so much of my time. Or it would not require more than one year. I told him that if I did not have a chance at furthering my education then I would not bear him any children. My intention was to further my education. I had no desire to hang on to my singing career during that period. I wanted to study abroad for a few years and then go home. Since my husband was 38 I decided that it might be well if we both studied and then return to Vietnam at the same time. My husband enrolled me in a cosmetology program. I came to Germany in 1969 and by Nov 1971 I got my certificate in cosmetology. During that time I had no desire to sing or do any recording. I really wanted to get an education. After I left VN in 1969 I returned three times to visit my parents. At the end of 1969 Tet, I returned home to visit my father. My father was ill and I got a telegram asking me to return to be with him again. At that occasion, I also did some singing for the public, for the people in Saigon. The second time I return ed was in 1971 right after I got my diploma. I was pregnant with my first child. Then I returned in 1973 when my son was 16 months old I returned to visit my family again in Vietnam. I wondered when the Am began withdrawing from VN. When I left in 1969 I thought already there was a policy of withdrawal from VN and I thought I detected some uneasy feelings. However, on my second trip there in 1972, I did not think there was much of anything. I thought the situation was still all right. However, on my third trip to Vn, during the period of Tet in 1973, I was so shocked at the level of poverty and I just did not want to stay to celebrate the New Year in Vietnam. The people were suddenly poor and there was no atmosphere of Joy. Nobody wanted to celebrated, it seemed. Perhaps the people were afraid of an invasion by the North at that time. I looked at the situation of the country and I had the feeling that maybe my country would be defeated and lost. That was the first time I felt that. it appeared to me that this Tet was not welcome and nobody wanted to do any preparations to welcome it. So, it was still sad. So my husband and I and my son decided to leave the country again even before the New Year arrived. We left on December 23 of the lunar month.
The German media was good at covering the situation in Vietnam. So we did get a full understanding of what was going on, even more so maybe than the people who stayed behind in Vietnam. It gave me a feeling that we were going to lose the war. But I did not want to believe this possibility of my country being lost to the communists. I did not want to believe this. I felt that the fate of my nation was in the hands of the Americans and I understood that there was a struggle between the two blocks of the world, the free world and the communist world, and I felt that it would not happen in Vietnam, not even after the generation of my own children. May be when they were 50 years old, I felt, they would still live in a free country. Even then the country would not be lost to the Comms because Vietnam was situation in a strategic point and was important to the West. I never dreamed that the Ams would abandon us because our country was strategically important for the free world. But then when Ban Me Thuot and Danang and Cam Ranh fell I thought that was a very bad sign. But in 1974, the Tet festival, it was strange to see how the Vn people became so alive that they spent much time preparing for the new year, and it gave me a strange feeling. Like a lamp before it goes out of oil may burst, it may have a final burst, and that is what Tet reminded me of that year.
In early 1975 I got a New Year magazine from Vn and it gave me the feeling that it would be inevitable that the country would be lost. that the chaos in Vietnam and that the Anti Government movements and one got the feeling that it would be over soon, it would be the end. I became dispirited of this. I was sick of it.
I was concerned about my family. At that time I was still too young and too stupid to think about getting my family out of the country. I was worried about their welfare but I didn't know what to do. I thought my family should leave, but I did not think they knew what to do either. My mother would say whoever wanted to go should go but she would rather stay in her own country. So I thought she would never leave the country. I wanted to call home and urge them to leave the country and tell them that the country was going to collapse and be lost to the Communists, but I didn't even know how to call home. I didn't know that there would be phone service to Vietnam.
In February of 1975 I thought of going back to Vietnam one more time. It happened that I was 27 then and at that age I could purchase air tickets at a discount price, so I thought I would return with my 2 year old son. I wanted to show off my son because he was two and I wanted my family to see him. But then it wasn't because I thought of the country falling and coming back to rescue my parents as such. But then I found I was pregnant with my second son so I decided to stay in Germany and wait until I gave birth and then return with the kids and present them to my parents.
Even thought I faced the possibility of the country being lost, it did not play a part in my wanting to return. I wanted to show off my kid.
In Feb 1975 I knew of the possibility of SVN falling but it didn't really register in my mind. I guess i didn't want to think it could happen so soon. So I postponed my trip. That is the thing that gives me the most regret ever since.
April 12, 1975 when Cambodia was lost to the Coms I knew right away that Vietnam would follow soon and fall to the Coms. But it appeared to me at that time that the VN people still trusted that Vietnam would become independent and that things would be all right. I thought they were so naive, but there was nothing I could do.
At that time, even though I knew that it would happen , and my family did not think that it would happen. They didn't want to do anything and I did not know what to do. I prayed that they would flee, but it didn't happen and I had no power to do anything for them.
I was so sad in that period of time. By the time Cambodia fell I was feeling desperate for VN and for my family. My family was not prepared. My mother in law wrote to me on the 29th of April 1975 and she did not seem to show fear or worry. Even my brother in law in the letter was asking for jeans. it seemed to me that they were enveloped in some sort of dream world. The letter did not arrive until after the 30th of April when the country was lost. Reading the letter was an experience. I could not believe how naive they were.
In addition to praying at the time, I wrote home to my mother and then I wrote to my mother in law, and my in laws, my in laws were northerners and so they knew what communists were like and they would have more sense in running away. I urged my mother in law to flee and if she did to urge my own family to go with them. We would not know communism, we had never lived with them before as the Northerners had back before 1954.
By the 29th of May, 1975, my husband told me that the situation was hopeless and that Vietnam would fall. But I did not really know if it would fall so soon. So on the 30th of April 1975 my husband was on duty at the hospital and I was by myself at home listening to the radio and I found that it was true and that the country was lost.
It was such a shock to me that I had no emotions. I was just in a state of stupor. I could show no emotional response. I was dead inside.
When my husband returned at noon on that day I just grabbed him and then I started crying, when the tears really came out.
The last time I was in Vietnam I knew that my country was poor and sad, but I never entertained the thought that my country would be lost. I always thought that it was a piece of struggle between the two blocks of the world, the free and the unfree, and I didn't think that it would be lost. Not so fast, not so soon. So I didn't pay any attention to the fact that it might be the last time that I was home.
I left for Germany, I went abroad, but I always had the thought of returning home one day. I thought VN was a centerpiece of the struggle between the two strong forces between Russia and the US and they were equally strong, so I didn t think I would never again see my country.
One interesting thing that caught my attention when I was back in Vietnam in 1973 was that I saw the people not being too enthusiastic in their homes. It appeared that they were poorer. But on the outside, the capital, the city of Saigon, there were so many new buildings going up like the shopping centers and theaters and everything was so luxuriously built, in fact the Vietnamese theaters were so much nicer than those in Germany, I just didn't know why they did these things. There were two contrasting thoughts in my mind at the time. On the one hand I did not believe that we would lose the war and on the other hand I questioned the sanity of the people. I said to myself, "Why would they be building and expending on expensive things like that, don't they know how fragile the situation here is?" There as nothing that was sure and yet they were building. That was my final feeling in 1973 before I left.
Even before the fall of Vietnam. I was in Germany and I went home a few times to visit. Each time I came back to Germany I was more and more homesick. There was not a day I did not think about Vn. I was living in Bonn. There were days when I would be standing there wishing that I could complete my education faster so I could return home. But with the fall of Saigon I changed. I was frozen in time and in emotions. I didn't know what to think or do. I never thought that I would be stuck in Europe and not able to return home. But my home as gone and I was not prepared for this situation. My mind and my feelings were lost. It was like the story of my life had ended but strangely I was still alive.
The idea of going to Germany was to get an education, not to become a German. I did not participate in their cultural events or in their life very much. As far as the VN cultural events held in Germany I participated but it was not fun. In the end I felt like I was alone, all alone and that I did not belong in Germany and now I could not go home. I just did not have a country. I was a person without a country.
For two years I drifted through life. I didn't know what to do. I thought about VN and dreamed about VN. My father was a contractor and he had many properties and when I was dreaming I dreamed that he sent me some money, and I looked at the amount of the properties that were lost and I regretted that, losing his property.
For two years I did not have peace of mind I just did not know what to do, how to live, what to think. Then I made up my mind and said to myself, It is done. It happened. Now I needed to straighten up. So I participated in all cultural events, German and Vietnamese, because I wanted to belong to something in society.
My own family left VN in 1975 during the evacuation, but I didn't know of their whereabouts until 2 months later and I got news that they were in Guam. I was happy to hear that. But while I did not know of the fate of my family, I watched television every day trying to find images of my family in the films of the evacuation.
But I didn't see anyone I knew on television. It was a relief to learn that they made it to Guam a few months later.
In June of 1975 I heard that some of my relatives were in Guam. Those people were my grandmother, my uncle and my sister. My parents were still in VN. After I made the decision to live on I thought to myself that I should seize the opportunity of being well known to further my singing career and to remind people that vn was still suffering and that things were not all right, ok? This was not only to raise the consciousness of the world about the situation in vn but also to keep the fighting spirit in the people so that there would be a day when we could come home again.
So I made some recordings. I first hesitated. I did a song with a title, "There Will Be a Tomorrow." Then I thought that if I just released one tape there would be no impact, so I released altogether three tapes. The first one was There Will be a Tomorrow. That was meant to keep the fighting spirit going on. The other two were about love and prewar type songs. From before the 1940s.
During those years, after the fall of Saigon, could say that it was not myself, but almost all the students studying in Germany, we felt very disoriented. We were very sad and desperate. And many of the students just dropped out of school and stopped their education. They asked, "What for?" Nobody was thinking of living in Germany for the rest of their lives. But after those years, we came out and we became that we realized that we had to do something because once Saigon fell, the world and the Germany people thought that at last Vn had peace, but it was not true. We became active and organized musical and cultural events, so that we could keep people informed as to what was happening in vn.
But I was so amazed at how quickly the world forgot vn. In their eyes. vn had peace, but it was not true. So I made "There will be a tomorrow.' We took on the responsibilities to explain to friends and to groups what the situation was like in vn. Vn did not have peace at all and we had lost to invaders.
We need to remind people that the vn are still dying, slowly, because of the communists. During the war the world was aware of how the South Vietnamese soldiers died and how vn citizens died, and that was something they knew about. But once the comms took over people forgot that the killings went on and that people were still being killed by the comms. During the years when we were so active, right after the war was lost, we still believed strongly that we could turn the situation around and the vn would be free one day, and we put in a lot of effort and did a lot of things. I did not lose faith until sometime near this period now. I did not completely lose faith, but I just don't have the sense of possessing a strong Faith anymore, that vn could be free.
My hopes are not high anymore. I don't know what to think any more. I just cannot say. I don't know if the situation can be changed for the better now or not. I just don't know. Nobody knows.


Purva Sharegistry said...
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Purva Sharegistry said...
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