Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Hoa and Thuyet have been friends since they were nine year old kids in Hoi An. They were recruited by the Viet Cong as lookouts and runners during the American war, as were a lot of children in their community pictured here, lower left.
By the time they were fifteen, Hoa and Thuyet ( pictures upper right) were rounded up with other kids, all suspected Viet Cong child soldiers and hussled off to an internment camp in Da Lat, up in the mountains about 300 miles away.
There they spent the next three years, until they were moved to other prisons or released. Hoa was released, came home and joined the regular Viet Cong forces. Despite being imprisoned seven more times during the course of the war, she survived and rose within the ranks, retiring as a respected hero. She was 33 when her husband died, leaving her with two small boys to care for.
Thuyet ultimately became the head of the Women's Union in the province of Quang Nam, after her service with the Viet Cong.
We learned this incredible story on yet another visit with Hoa and our friends at VAVA ( Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange) where Hoa is now the Director, a volunteer position. Thuyet is a victim of Agent Orange, having contracted two forms of cancer and losing a breast to the disease. She has never married.
The picture upper left, was taken at a reunion several years ago of the survivors of the original group from Hoi An interned in Da Lat. Seven of the group of fifteen were then still alive.
It took us all morning to piece together the stories of these two amazing women, using our very limited Vietnamese, the help of our young interpreter Phuong, the pictures and a book about these war heroines. We visited both of their homes for tea and met their mother's.
The strength of the love between these two women, their love for their country and their families, their resilience and fortitude are beautiful and humbling to behold.