This week we commemorated the 45th anniversary of April 30th. For some, April 30th is remembered as Black April, marking the Fall of Saigon and the loss of their home and country, South Vietnam. For others, it is a day of reunification and liberation, the long fought for end to a colonial war. Regardless, April 30th, 1975 marks a turning point in the history of Vietnam and the beginning of the largest Vietnamese diaspora.
Following the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, my family became part of the 1.6 million individuals who left Vietnam in what is known as the Indochina Refugee Crisis. 700,000 of these individuals were “boat people,” including my mother.
In 1978, my grandfather was arrested by the new Vietnamese government and held in a re-education camp for forty-six months. That same year, my mother’s older and younger brothers, gambled at a chance for freedom and departed on a boat that would take them through the refugee camps of Malaysia and the Philippines, before being resettled in the United States. One by one, my mother’s friends and their families bid their goodbyes, exchanging gold for a chance at life. Those who could afford to buy a spot on a boat were smuggled out of the country and sailed through the islands of Southeast Asia, until by good fortune, landing again on the solid grounds of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, and the United States. Departing nine years after her brothers, in 1987, my mother escaped through the forests of Cambodia and Thailand, from where she sailed to Malaysia and the Philippines, before rejoining them in Dallas, Texas. Three years later, my grandparents made the journey by airplane, to a country where, as my grandfather writes, there is not a large Asian population, and he does not know the language. But life is still good because his children have the opportunity to find new successes.
Whatever name we choose to call it, April 30th is interwoven into the memories of Vietnamese throughout the world and passed down from parent to child. On this day, we recognize the cruelty of war, the lives lost, the families separated, and the consequences that continue today. And 45 years later, let us not forget how far we've come. Uprooted by war, we continue to persist with strength and courage, with the determination to live and build a better future. Together, we sow the seeds of a global community rooted in resilience.
Leading up to the 45th anniversary, we asked you to share with us what April 30th means to you. Here is what some of you had to say. Thank you for sharing your stories with us! Stay resilient.
"They told me a life of starvation, displacement, and deprivation. My parents told these stories to me like it was just something that happens to everyone. They told it matter-of-factly because to them, this wasn't considered trauma, but a way of life.
One day, I stumbled upon a set of photos from Vietnam during the ’60s-’70s and was inspired by the mundane and simple capturings of life and how normal it was in contrast to the war filled images of Vietnam I was used to. This inspired a series that takes a different perspective and view of life in Vietnam, one where it's not much different than anywhere else. Youthfulness and a simple life, devoid of the mention of war. This is not to disrespect the people and soldiers who lost their lives but to honor how life had to go on, the generational trauma that is passed and the viet nam that I know even if I wasn't alive during that era." @ph.amm
"Trauma survives within the survivor
Trauma travels to the next destination
"April 30th is a little bit different for me because I didn't live through the Fall of Saigon, and I grew up here in the United States. But what is important about April 30th is it's also my grandmother's sinh nhật, her birthday." @little_williams
"April 30th is the 45th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon or Reunification Day, depending upon your perspective. It’s an emotional day for Vietnamese all over the world. Here is my orphan pic from Vietnam and and adoption pic from Buffalo, New York." @markferickson
"My momma let me have her old coach bag 🤎✨ - This day brings so much importance for many Vietnamese people, as it holds many stories, tears, and sadness. It was around this time, that my family immigrated to the States and tried to create a better life for the future generations to come, like me. I always knew my family went through so much hardship to get to where we are today and April 30 is the trigger that really emphasizes how much they did for me and for my younger family members. Their strength, determination, and will to begin a new life allowed my mom to give me this bag 🤎"
"I was not even a year old at that time. But my mom, who was a single mom, had to make a decision, and she chose to flee the country for a better life, for me ... Reflecting now, I am so blessed and so happy to live the life of freedom and the many blessings that my mom has struggled through to bring me and our family here. It's something I will never forget, and it's something I will always cherish and respect." @amy_m_le
"Santa Ana, California
April 30th tributes are usually filled with amazing stories. Here’s mine.
In 1975, my uncle went missing during the fall of Saigon at the age of seventeen. 8 years later, we find out he fled on a boat and was living in Houston. A few weeks after finding out, he got my family and I green cards and we got to America. This photo was taken in front of our first house in 1983... and no, I probably wasn’t wearing diapers." @dannydo109
“'You just have to be thankful for today- that you’re well. Tomorrow may be different, but so be it. Back then, I went towards the dark ocean, without fear. I didn’t know where that rickety boat would take me. But I knew that wherever it was headed was better than what was left.'”
"The stories that I’ve heard my elders so causally describe throughout my life have humbled me with a profound sense of loss and gratitude ... Today, I miss the comfort of their laughter, roasting each other over bottles of Heineken, my aunt effortlessly whipping up Ca Ri Ga and Banh Xeo for her little brothers, now in their 60’s, and their children. All of us together under one safe roof, celebrating life, family, and the power of radical resilience and hope." @ai.nghia_
"My parents had never been to the United States before they fled here. They didn't know anyone here ... They had no assets, they had no job, and they came here at an age where most people already had their lives established. Most people already had that security blanket. But despite all that they were able to provide for each other, they were able to provide for their offspring and give us a life that many other families were not as fortunate to have. And that's what tomorrow means to me - the idea of new beginnings and being able to get back up even when life knocks you down." @stevennoph
"On that day, when they took over, everybody - including Mom - happy, ok, there is no more war. But after that day, it turned out differently."
For more stories about what April 30th means in the Vietnamese diaspora, visit our Instagram page @vietnameseboatpeople.