Family members that fled Vietnam are 'twice refugees'

June 28, 2013

By Katie Mingle

Daniel Shaw and Diep Nguyen (Photo courtesy of StoryCorps)

Diep Nguyen describes her family as “twice refugees.”

As converted Catholics who feared for their lives under Vietnamese Communist rule, they fled North Vietnam for South Vietnam in 1954. And then as the Vietnam War ended, Diep and some of her family fled again – this time to the U.S.

The Streamwood woman visited the Chicago StoryCorps booth with her son, Daniel Shaw, to remember her childhood home and what it was like to leave her home country for the U.S. 

Daniel: How was it living … with all of your siblings in that tiny house of yours?

StoryCorps’s mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to share, record and preserve their stories. This excerpt was edited by WBEZ.

Diep: For me, that was just my childhood home. When I was little I thought it was this big castle … but living there was crowded, we, you know, lived on top of each other but we didn’t mind, and it was fun.

Diep shared a room with her grandmother, a deeply religious Catholic whom Diep adored. She describes an idyllic childhood with her close family. But when she reached her teen years, she came home from school one day to find everything was about to change.

Diep: ... I remember it very vividly, it was a Thursday. By that time there was a lot of unrest already and people were talking about the end of the war. I came home and my aunt was there … along with Grandpa, and they were crying. My mother said, ‘Pack your bag, you’re going with your aunt.’ 

To find out how Diep felt when she got to the United States, click on the audio above.

Katie Mingle is a producer for WBEZ and the Third Coast Festival.