Image via – History Learning Site
A small rundown fishing boat crammed with 77 people on board, drifting in the South China Sea, escaping persecution, fleeing for their lives and searching for freedom.
One of those on board is my father, Chau Minh Than Le.
He was one of many Vietnamese refugees that built a new life in Australia.
Only in the past five years or so has he started opening up to me about his life in Vietnam, whether it was to shelter me or because he didn’t want to relive the past he had left far behind him.
To be honest it was probably the latter.
Even though he has been in the country for 36 years, his voice still holds remnants of his life before Australia. His accent is a mix of old and new, using Australian colloquialisms with a Vietnamese twang.
Born in 1960, his mother, my Ba noi (grandmother) Mrs Thi Khanh Than said that his birth brought about great excitement for her, her husband and my dads great grandmother, as even though he was the eighth child born, he was only the second male in the family.
“Everyone loved him for he was such a cute, chubby baby. He looked exactly like the baby in the Nestle milk advert which was popular at the time,” my Ba noi said.
My father as a child
“As he grew up he was a very studious student and a well behaved boy. He was healthy and sporty and everyone loved him.”
My dads older brother Than Chau Le, shared similar sentiments.
“He was a chubby and well behaved baby and child. In his teenager years, he was a well-mannered and hard working student and also a passionate sports fan”, explained my uncle.
“There was a generation gap because I’m 7 years older than him. But we had a good relationship between brothers! We both were passionate sports fans and played in the local volleyball (team)”.
While childhood brought happy memories, the spread of communism across the country threatened that happiness, and their lives.