Ron Pozzer, the Hamilton SpectatorReunion co-ordinator Thanh Campbell, a Vietnamese orphan, with his wife Karina and one of their three children now lives in Hamilton.

Ron Pozzer, the Hamilton SpectatorDavid Hobson, 31, in photo as a child, came to reunion from Vancouver.

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By Dana Borcea
The Hamilton Spectator
(Apr 17, 2006)It's been 31 years since they last laid eyes on each other.

But Tuyet Yurczyszyn hopes the man she credits with saving her life might recall the few hours they spent together.

Searching the pilot's face for a glimmer of recognition, the Brantford mother of two asked expectantly, "Do you remember me?"

He doesn't.

"I don't know which one you were," says Cliff Zacharias, who flew the plane carrying 57 Vietnamese orphans out of Saigon as the city fell at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

Yurczyszyn was eight years old at the time and one of the oldest among the evacuated children on the plane. The youngest was just 10-days old.

This weekend, 33 of the orphans were reunited in Oakville for the first time since arriving to Canada in 1975 and scattered across the country.

After landing in Toronto, Yurczyszyn was taken in by a Brantford couple, who also adopted two other children from Bangladesh and Vietnam.

"You couldn't ask for a better family," said Yurczyszyn, who went on to marry and have two children of her own. "I've been very lucky."

Last year, when Yurczyszyn heard about the reunion of the orphans, she hesitated. "I didn't want my life interrupted," she said. It took some coaxing, but organizers finally convinced Yurczyszyn to attend.

There she came face to face with the other, now-adult, orphans, unable to recognize each other, but connected by a powerful bond. While Yurczyszyn has blocked out many childhood memories, there are some she cannot forget. She remembers the orphanage in Saigon where the nuns were "strict but not unkind."

Food was scarce and the gnawing hunger prompted her to hoard kernels of corn in her shirt. When soldiers came through the orphanage, Yurczyszyn would hide, afraid they would take her away when they discovered the polio ravaging her right leg.

Zacharias, who came from Washington for the reunion, said he did not recognize Yurczyszyn's adult face, but shared what he saw when he walked through the cargo hold of a Canadian Armed Forces Hercules he piloted.

The babies were seated back-to-back in cardboard boxes. Makeshift seatbelts were made from tape. The older children sat in chairs under the watchful eyes of Canadian volunteers.

Many of the orphans were sick and suffering from dysentery and high fevers.

Inside the plane, the heat and humidity was stifling. Outside, smoke and fire engulfed the war-torn city just beyond the tarmac. "I remember being struck by how you older kids weren't crying," Zacharias told her. "You were so stoic."

Days earlier, another plane bound for the U.S. carrying 300 passengers, mostly children, went down in flames 65 kilometres from Saigon.

Less than half of the people on board survived. The tragedy lent a sense of urgency to Zacharias' mission. "I just hoped and prayed everyone had a good life in Canada."

Reunion co-ordinator Thanh Campbell certainly did. The Hamilton resident was 12 months old when he was flown out of Saigon. He was adopted by a Presbyterian minister and former Hamilton Spectator employee, William Campbell and his wife Maureen. He grew up in a large and spiritual household with five siblings, two of whom were also adopted.

Today he works as a motivational speaker who encourages mission work. He met his future wife Karina on a mission trip to Haiti. They now live on the west Mountain with their three sons.

Nearly three years ago after telling his story to a congregation in Sarnia, Campbell was approached by a man who insisted he knew of an orphan from the same flight.

Campbell was skeptical, assuming the man's friend was merely one of the thousands of Vietnamese refugees who fled the country by boat and arrived in Canada during the late 1970s and 1980s. A week later Trent Kilner, who works as a carpenter and construction worker in Sarnia, was at Campbell's front door.

After hugging, the two men stepped back and sized each other up. "We each knew exactly what the other was thinking," said Campbell, who wondered if Trent might be his brother. He is looking into DNA testing for him and the other orphans.

The two bonded quickly over their shared experiences in large, religious families — Trent grew up with 12 siblings, many adopted as well — and soon set out to find the others.

"If we could find each other, we could find the rest," Campbell said.

After their story appeared in a Toronto Star article and a CBC report, the pieces started to fall into place as word of their search spread to the other orphans as far away as Alberta and British Columbia. A year later, the pair have managed to track down 40 of the orphans.

All but seven were able to attend the weekend reunion, accompanied by their adopted families and friends.

Few were able to contain their emotions. Kilner was overcome by tears during his opening remarks. "There are faces here we haven't seen for more than 30 years," he told them after taking a moment to compose himself.

Before meeting Campbell, Kilner was satisfied with knowing close to nothing about his voyage to his new life. "I never used to dwell on the past," he said. "My parents told me I was from Vietnam and that's all I needed to know."

But all that has changed now.

Kilner, who landed in Toronto at age 3 with no papers, has spent much of his spare time in the last few years digging for any information he can find about the flight and the other orphans.

At the weekend gathering, several orphans expressed a similar awakening. Some are planning a trip to Vietnam to visit the orphanage and search for relatives. Among them is Yurczyszyn who said meeting the orphans has strengthened her resolve to go back. "There are pieces to this puzzle that I will never find," she said. "But I am ready now to find out about my past."

For more information see www.57orphans.com.

dborcea@thespec.com

905-526-3214

Werewolves of Saigon

April 18, 2006

 
11:37' 17/04/2006 (GMT+7)

Soạn: AM 753533 gửi đến 996 để nhận ảnh này
Motorbikes for lease.

VietNamNet – In HCM City a man must look the part, and hiring sharp threads and a phat ride works to dupe materialistic girls into thinking you’re successful.

 

On the busy streets of the southern metropolis, the nuevo riche mince about their way, and being materialistic, all that is stylish and expensive is as good as gold. Yet, many of these well-to-dos are little more than fraudsters, wolves in sheep’s clothing if you will.

 

K D, a lass of District 5, HCM City, lost US$5,000 and her heart to a wolf she spied drinking a pina colada; his hair was perfect. She then met the man again in daylight hours in Tan Binh District, where he appeared a ne’er do well, helping his wife sell coffee on the pavement.

 

Meanwhile downtown, T whips out a card, sharp as a tack, and says he is a go-between for real estate traders. He looks sharp in his suit, street-wise and loaded; a gentleman with expensive clothing. His brand-name shoes matching his mobile phone, T basks in the respect of passers-by.

 

After few beers T reveals that his appearance is a total farce. In reality, he works in marketing at an advertising company where he pulls down a salary of just VND1,2mil (US$72) per month. He admits that the look of a million bucks, all you have to do is rent it. He says by hiring expensive clothes and a mobile phone, he appears more trustworthy.

 

T is a regular customer of rental shops in HCM City, where he is “trustworthy” enough that the shop owner lets him take out top notch clothing and motorbikes guaranteed only by his identity card.

 

“New customers have to put up a family-register, or a land-using-right certificate, or a passport. But I’ve been a customer for a long time here now.” T says, rolling off bills from a practically non-existent roll to hire two motorbikes, a Dylan and @, for four hours apiece. Cost for the wheels: VND150,000 (US$9,3). Currency with chicks: priceless.

 

T and his friends then peel their phat rides to a fashion store on Dien Bien Phu Street, where they kit out for the evening. Cost for the fly threads: VND80,000 (US$0,5). Tender with the ladies: priceless.

 

T says other rental shops will dress a man cheaper, but he doesn’t like to scrimp when it comes to faking style. The most important, T says, is of course the gold bling, which he rents at Ba Chieu Market. Cost to dazzle with a diamond grill: VND80,000 per day. Credit with the bedazzled honeys: priceless.

 

To round it off, T graces Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, where he hires a mobile phone. Cost to keep it real-time with your peeps: VND70,000-90,000(US$0,4 -0,55) for a Nokia N70/day; a Samsung: VND10,000 – 30,000 (US$0,2 – 0,45) ; and VND5,000 – 30,000 for a Sony Ericsson. Word from the babes: priceless

 

All decked out like this, damn, a man just needs somewhere to go, know what I’m sayin? Somewhere to get in the wolf, and more importantly, someone to make the investment worth the effort. In the city centre, the wolf sniffs around a District 1 bar. The ladies are on standby waving just to say hi. Did he stop? No, T just roamed by.

 

“I know where they hired those skanky clothes,” T says, totally cool. He spies two women at another table, and slides right on over to them. A quick drink later, T returns with a girl on each arm, “We’re going for a night cap,” T growls mischievously. It’s nearly 11pm, T and the two women slide into a taxi, leaving one slightly incredulous hack hanging around on the pavement.

 

B, another young man who likes to get in the wolf, says he has pulled wool over many a girl’s eyes. “This one chick,” he said, “she was the chief of some trade bureau thing at a hotel. She in love with me and lavished me with love and money. It was sweet until she figured out I was in the wolf.”