Once the war was over, the fighting stopped, but Vietnamese people still lost their freedom. Communism was intended to help everyone—leveling out the playing field and ensuring equality. But instead, it stripped lives of individuality and self-determination.
"I knew immediately it was over. I heard it on the tv station or radio station saying it was over. And then, later that day or that night, you see the other side marching in with their military forces. Then we knew.
"I was standing on the balcony, looking down, watching the communists come in, and we loved chewing bubble gum at the time. And I remembered I had the yellow wrapper of Wrigley gum. So I put that piece in my mouth and said, well this is the last piece of gum I can eat. And I was watching the other side coming in from the balcony. And it was funny, I was thinking there were more like monsters, but they looked just like humans."
Our dad hated the communists, even though he had never interacted with one. To them, it didn't matter that they were still regular people—they were the people who had ruined their lives.
Everyone lived in a state of constant oversight, where speakers spouted news and pro-communist agendas, and people's time was closely monitored.
"They want to keep you busy so you have no time to rebel. They’ll tell you to go to meetings [after work]. Just so you keep occupied, so you don’t have time to do anything else. By the time you come home, you’re pretty much beat, you want to go to sleep. You don’t have time to do other things. They brainwash you overnight—that’s what they’re doing.
"So everybody goes, and everybody knows that they go because they have to go. But nobody can really trust one another anymore, so they create a lot of distrust between one person to the next. You don’t really know who is who anymore at that point. Who will rat on you, who will report on you for their benefit. They create that distrust between people."
Every move was monitored. Police could knock on your door at any hour in the night to count how many people were in your home, just to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be. Most travel required permits, and your bags were always subject to inspection.
My grandparents restarted their business, after hiding away a small amount of money. But even then, the opportunity for growth and success was taken from them. Businesses were subjected to inventory and currency changes, eventually driving our dad's family to decide to escape the country.
"[It occured to me parents that we needed to leave] sometime in 76, after we had been inventoried the first time. And then they changed currency a couple more times. So in other words, let’s say you have 10,000 dollars. Let’s say now the currency changes, you have to take the 10,000 dollars to give to them. They give you two thousand bucks new money. So they took away your eight thousand dollars. And then you make a little more money as you grow a little more. They say, well, they change new currency again. So you cannot get ahead.
"So at that point, my father decided to sacrifice—he had lost everything anyway—so he knows there was no future for his kids there anymore. He thought he’d leave the country—leave there and go to the free country, America, where his kids had a future. So he sacrificed that. They sacrificed that for us."