Thursday, April 02, 2015

Left Behind: The Children of War Part IV- The Lucky Ones

First Installment (link)

The Ones Who Found Homes

There are many layers to every issue, in our view, to do with the American War, the Vietnam War. The story of Amerasians and other orphans is no different. There were tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of babies and toddlers -- who were abandoned in the final days of the war. Some made it to orphanages, some were "promised" to anxious adoptive parents from around the globe and found lives of peace and plenty. These are their stories

They were the lucky ones.

But that, of course, is a matter of perspective. The tens of thousands of other babies who made it to the States outside of official adoptions, weren't so lucky. Grown now, mostly in their late thirties and into their forties- they are citizens of their adoptive countries in every way except one: they have been denied citizenship.  All these years later they are still registered as Permanent Resident Aliens The process is very expensive and they are not allowed to apply for 15 years if they don't speak English fluently! They can take the test at 5 years if they are fluent.
Still further degradation to an already immeasurably difficult life.

The Operation Babylift enterprise was put together under then-President Gerald R. Ford. Figures vary but officially, 2,000 children were airlifted out of Vietnam in the waning days of the American war- in Spring of 1975. Some were airlifted to the US while others found homes elsewhere.

"Babylift Babies", as they've often been called, were mostly kids who were brought from orphanages associated with religious and charitable organizations.

These are their stories. Now, as adults making their way as citizens of their adoptive nations, they are making their mark. Some are retracing the steps that brought them out of Vietnam. 

In a recent correspondence, our friend Ralf Lofstad who is currently in Saigon to gather with fellow OBL babies to remember their beginnings (in the largest ever effort of its kind-  Operation Babylift). Ralf reports that, after years of wonder and searching for his biological parents, he is at peace with his life and grateful for the love and encouragement of those he considers to be his true parents- the Lofstads of Norway. Here is his story:

From Norway- Ralf Lofstad- in his own words a
Ralf meets his adoptive parents

From Australia- Cath Turner-in her own words b

The Story of Catherine Turner:  A Vietnamese Babylift Adoptee
Cath Turner as an infant

In our research, we came upon a woman who shared her journey with us with grace and honesty via email correspondence and a deeply moving documentary film. Catherine Turner, or Cath, as she is known opens her heart:

"Thanks for your email.  I read your website with great interest.

I certainly have mixed emotions about my adoption and being part of Operation Babylift.  I can say without a doubt that it has affected every single part of my life.  It has made me who I am, it has influenced every decision I’ve made and shaped my thoughts, attitudes and outlook on life.  I wouldn’t use the word ‘bitter’, but there have certainly been negative effects of being raised in Australia during that time.  I have struggled throughout my life with these and, at nearly 40-years-old, am only just starting to understand them fully."- Catherine Turner b 

Turner shares the process of her journey to find her biological mother and her own identity.

Courage, curiosity, and perseverance helped to answer many personal questions. Perhaps Turner's quest will encourage others to reach out. The film garnered numerous nods at film festivals including placing in the finals for the Gracie Awards and Amnesty International. The Australian journalist will be participating in a forum to be held at The Presidio in San Francisco this month to commemorate Operation Babylift. Here is her story:

The Journey of Catherine Turner

With permission from the author- Ralf Lofstad. English translation by: Liv Vilde Adams. We are eternally grateful for the contributions shared with us by these two fine people.
b We were so fortunate to come across Cath Turner, an award-winning Autralian journalist  currently living in Sydney working as a Senior Network Reporter for Channel 7. We thank Cath and honor the generous offering of her story, her journey.

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