A story I heard so many times

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Spring 1991. That morning he woke up in his dorm room in Komarno/Czechoslovakia and spontaneously decided to sell his flight ticket, which would have brought him back to his home country within a couple of days. He was going to Germany. The wall in Berlin just fell, most of his friends made it into the Western paradise, so why not give it a try? What’s the worst that could happen?

So he went ahead and stuck to his spontaneous idea. A few days later, he was sitting in the back of a van, all his money he had paid the smugglers to bring him into the country as an illegal immigrant.
There were around half a dozen people in the back of the vehicle, sitting in the dark, heading towards the border of Germany. Everyone was full of hope for a better life but feared what could happen if they got caught. Most of them were men like him, young and adventurous, and in their mid-twenties. But in the corner sat the only two females, a mom with her daughter. The girl was not older than 10 or 11.

So there he was, with no plans for the future. For the past 6 years, he lived near Bratislava. He was a student with a scholarship, who was supposed to return back to Vietnam after finishing his education.
Some of his friends had left to Western Germany a few months earlier, and they had written letters, telling him about this wonderfull, free country that provides for everyone and gives you a chance to build up a decent life. Germany sounded good, and way better than the life he could expect in Vietnam.

The van stopped. . It was dead quiet in the back now, everyone was waiting with expectations, anticipation.  The door got slammed open and one of the smugglers told them to get out.

As he stepped out, he figured that they were parked close to a meadow. It was in the middle of the night and it was a bit chill. A bit unprepared, he only wore a T-Shirt and a thin summer jacket tonight. He could see an open field in between the trees. They got informed that Germany is on the other side.

Further away he could hear dogs barking and a helicopter was flying somewhere close by. Everyone was out of the van now and they all had to cross that field on their own. The transporter would get through the legal border control and pick them up on a parking lot next to the highway. On a German parking lot, thats the deal. Only the wide field that separated them from a new life.

Today, he doesn’t really remember when and where exactly they all started running. But he has a clear image of him running through the muddy field like a maniac! His mind fixed at the forest on the other side, he wanted to get there, that was all that mattered to him.

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But nearly halfway there, the woman fell down with her daughter and they both couldn’t stand up. They remained there, crying and panicking, not able to move, just giving up and let fear sink in. Instinctively he turned back, grabbed the mom’s hand, carried the daughter on his back and started to run again.

The rush of adrenaline and panic kept him moving fast, not looking back; only focused on what’s waiting right in front of him. They kept running towards the other side of the field into the forest. He would pull the mom by her arm and not stop or turn around, even if she was falling. He would drag her and she would have to stand up again and keep running. He didn’t let her go, nor did he stop. He kept running, holding the girl and dragging the mom. The helicopter was close by now, the dogs barking got louder and louder. The police could catch them any minute, so they had to be fast.

All three of them made it through the field and ran into the dark forest – they are in Germany now. The hardest part was over. From the forest, they could hear the highway. They kept running towards it. The parking lot was easy to find and the van was already waiting. They were safe now and he handed the girl over to her mom. Both were crying, both were happy they made it. I don’t think there are words to describe how relieved they felt.

He looked around, everyone including him was covered in sweat and dirt. But everyone was there, not a single one got caught by the police. He smiled and stepped into the van. By the break of dawn they had arrived at their final destination.

The mom with her daughter got picked up by her husband. The other guys had some family to pick them up as well. Only he didn’t have anybody and any plans, what to do next. The woman came over to thank him and to say goodbye, but she figured that he had no idea where to go. She offered him to come with her family and they would give him a ride to the nearest train station.

He arrived at the busy main station in Hannover later that morning. People were on their way to work, students on their way to university. With nothing on him but his muddy clothes, he decided to go straight to the first police car he saw, which was parked right in front of the station. Without knowing a single word of German, the police men understood and helped him. They drove him to the next shelter for asylum seekers and brought him to the registration counter. At last, they wished him „einen schönen Tag noch“. (have a pleasant day)

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He filled in all the necessary papers, and they gave him some new clothes, food and washing stuff. They brought him to his room and when he entered, he couldn’t believe the irony of life. One of his friends from Czechoslovakia stayed in the same dormitory for immigrants. As they were catching up, he found out that one of his best mates only lived a few kilometers away. He borrowed a bike and went there right away.
When he arrived, he met his friend’s roommate. She was doing the dishes and pointed him the way to the right room.

Little did he know that this woman was going to be his wife and that they had their first daughter about a year after they met that day. Neither did he know that his spontaneous trip to Germany would be the greatest and best decision he had ever made. Its was going to be his home from then until now. His family is going to live there, his children will grow up there in a safe environment, with education and all the freedom in the world. They don’t have to live under the communistic politic and inequality in Vietnam. He will open his own business a decade after he came to Germany and some will be successful and some will fail.

It is the story of my Dad and how he made his way to Germany. In regards to the recent events, I wanted to share his past with you and tell his great story to you 🙂
Although they were not refugees, my mom and dad came to Germany as illegal immigrants in hope of a better life. Financially and politically, this country provided them better than their home country even though Vietnam was not in war anymore. They came here with nothing and learned the language, build up their small business and always stayed humble.

Today, 24 years after they crossed the border, they established their own business with hard and honest work and have their own little house in a little suburb in Bavaria. They learned German and try to immigrate as much as they can. They show that not everyone who is coming to another country as an illegal immigrant is trying to rip off the state and the governmental support. And that they don’t live in their own community in another country and ignore the Western culture.

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I am speaking a mix of German and Vietnamese at home, my parents raised me similar to how my German friends got raised, we have Christmas and Lunar New Year every year. All my friends with Vietnamese background have the same experience. We happily live with a mixture of German and Vietnamese culture. And it’s wonderful, I feel enriched to grow up between two different cultures.

I am not taking a political side, I am only saying that if they wouldn’t have come to Germany, my two siblings and I wouldn’t have such a privileged life. Now I am a German citizen with a German passport, who can travel the world, study and live in every EU country if I wanted to, lucky to grow up bilingual and in between two totally different cultures. Most important, I can do whatever I want in life. I wouldn’t have the same chance if I grew up in Vietnam, where education is tough, corruption beats hard work and no one really cares for traffic rules

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After I graduated from high school, I worked and lived in Southern France and Australia without any problems. I am able to study in Copenhagen now and I travel several times per year to all different places, without facing any troubles crossing the borders. I can go and do whatever I want with my life and I can express my opinion freely, without political or other consequences. I wouldn’t have all these opportunities in life if my parents didn’t come to Germany back then.

– Thank you Mom and Dad, for sacrificing everything for usso we can have anything we want in life.

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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Love your story! I feel a lot of people need to stop being so selfish and take a minute to read one point of view of immigrants you shared through your dad’s story. Great job.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing. Your story is beautiful. I understand what it is like to be an Asian immigrant because my family is also one in Canada and I love learning about both cultures – Chinese and Canadian. It is such an honour to be able to learn about the best of both worlds.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. I am happy you share the same “experience” of growing up with two cultures aswell 🙂

  3. Thank you for sharing this story. I have to admit I did shed a tear when you described your father dragging the woman and her daughter across the field to safety. What a decent and courageous man! I too am a child of two cultures and can relate so much to your story. Best of luck with your studies in Copenhagen. I’m looking forward to moving there in the next year or two and enjoy reading your tales in the city ?

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words 🙂 I am really proud of my dad and I dont think I could have done anything if it wouldn’t be for his courage and his support 🙂 From which countries are you from? I hope to see you one day here in Copenhagen Pamela 🙂

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