The separation

Mr. Le Dinh Keo (born in 1924, now deceased) spent time working on cargo ships in Sai Gon before he started his own family, which included daughters Le Thi Bong and Le Thi Nu.

His wife one day incurred a huge debt and took the whole family to a temporary accommodation in the market as putting their house on sale was the only way to get the debt paid off.

Ngày gặp lại của hai chị em thất lạc suốt 53 năm dù sống gần nhau

Mrs. Le Thi Nu

Not long after marriage, Keo’s wife left. He and his daughters lived a vagabond existence, struggling just to keep their heads above water.

In 1966, days of deliberation went by, Mr. Keo decided to put his daughters Le Thi Bong (13 years old), Le Thi Nu (5 years old) up for adoption to two families in District 4.

Mrs. Phan Thi Ngoc (nearly 90 years old, living in Canada) as a loving old woman, adopted Le Thi Nu. "I wanted to take them both, but I didn’t have the capability." 

It was imprinted on Nu’s mind the first time she got sent home for a visit to her birth father. “I gave him some money from my piggy bank but he refused to take it and instead gifted me a roast duck and some bread before I got back to my foster parents’ home, saying 'enjoy them my daughter, there will be no next time visit’," Mrs. Nu recalled with tears streaming down her cheeks.

Ngày gặp lại của hai chị em thất lạc suốt 53 năm dù sống gần nhau

Mrs. Le Thi Bong

Those lengthy 53 years

Mr. Keo departed in 1968. The sisters got a chance to mourn their father at his funeral after completely losing touch.

In the following years, Mrs. Bong worked different jobs as a banana trader at the pier and a chef at restaurants in District 4, thinking that her younger sister had settled down in America leading a full life with good education. Mrs. Bong married at 20 and still lives in the Xom Chieu market area, district 4.

 

As for Mrs. Nu, in 1975, she together with her adoptive parents moved from District 4 to Ba Diem commune in Hoc Mon district in Saigon. She led a rather strenuous life providing support to her parents in the fields. They in 1990 moved to Canada without Nu. She soon married a carpenter in Tinh Bien district, Tay Ninh Province and gave birth to seven children. She stayed partnerless and raised them all after her husband’s death, unfortunately.

Ngày gặp lại của hai chị em thất lạc suốt 53 năm dù sống gần nhau

Mrs. Le Thi Nu holding a photo of her birth father.

Nu lived with a longing to reconnect with her older sister but her search for Mrs. Bong was not feasible due to unstable living location and having no aid.

“I miss her, every night, for decades. I have never forgotten the visit when I was seven and she was 15. I took her to the market and her utterance upon seeing anything there was ‘do you want it? Take it, take it, I’ll pay’ despite me repeatedly shaking my head.”

Mrs. Nu’s son also started his search for his aunt whenever he heard someone with similar name or age, but was always left disappointed.

Affecting reunion

A TV show named ‘As if we were never apart’ (Nhu chua he co cuoc chia ly) after receiving two matching letters about finding relatives contacted two of the senders for a reunification on the program. There was initially some trouble in contacting Mrs. Bong due to the change in her address but it finally went smoothly.

Ngày gặp lại của hai chị em thất lạc suốt 53 năm dù sống gần nhau

Moment of rejoice

Ms. Bong shared that over the past few decades, she took the onerous journey to look for her lost sister, which was made even harder due to her illiteracy. She had to reach out for help to post a newsletter for the search of Mrs. Nu.

The second they saw each other again, no one could refrain from shedding tears. With hands held, embraces locked, they filled in the other with stories missed, recollecting those days, with that pure joy of being able to stay close to your flesh and blood.

Tu Anh

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