A Vietnamese adopted by a French couple 23 years ago had the opportunity to reconnect with her biological family in southern Vietnam after having her story published in Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
Amandine Durand, a 23-year-old Vietnamese – French adoptee, on Wednesday burst into tears when she suddenly hit with the realization of a lifetime: she had found her biological family.
The journey for tracing root
“Last week a beautiful article was published in Tuoi Tre Newspaper about my story, how I ended at Go Vap orphanage, my life in France and abroad, and the reason why I came back in[sic] Vietnam. I was looking for my biological family, maybe still[sic] a tiny chance to find them,” Amandine wrote on her Facebook.
“I have such great news to announce today, I finally found [my family], where I am from. I already had a big family in France, now the family is huge, there is no word who can express how I feel. This week was incredible,” she added [sic].
Tuoi Tre had the honor to follow Amandine as she set out to trace her personal history.
|Amandine Durand shares her story at the talk titled "Helping Vietnamese Adoptees Trace Their Roots" held by Tuoi Tre Newspaper on July 12, 2018 in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
On July 12, Tuoi Tre published Amandine’s adoption story in its Vietnamese print edition as part of its “Helping Vietnamese Adoptees Trace Their Roots” program.
Within hours of its publication, the story had spread throughout the country and Tuoi Tre became inundated with phone calls from people claiming to know Amandine’s birth mother, Do Thi Chiem, a resident in Ngai Giao Town, Chau Duc District, in the coastal province of Ba Ria – Vung Tau.
When Tuoi Tre told Amandine the news, the young woman reacted with understandable wariness, though it was clear she was eager to follow the lead.
The only way to find the truth, after all, would be to visit Ngai Giao.
Amandine and Tuoi Tre set out from Ho Chi Minh City to Ba Ria – Vung Tau at 5:00 am on July 14, passing from the busy highways of Saigon onto the twisting back roads near Ngai Giao where Chiem, now in her mid-60s, is cared for by relatives.
When Amandine arrived at the house, relatives and neighbors were eager to fill in the empty spaces of her story.
The story of baby La
According to neighbors, Chiem grew up in a poor area of the province and eventually married a local man, with whom she bore five children.
Shortly after the fifth child, the husband passed away.
Chiem married for a second time and soon had another daughter, Doan Thi Lua, now 25.
Two years later, at the age of 43, she was pregnant once again. In the six month of her pregnancy, however, her old age and harsh living conditions contributed to an obstetrical hemorrhage and she was transferred to Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.
Doan Thi La was born premature, weighing only 1.56kg and needing to spend her first few days of life in an incubator.
“I was weak and did not have money. People around said that our daughter could die if we brought her home to live our difficult life,” Chiem recalled.
|Do Thi Chiem (2nd from R) kisses Amandine when they meet on July 14, 2018 in the southern province of Ba Ria - Vung Tau. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
An infertile couple asked to adopt the baby and, choking back tears, Chiem agreed, hoping it would save her daughter’s life.
She received VND1 million and a bunch of old clothes in return.
The couple ended up leaving the baby at the hospital.
She was then taken to the Go Vap Orphanage where she eventually met her French adoptive parents.
When Chiem and her family got back to their hometown, they told their neighbors that the baby suffered a premature death.
However, the yearning for his daughter tore at Amandine’s biological father’s heart.
After that telling his family the truth, he spent much of his life talking about his baby with regret until he died in April 2018 from cardiovascular disease.
When the people of Ngai Giao read Amandine’s story in Tuoi Tre, they knew the details were too similar to be mere coincidence.
Amandine listened intently as Tuoi Tre reporters carefully translated the story, trying to make sense of her life and trying to find a link to these strangers who were her family.
When Chiem and Lua tried to hug her, she pulled away.
Chiem and Lua both agreed to a DNA test and samples of Chiem’s hair and nails were brought to a lab in Ho Chi Minh City for testing.
As Amandine left the house that day, her face was calm and betrayed no emotion.
Her mother and sister were in tears.
The picture of the father
Before leaving Ngai Giao, Tuoi Tre and Amandine visited the house where Chiem and her husband used to live.
Amandine burst into tears when she saw the picture of her father on a small altar in the house, realizing the similarities between his face and hers.
“I am late, dad,” Amandine said while shedding tears and reaching to hug Chiem and Lua.
|Amandine (L) is seen crying in a picture taken during her visit to meet Do Thi Chiem and Doan Thi Lua (R) on July 14, 2018 in the southern province of Ba Ria - Vung Tau. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
“She is my little sister,” Lua said in tears. “My father kept talking about La in months before he passed away.”
Before leaving the place, Amandine gave a necklace to “her sister” with a promise to return.
After four days of waiting, Tuoi Tre and Amandine received unsurprising news from the DNA test - a matching result confirming that Chiem is Amandine’s biological mother.
Amandine couldn’t help but share her news with the world.
“If I could be honest, here and right[sic] now everything is going to change. All the pain I had is gone and all my questions are finally answered,” Amandine spread the happy news on her Facebook.
“It’s a miracle I was born premature [with only] a 20 percent chance to survive. Here I am and after a week I found my family. I’m just so thankful for the situation and am the luckiest woman in the world. Two families, two amazing countries, two beautiful cultures,” she happily shared. Her dreams had come true.
|To all the children who are still looking for their family, please never give up. Believe in faith and in your dreams. The best is coming for you.|
|Amandine Durand – Doan Thi La|
Below is an English version of Amandine’s story published on Tuoi Tre Newspaper in the form of a personal essay on July 12:
I want to find my mother: Do Thi Chiem. She was 43 when she gave birth to me in the early morning of August 20, 1995 at Tu Du Hospital. She left after that. I was premature and weighed only 1.56kg. The hospital named me Do Thi Ngoc Chau. At six months old, I was adopted from Go Vap Orphanage and flew to France.
My adoptive parents have always told me that I am a gift they had been waiting for. They fell in love with Vietnam when they traveled the country during their youth. When they knew they couldn’t have children, they decided to adopt a child from Vietnam. I have changed their life with happiness and they have given me a wonderful life. I have everything I want, travel a lot, and had the opportunity to study in London. My parents support me in everything I do.
Together we’ve traveled to Vietnam five times since I was young to experience the country, its food, and its culture. I love the country and its people. I feel comfortable and connected here; no one stares at me because I look the same as them. When in France, people often stare because I look different. Since I turned 14, I’ve had the idea of finding my birth parents. I wonder where they are and how their life is. I wonder if I have siblings. I wonder why they left me.
In France, I had a very good job, an apartment, and a car. All was good. I did charity work such as handing out food to poor and homeless people. My parents often taught me about certain values in life: if you want something in life, you have to work for it and share your luck with people. Sharing will not make you poor – it’s an important part of life.
Last year, I visited Vietnam to volunteer at orphanages. I particularly remember the Go Vap orphanage where I took care of babies and disabled children. I feel connected with the place and feel as though all the children are my brothers and sisters. I was there, in that situation. After three months I went back to France where I tried to continue with my life, but felt something was missing. From the bottom of my heart, I felt Vietnam was calling.
This year I returned to Vietnam, found a job, and continued volunteering. My life in Vietnam is as great as in France. Everything is lovely. What was most important to me, though, was that I find my birth parents. I’ve always wanted to meet my biological parents and to know where I’m from and why they left me. I think it’s important to know the whole story. This Vietnamese part is the missing part of my life puzzle. I need help from friends in Vietnam to complete that puzzle.
Amandine Durand – Do Thi Ngoc Chau