Cuc Thi Lam PSM, JP Part1
|First name||Cuc Thi|
|Last name||Lam PSM, JP Part1|
|Country of Origin||Vietnam|
|Date of Birth||20/04/52|
|Year of Arrival in Australia||1978|
|Submitted by||Cuc Thi Lam PSM, JP|
I was born in 1952 in Tay Ninh, a small farming village about 54 miles from the bustling city of Ho chi Minh. I had 3 brothers and 3 sisters, two of whom died at birth. The only ones remaining are my two sisters and I.I was the youngest of the family, but also the most daring.
When I was only 15 days old my father passed away. I only remember his warm but stern gaze from photographs my mother kept. He left my mother to struggle with 5 children. She worked so hard, I remember. I was so close to her, and she was such a wonderful mother that even now I cry thinking about her. She died of a dog bite when I was only 13 years old.
In order to attend school I had to live with my sister in Saigon. As school fees were so expensive and my sister could not afford to pay for my school fees as well as her own children’s’, I had to study incredibly hard to pass. My idea was to skip as many grades as possible and save on fees. To supplement my school fees I would have to sell cans of soft drink every evening and weekend to foreigners and American GI troops. In my two final years, under a flickering wick of a candle in my sisters shed, I studied. I studied so hard that I skipped year nine and passed Baccalaureate with flying colours.
When the war descended upon us, I had made the decision to escape. To me, their was no other choice. The decision to stay would see my husband and I killed, victims of persecution or living a life in chains. I needed to live in a country where we would be free, and my children would be safe. I decided to go. In doing so, I decided to leave
behind my sisters and my brother and their families. They persuaded me to change my mind. I couldn’t blame them, they were terrified. They had no idea what would lie on the other side of escape…death at sea, torture, rape and slavery at the hands of the Thai pirates renowned by scouring the sea and pillaging all boats that crossed their
My husband and I coordinated and planned our escape. We tried twice in vain. Both times the people that promised us passage on their boats escaped with the money and left us at shore. We had no more money left. I had been saving bars of gold to ensure our escape, but my savings had dwindled to almost nothing, save one last bar of gold.
I found a woman at the bank in which I worked who also wanted to escape. It was lucky for us; she had the connections to the person who owned the boat we were to escape in. This boat was harboured in Can Tho, a little fishing village on the coast of Vietnam. Weeks before we were to leave, my husband was able to come home from
an urgent telegram from me and stated that I was under critical condition so his supervisors allowed him to see his wife. He was to meet the other escapees and myself and lead us to the boat. I was so afraid, so tense, so nervous. My adrenaline was running high. I was afraid the soldiers could hear my heart beating. In the midst of the night of our planned escape, we crept through bushes and reeds on the shore towards our boat. I remember the thoughts running through my mind when I set eyes on the boat, “We won’t survive in that!”, but I prayed hard that we would. The boat itself was a small rickety river boat ill-equipped for ocean sail. It was generally used to transport fruit and vegetables down the Mekong. It offered little to no protection from the winds and the fierce elements we were about to face on open waters.
We boarded quickly, quietly, and set off. We had made it. As we were sailing out onto open waters we heard shots fired behind us. They had spotted us. The firing stopped. They had given up and decided not to pursue. How lucky and joyous we were. We had barely escaped.
We sailed in the wind and the ocean spray for eight days. Each time we saw specks of other boats in the horizon I was terrified they would be pirates. In international waters we were spotted by a Malaysian ship, who took myself, other women and children on board while the men, including my husband Minh were towed behind on a tiny vessel.
I was fearful for his safety.
The ship then sailed away after asking us to return to our boat and showed us the way to the Malaysians island of Pulau Tengah where we survived for 5 weeks in the refugee camp awaiting our application to Australia to be processed. We were ecstatic to be told Australia had accepted our application. The camp transferred us to Kuala Lumpur for final health checks. In Kuala Lumpur I decided that I couldn’t set foot onto new soil, into a new country empty-handed. Minh and I had literally nothing save the clothes on our back. Walking around the refugee camp I remember having seen a shiny red suitcase at one of the market stalls. I decided I wanted it, so we could look as if we possessed something.