Life Life

19/03/2022 - 08:42

The woman has a predestined love for Hue

Apparently, the first time I met Ms. Dam Thu was also the first she got to A Luoi., and it has been 20 years. Time is mentioned because she has just sent me a bunch of beautiful photos of Hue with the message: "Sent from Canada... For Hue people, it's too familiar. It has been six years since I returned to Hue."

Dam Thu and her husband in 1958

The photos of Truong Tien Bridge, Thien Mu Pagoda, Ngo Mon (Meridian Gate)... are so familiar, but for the one with a deep “predestined love” for Hue like Ms. Dam Thu, those landscapes and cultural relics remind her of countless recollections.

Just recently, after Thua Thien Hue Newspaper published an article “Những chuyện còn ít người biết” (Little - known stories) of Dr. Nguyen Tu Gian, she called to "add" the details she was not convenient to write in the opening essay of the book. Then she told many stories relevant to Hue, and I was amazed to hear her say, “… You know, I've been to A Luoi 7 times…”

Much to my surprise and admiration, as a writer who "clung to" Hue for decades, once lived and fought in Truong Son, I only visited A Luoi - hero Kan Lich’s homeland - once. However, Dam Thu, a woman born in 1935, with a small physique, also called “tiểu thư khuê các” (a noble young lady) in Ha Thanh land, not only traveled to A Luoi many times but also had the "close friends" in this remote mountain.

How strange her life was! The "predestined love" that made Dam Thu interested in A Luoi ethnic children originated from a Western man.

In 2001, right after Vice President Nguyen Thi Binh called on Western countries to join hands to help Agent Orange victims, Association for Protection of Children infected with Agent Orange (VNED) was established in Paris (France).

 In April 2002, Dr. Bernard Doray and his wife, Vice President of VNED, "volunteered" to get to A Luoi, and Ms. Dam Thu agreed to act as a bridge (interpreter, letter writing...) between VNED and the Agent Orange families.

At that time, Ms. Dam Thu was 67 years old; the road to A Luoi was still littered with rocks, and the Ta Oi, Pa Co and Co Tu ethnic people were living in extreme poverty, but she and two French doctors traveled to many families in Hong Van and Dong Son communes... to learn thoroughly about each person's life and illness.

It was no coincidence that VNED chose Ms. Dam Thu as a bridge with disadvantaged children in Thua Thien Hue uplands, and she eagerly took on this arduous task.

First of all, this was because she was fluent in French; both she and her husband were French overseas Vietnamese before returning home to join in the nation's long resistance war and build the country.

Moreover, many French friends knew that she used to be a reporter for Vietnam Women's Newspaper in charge of the column "For the future of our children”, and for 10 years (1980-1990) of taking charge of Vietnam Women's Magazine in English by the Central Committee of Vietnam Women's Union, she had the opportunities to interact with many international guests.

Notably, although not born in Hue, she has a "predestined love" for Hue for many reasons. Her mother was the great-grandson of Dr. Nguyen Tu Gian – a high-level official who was close to King Tu Duc for years and wholeheartedly supported the national renewal activities of Nguyen Truong To, Pham Phu Thu, Bui Vien...

Her husband is engineer Tran Dang Nghi. After the August Revolution, he volunteered to work as a liaison for the Liberation Army of Hue, when a student at Quoc Hoc School. His father was originally from Hanoi. While working in Hue, he "fell in love with” a girl in Bao Vinh. His parents passed away in Hue and are now being worshipped at Van Phuoc Pagoda…

The couple Tran Dang Nghi - Dam Thu was similar to many Quoc Hoc - Dong Khanh "perfect couples" in Hue, except that Dam Thu was a student at Dong Khanh School - Hanoi (in 1948, renamed Trung Vuong School).

Dam Thu as well as many young people from the "elite" rank at that time traveled to France to study. It was thought that a life of affluence in a developed capitalist country might discourage and "isolate" them from the patriotic movement; on the contrary, almost all of them returned home for devoting their talent to the resistance war and the national construction.

For example, Tran Dang Nghi, one of the founders of the chemistry department at Hanoi Polytechnic University and a number of factories, made a tarpaulin coating for the Ministry of Defense…

As for Ms. Dam Thu, after many years of working as a bridge between the foreign experts and sectors, she centered on child psychophysiology research and was the one who helped the Central Committee of Vietnam Women's Union to communicate with many international delegations…

Such a person has, of course, been chosen as a bridge between VNED and A Luoi children for many years. For this work, French friends wrote a chapter of the book "Central Vietnam, Revival of A Luoi Valley after the US Bombing and Agent Orange" published in Paris in 2013.

As for Ms. Dam Thu, perhaps it is better to continue the story of her "making friends" with the Pa Co girl, Le Thi Cam. She met Cam on a trip to A Luoi in 2003, knowing that Cam had just failed the upper secondary school exam after a period at boarding school in Hue and then only stayed at home… raised chickens because her hands lack a few fingers, making it difficult to do other things.

She also knew that an upper secondary school graduate in A Luoi was then a rarity, so she helped her with scholarship and exam fee in Hue. Every two months, she sent money once and asked Cam to send her a letter as a writing exercise every month.

Cam made the “covenant” seriously, writing very emotional letters. “When you hold my hands normally, I’m surprised that you aren’t scared at all. I feel as if there were a miracle that reattached full hands to me… You know, when I go back to Hue to study, many classmates stay away from me when seeing that my hand lost fingers…”

At the end of the school year, Cam returned to Hue for the graduation exam and got a job as a clerk - accountant in Hong Thuong Commune. In May 2005, she went to A Luoi and met Cam again - "an energetic girl with rosy face riding her bike fast...", and the house sponsored by the State was about to be completed…

The story of Ms. Dam Thu "making friends" with Pa Co girl is only a "small corner" in her 87-year-old life. However, it is a vivid proof that even though descended from the aristocracy and on familiar terms with many "Western friends", with their motherhood, kindness, women can be close to the apparently different people and help them overcome unhappiness, integrate into the community.

There are many more stories of Ms. Dam Thu having a "predestined love" for Hue, right before the Tiger Tet, from Ho Chi Minh City, she suddenly called me, saying that traveling to the US, she met two people in an American charity organization, who had been rescued by the Liberation Army soldiers in the days of battle during the Monkey Tet….This is one more predestined love for the woman about to be in her early nineties to cherish the aspiration of continuing to write the book "Encounters on the path of life" she printed 5 years back...

Story: NGUYEN KHAC PHE - Photo: the archive