In Vietnam, Frenchwoman tracks down father in France

By Nguyen Khoa   January 23, 2019 | 03:51 am PT
All her life, a Frenchwoman missed the father her mother would never discuss. Then she sought answers in Vietnam.
Lysiane meets her grandmother for the first time. Photo by Nguyen Khoa

Lysiane meets her grandmother for the first time. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Khoa

On the afternoon of January 15, a bus from Da Lat town brought 26-year-old Frenchwoman Lysiane Danièle Josette to Vung Tau City.

Waiting for her was a group of young people who’d helped Lysiane find her father.

Stepping out of the vehicle, she was crying as she embraced people she’d never met before.

On the bus that took her home to Village 4 in Long Son Commune, Lysiane told VnExpress: "I am waiting to meet my grandmother, uncle and aunt. I don't know what else to say." 

Once she gathered herself, Lysiane said she had been longing for her father she had lost just after she was born. All she knew about him was that he was Vietnamese.

"When I was young, I didn't know why my father was not with me. Growing up, I saw many photos of him but my mother (a French) later burned them and remained tight-lipped whenever I mentioned him.

"The absence of a father in my family always made me feel lonely." 

"Missing a piece of my heart," Lysiane had been determined to find her father since she was very young.

"Earlier I couldn't afford to go halfway around the world, so I tried searching information in France, but what I wanted to know remained hidden."

After working hard for a year to save money, with the help of her cousin, Lysiane left France on January 2 for a two-week trip to Vietnam to try and find her father.

She took a photo to the French embassy in Hanoi, posted information on travelers’ community boards and searched in many places, but did not get anywhere.

Knowing her father's home was in Vung Tau, Lysiane decided late last week to go to the city and post information about the search for her father in local newspapers. Then, she went to Da Lat to wait.

The photo of Lysiane as a child and her father. Photo provided by the family.

The photo of two month old Lysiane with her father. Photo provided by the family.

The information was shared by the administrator of an online forum. Providentially and completely by chance, her aunt Le Kim Chi came across the post and recognized her brother. 

She called Lysiane, who was very skeptical at first, but was then shown a photo of herself as a two-month-old baby with her father.

Lysiane told her aunt: "Today is the day I found out the truth about my life. I can't wait for another minute so I will get on the bus right away to meet everyone. It's amazing." 

As the bus dropped Lysiane in front of the house, the tears flowed non-stop. Ho Thi Ban, 77, came to hug her granddaughter and said: "Poor Ngoc Nga. I love you and want to make up to you very much."

"Knowing my grandmother had named me Le Ngoc Yen Nga in Vietnamese, I had sat all night and memorized it. When I finally met her and she called me by that name, I was overwhelmed with happiness," Lysiane said.

Soon her family connected her with Le Van Thanh, her father, who was living in France. It was a joyful reunion on the phone, after 25 years.

According to Ban, Thanh was married with two sons in Vung Tau. In 1989 he went to France to work and met Lysiane's mother.

She told her granddaughter: "Thanh sent home your pictures, but then your mother left and took you away. He searched for you everywhere but didn't succeed and almost went crazy. It took decades for the pain to ease."

With her grandmother and extended family in Vung Tau. Photo by Nguyen Khoa.

Lysiane with her grandmother and extended family in Vung Tau. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Khoa.

Thanh then got married for the second time, this time to a woman from Saigon, and had two daughters, one of whom he named Lysiane. 

Learning that her stepsister was named after her, Lysiane was surprised and moved.

After some time, her grandfather took Lysiane to pay her respects at the ancestral altar.

When they had their first meal together, Lysiane surprised her relatives with her dexterity in using chopsticks. "It's in my blood," she said.

Lysiane has developed an interest in Buddhism and started to learn about it. She enjoys Vietnamese food, especially the catfish hotpot her aunt cooks. 

"The catfish was so delicious I almost thought it was salmon."

Lysiane said she will meet her father as soon as she returns to France. 

At 26, she says: "My life is really starting now."

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