Today, Vietnamese flags across the country will be raised high, fireworks will be set to light up the skies, and people will travel hundreds of kilometers to be reunited with loved ones. Today, as Vietnam commemorates the 47th anniversary of National Reunification Day, the country smiles with pride.
But while joyful festivities and grand feasts are set to dominate today’s celebration, this historical occasion also marks a day of remembering the lives lost and families separated and displaced by the 20-year war. For many Vietnamese, especially for the generations that have lived through the darkest decades of a beloved nation, this day reminds them of the hardships and pain they had to endure for two decades.
Vietnam Reunification Day — also called Victory Day, Fall of Saigon, or National Day of Shame, depending on who you ask — marked the event when North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces captured Saigon, signaling the end of Chiến tranh Việt Nam. It paved the way for unity for the North and South forces and the formation of one, unified Vietnam.
As the country’s rebuilding and healing process continues 47 years on, Vietcetera talked with Vietnamese from different generations about what they remembered from the war and the striking lessons they’ve learned from a past this country can never fully leave behind.
Lang — 60, entrepreneur
We lost so many things and loved ones from the war. My brother passed away when his car was bombed. It was just tragic, and everything felt surreal – in a bad way. After 30 April, the whole family decided to move to the city and start anew. All of us — about 10 members — had to live in a 40-square meter room, and two of my brothers were sent to jail as they used to work for the old government. At that time, my mother owned a fabric shop and my elder sister got multiple jobs to earn money so the whole family could eat. That was very tough for all of us; it wasn’t painful only because we lost our brother, but also because we didn’t know if we could survive another day. All those experiences, which are now awful memories, make me realize how important peace is. Nothing good ever comes out of war. I just really wish the war never happened here in the first place. It’s been nearly 50 years since my brother died, and my family is still hurting.
Bich Van Pham — 21, International Relations student
I still remember studying about Vietnam War when I was in high school. Back then, what I was taught was taking advantage of international support or improving fighting capabilities to win the war. However, in reality, those lessons are useless. For people who grew up in peaceful times like me, we didn’t learn much lessons from the past. To me, Vietnam War is more of a reminder than a lesson. We cannot always ask children to learn from the past. Instead, use this war as a reminder to ourselves how precious peace is and how everyone is striving to preserve it.
Thanh Huyen Pham Thi — 35, lecturer
I see wars as one of the methods by which different sides resolve their disputes and conflicts. Wars are like natural disasters, we can’t just stop them from happening, but we still know that there are dire consequences from them. There are times we have to fight but with respect. My friend told me that his family doesn’t consider 30/4 a Winning Day or Liberation Day, but rather a Reunification Day, because, at the end of the day, the purpose of the war was to unite North and South parts of Vietnam. Although his father is a wounded veteran and his grandfather passed away during the war, he has no hatred towards the other country. That means people are not fighting because they hate each other but to protect their rights and opinions. I believe, only when wars end do conflicts end. Nowadays, when I hear about conflicts at the borders or on the seas, I am frightened it might lead to something bigger. I cannot imagine a world where my family and my two kids have to live with wars. If there are any solutions to avoid wars, let’s resolve them in a peaceful manner.
Bich Nguyen — 42, content marketing lead
When the war ended, our suffering didn’t automatically end, too. In fact, Vietnam was very poor at that time because people lost their families, their wealth, and their properties. Everyone was just struggling to survive another day because no one could really think about the future anymore. My parents would always talk about what they went through during Vietnam’s darkest time. It was painful to hear their stories. But more than that, I am proud of the people they’ve become because of those years of chaos. My parents became stronger and braver, but also kinder and more generous. They did their best to create a better future for the family. They worked tirelessly to put food on the table and send us to school. I’ve seen how much they suffered, but I’ve also seen how much they fought every day to give us a good life. Wars don’t ruin nations, they ruin people. But I’m proud of how the Vietnamese people rose after the war. Now we are a country full of hardworking, intelligent people. To think that we started from nothing and turn Vietnam into a powerful country, it’s something worth celebrating.
Huong Giang Nguyen — 20, Psychology student
Personally, I am interested in learning history, especially Vietnam history. I have got some chances to visit Con Dao or Hoa Lo Prison to learn more about the Vietnam War and the sacrifices of our ancestors. Every time I think about Vietnam War, I think about “gratitude.” The biggest lesson I have learned is that the price of freedom, happiness, and independence is high. I feel like I have to appreciate the independence we have and show sympathy for people who are suffering from wars out there. I hope everyone will be safe and sound, and all nations will live in harmony and peace.
Ngan — 57, parent
I was still very young when the war happened. I don’t remember much from it, but I remember how life was after it. It was difficult. My parents were very poor so we didn’t have a good life where there was an abundance of food and a spacious home. Every single one of us had to find ways to earn money. Even when we were always tired, I never complained that time because I knew everyone was struggling. All of us had to start from scratch, trying to build a new life from something that was ruined permanently. Now that I have my own family, I always pray we won’t experience such destructive war ever again. I won’t be able to bear to see any of my children and grandchildren suffer or die because people with power can’t resolve differences. Let’s all do our best to keep peace within Vietnam and around the world — and let’s pray for those nations that are suffering from wars.