Asians in Minnesota Oral History Project: Interview with Van Tong Sam
Part 1


Part 2


Description BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Van Sam was born in Saigon on August 10, 1959. His grandparents had immigrated to Vietnam from southern China in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, and both his father and mother grew up in northern Vietnam. In 1954 they fled to South Vietnam after the country was divided. Van's father first joined the South Vietnamese army and later became a clerk/bookkeeper at the U.S. Embassy. When the South Vietnamese government collapsed in 1975, the family was endangered by his association with the U.S. Embassy, but Van's father felt he was too old to flee the country. Instead he moved the family to the countryside, where they would be less suspect, and sent his two eldest children, Van and an older sister, out of the country. Through a friend of his sister money was borrowed to pay the equivalent of $5,000 each for passage on a small boat that deposited them on an island in Malaysia on October 14, 1978. They remained in the Pilau Bidang refugee camp for ten months before they were accepted for resettlement in San Francisco by the International Rescue Committee. Van and his sister both got jobs in San Francisco, but after his sister married, Van decided to join a friend from the camp in Malaysia who had settled in Minnesota. He arrived in St. Paul on January 6, 1980. After several months of study in special classes for Indochinese refugees at the Gordon School in St. Paul, he passed the English examination for the University of Minnesota and is now a student there. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Van discusses his family background in Vietnam; persecution of ethnic Chinese in Vietnam after 1975; his loneliness for his parents and seven brothers and sisters remaining in Vietnam; the many hazards of the boat trip and the difficulties of refugee existence in Malaysia; and resettlement, first in San Francisco then in St. Paul. He also discusses briefly the history of Vietnam, and the development of Vietnamese community organizations in the Twin Cities. COMMENTS ON INTERVIEW: Van Tong Sam represents one of the many ethnic Chinese in Vietnam who departed from that country beginning in 1978. It should be pointed out that during the interview Van said his brother-in-law came to the United States three years after he and his sister arrived, but he meant to say three months, not three years.
Quantity 1.5 hours sound cassette
43 pages transcript
Format Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
Measurements 01:03:25 running time
Creation Interviewee: Sam, Van Tong
Interviewer: Mason, Sarah R.
Made in Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, United States
Subjects Asian Americans -- Minnesota
Vietnamese Americans -- Minnesota.
Made in Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, United States
Dates Creation: 09/09/1980
Holding Type Oral History - Interview
Identifiers OH 51
Accession Number AV1981.361.16
More Info MHS Library Catalog
Related Collections Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Asians in Minnesota Oral History Project'

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