Who is the most resilient person you’ve ever had the privilege to know? Perhaps it’s a family member, or a friend or even a colleague. For many of us, the meaning of resilience comes to the fore when reflecting on the wonderful women in our lives. For the members of Future Women, who’ve recently been introduced to the extraordinary Be Ha – she is now one of them. She sat down with Jamila Rizvi and Helen McCabe to share her story with the Future Women community. Be’s story is just one of the incredible 19 stories shared by ordinary women in Future Women’s first book, Untold Resilience.
Ha grew up in Vietnam in a small bustling town on the banks of the Mekong River Delta. The eldest of her family, 11 brothers and sisters often trailing behind her. Ha remembers her childhood fondly. Learning the recipes to her favourite dishes with her father by her side. That’s where her passion for cooking began, Ha says, and it is something that she still holds close to her heart.
“I was more frightened than I had ever been in my life and thought we might die.”
Life in Vietnam changed drastically in the years prior to the Vietnam war. “When the communists came… everything just turned upside down,” Ha told Rizvi and McCabe. She saw first-hand the massacres of the Vietnam War. After years of living through the communist occupancy of Vietnam, she witnessed devastating acts of violence, murder, famine and oppressive control. After her husband was released from a communist controlled camp, they made the decision to flee Vietnam. “We decided that we had to leave Vietnam for freedom and for my children’s future,” Ha recounts.
Facing persecution if they were to return to her hometown in Vietnam, Ha and her family had no choice but to leave their home. They boarded a small boat and set sail into the unknown. “We were 150 people together in a small fishing boat that was only 12 metres long. We sat next to each other like sardines,” is how Ha describes her experience. “The journey became my nightmare. There were Thai pirates who attacked us. Twice. The pirates were few in number, but they had knives and swords. Everyone fought each other and four of our young men died. Our captain was killed.”
Vietnamese community leader, Be Ha. Image supplied.
The boat trip to Australia left Ha traumatised forever. There were times where she thought she would never see her family again, and that she would die in front of her children on that boat, like some of the other parents who were fighting to keep their families safe. “I was more frightened than I had ever been in my life and thought we might die.” Be recalls.
Ha’s journey to safety in Australia can only be described as a story of survival against all odds. “I still tell my children about our journey. I explained to them, bit by bit, why we have to be here: for freedom and for their future.” Be says. She used to tell her children that they should “write a book about my journey, and then you would understand more”. While speaking to the Future Women’s audience, she smiled and said to Rizvi, “lucky you already done the hard part for us… now I can share my journey, my dream, my survival, my hope, my happiness, my ending story.”
When asked what made her resilient, Ha said simply, “Everything”.