This is the scarf my grandmother gave me when I told her that I was going to study in Hungary. I remembered she said “It would be cold there!”.
It would be just a normal thing if this scarf did not have its very long journey across the continents, from Eastern Germany to Vietnam in 1990 and from Vietnam to Hungary in 2016. My grandmother bought this scarf when she was a guest worker in East Germany from January 1988 to December 1990. Once I found a picture of my grandma taken by my grandma’s friend in their company hostel, noted “Life here is very good. Miss you and our lovely children so much”. That is the picture my grandma sent back to Vietnam to my grandpa when she was working there. When I was a kid, I did not spend a lot of thoughts on grandma’s story about the factory where she used to work for and her life in Germany without her husbands and three children.
It was not until I came to Hungary and have been studying on “Vietnamese community in Eastern Germany” that I made a call back home and asked her if she still remembered the name of the city where she used to live and work in, she told me a name which is translated into Vietnamese “Các Mac Si Tát”. I had to spend a while staring at Eastern Germany map and figured that city out and it is called “Karl Marx Stadt” ( later on, I found out that most of the contract workers that time cannot speak German and communicate with German citizens mostly through their translators). There are two things that I learn from this piece of story: the quality of the product made in Germany and my version of Vietnamese immigration post reunification of Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
First of all, the scarf, surprisingly, still looks quite in fashion after 26 years. I can still wear it and nobody know that it was purchased 26 years ago. Secondly, my grandma worked for Eastern Germany for 3 years then she returned home like other 34,000 contract worked deported to Vietnam after the unification of Germany. My grandpa came to Czech Republic in 1990 then moved to Germany afterward and did not return home till 2004 when he suffered from severe side effects of diabetes. He had a stall which sold clothes there and that was the way he made ends meet and support our family in Vietnam.
With us, Europe is always our promised land where, in our minds, people have such a happy, secure and prosperous life. Even now, that thought still exists in Vietnamese people’s mind. The tip of the iceberg is the amount of money Vietnamese migrants send back to Vietnam to support their families but people do not get the real condition of life in so called “promised land”. In the past, contract worker like my grandma worked for a textile company in Karl Marx Stadt where they were isolated from the local community and had very monotonous job. Most of them were young or/and newly married women who left their husband and children at home and went on the journey for the hope for better life for themselves and their families. These days, I, personally travel to Europe with the very high hope for a preeminent education and of course, a better job, then better life when I come back to my home country. The day I told my family that I was going to study in Europe, my whole family was so happy, they said they were so proud of me. With them, the chance of studying in Europe is equal to the certainty of me having a better life in the future. It is like the same story happening to the different generations. But I feel thankful for the tough journeys we, Vietnamese migrants took in the past and have been taking. Without them, we cannot know who we truly are, where exactly we come from and how the world see us. (BTT)