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YJA Junior Section runner-up

06 August 2019

The runner-up in the Australian Catholics' Young Journalist Award Junior Section was Makaylah Beatty of Augustines Primary School, Coffs Harbour, NSW. 

The night they left home

This story begins in Vietnam 1975, my dad was two and his family lived across the road from my Great Aunt’s orphanage.

There were rumours that the north were coming down to take over the south. My grandparents had no idea to how to keep their children safe, until my aunt had a plan. They had just heard that planes were taking the orphans to safety in different countries, so my grandparents had to make the hardest decision of their lives. They could stay with their children in an unsafe country, or send their children to safety but have the chance they might never see them again.

So they took photos of all of them, put it on a piece of paper with their names on it, in hope that one day they would find one another. Each of the older children took one little sibling to look after and protect. This was operation babylift – 5 April 1975.

My auntie Thuy was 13 years old. She was still very young but being the second oldest she had to be responsible. I interviewed her so she could give me some idea on what it was like and how she felt.

‘I didn’t have time to get scared. We had 20 mins to board the bus under fear of getting
caught by the communists. I was acting as a helper and at the last minute I snuck on.’

I asked her what happened once on the plane. ‘On the Hercules aeroplane we had 200 babies in shoe boxes lined up. I had to go up and down the aisle feeding babies to try keep them alive. We soon arrived in Bangkok airport. We were there for what felt like an eternity. We were put on the Qantas plane heading for Australia. Scared of the unknown as we could not speak English and I had to look after my siblings.’

My aunt said that she felt very lucky to have the Beatty family to take her in and grateful that they took two of her brothers as well, as six siblings were sent to South Australia. A few years later, the Beattys helped them reconnect with their biological parents and siblings and I am happy to say we are now all one big happy family.


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