Dao Le Quang

* 1965  

  • “Were you a good student?” – “Yes, I was a good student and thanks to that I came to Czechoslovakia. The picked me because of good grades and good behavior.” – “What school did you attend?” – “A chemical high school with A-level exams. But I never finished it. There was not enough money for students in Vietnam back then, so they were sending the best students abroad with the idea that when we come back, we would be serving the state.” – “How old were you? You were mentioning you did not finish the school and went to Czechoslovakia….” – “I was twenty.” – “What did your parents expect, sending their son abroad?” – “Back then, it was an honor for the family because not everyone got this opportunity. We thought that abroad the education systems were better and that when I get back, I would be better off. We heard that Europe is wealthier and that I would not only get better education but also upon return some money to start a better life.”

  • “How was life in Vietnam in 1984?” – “The situation did not improve much. You could still see the consequences of the war; there was still poverty. There was a rationing system in place. But it was miserable. In the village, only those who had some cattle at home had meat. We enjoyed plenty of meat only once per year. We were always looking forward to the new lunar year. Each family had a pig, but back then, pigs took very long to grow. We had one for the whole year and it weighed about fifty kilos. When someone was better off, their pig weighed for example seventy kilos. Meat was also on sale but people from villages never had the money for that. Only my father had the rationing of 700 grams of meat per month and he was bringing it home, so we had a bit of it. When there was meat for lunch, it was three, four thin slices.” – “Did you experience hunger?” - “That did happen, as well. We did not even have enough rice. We had sweet potatoes; every family would grow them for its own needs, and we had to trade them for rice and vice versa.“

  • “I experienced aerial attacks of the American B-53 bombers and went through the horrors. Next to our village there was a big factory which was also being targeted. The bombers were flying over our heads. We were hiding under ground and at school we hid under the tables serving as a shelter. We had to run and hide underneath the tables every now and then.” – “Did the bombers ever hit the village? Had anyone lost their life?” – “Yes. Quite a lot of people died near the factory. It was a factory producing fertilizers for the agriculture.” – “How did your parents explain to you what was happening?” – “Everyone knew that the Americans were the enemy who wanted to occupy Vietnam. When they started to bomb civilians, they became a major enemy to us.”

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    Praha, 21.06.2017

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I was sent to Czechoslovakia as one of the best students

Dao Le Quang 2017
Dao Le Quang 2017
zdroj: Post Bellum

Le Quang Dao was born on 1 August, 1965 in Thanh Dinh, Vietnam, approximately 80 kilometers north of Hanoi into a poor family of the teacher Le Diên Co. Although his mother Phan Thi Hon gave birth to nine children, Dao was the only one to live to see adulthood. Seven siblings died after birth; his four years younger sister was born with a physical disability and died when she was fifteen. The high mortality rate in the family may have been caused by the use of chemical weapons in the course of the Vietnam War, which took place in 1955-1975. Dao‘s family lived out of his father‘s income and some crops from their field, which was given to the family by the communist government. Still, Dao experienced hunger. Thanks to excellent school results, he could study at a chemical school in a neighboring city. Just before graduation, he got accepted as one of the best students to an educational support program for Vietnam. In 1984, he left for Czechoslovakia where he completed vocational training to become a locksmith. He was expected to return to Vietnam after seven years as he was obliged to work in Czech Republic for three and a half years in the given profession. Although relationships with Czech women were forbidden in order not to prevent the students from returning home, Le Quand Dao did not meet this obligation. He had to pay back the tuition fees and in 1992, he married Olga, with whom he founded a family. In the 1990‘s, he worked as a salesman with clothes. At the time of the interview, he did business in restaurant services and performed Czech folk songs playing a guitar. He features in the 2010 documentary „Northern Vietnam is Cruel“ by Karel Koula.