Linh Vu

Linh Vu, born in Vietnam in 1972, escaped by boat with her father at the age of 7 and after some time in refugee camps in Singapore and on the south coast of England, settled in East London.

Linh Vu was born in Biên Hòa outside Saigon or Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam in 1972. It was a very Catholic area. One of Linh’s early memories is of a large statue of Jesus lying on a bed of popcorn at Easter. Linh’s mother was a teacher and her father a university professor who was politically active and critical of the Communist regime. The whole family tried, but failed, to escape by boat several times. In the end her father escaped with just his eldest daughter. The two of them shared a small boat with 35 – 40 other people. When there was just enough food for 3 – 4 days, and in the midst of a storm, the ship was rescued by a British navy boat. The occupants were taken to a refugee camp in Singapore.

After some months Linh and her father went to a refugee camp on the south coast of Britian, first near Chichester and then on Thorney Island. Linh enjoyed the freedom of cycling around the island and, because her father worked as an interpreter, was allowed to go to school outside the camp where she made good friends. When Linh and her father moved to Hackney, Linh went to a school in Finsbury Park where she was bullied, She moved to a Catholic school in Seven Sisters where she was happier. Her father attended SOAS and Linh helped him with his cleaning job after school.

After five years the rest of the family came to the UK. For Linh this was one of the most difficult aspects of her migration experience. She had got used to the sole attention of her father and worried her mother might be strict with her. Linh’s father set up An Viet, a community centre for Vietnamese refugees. It included a Vietnamese restaurant – the first in Hackney. Linh helped her father with the New Year festivities and community activities. As a rebellious teenager, she had a Madonna phase. She studied architecture at university but thinks she might have preferred to study art. Until recently she has been running a successful Vietnamese restaurant near Victoria Park. She has visited Vietnam three times in the last 35 years with her English husband.

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