Vietnamese refugees return to P.E.I. for emotional, 40-year reunion

The Truong family reunited this week with former P.E.I. Premier Catherine Callbeck, centre, who helped them start new lives in Canada back in 1979. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

(CBC): An 40th anniversary reunion in P.E.I. this week spans not only the country, but the entire globe.

Anh and Hai Truong arrived in Canada from Vietnam as refugees in 1979.

A committee from the Bedeque United Church, led by then-future P.E.I. Premier Catherine Callbeck, took on their cause and helped them reach the Island.

Anh and Hai left for Calgary a year later to take jobs at a hospital. CBC P.E.I. caught up with the family back in 1985 when they returned to the Island for a brief visit.

“I expect to come back to visit them because they are so nice,” said Hai back in 1985. “I want to remember forever.”

And back they came, again and again. Hai and Anh brought their children back to the province every couple of years as they grew up, to remind them of their parents’ first home in Canada.

“It’s so exciting to come back and visit them after the past 40 years,” said Hai.

This time they were visiting Callbeck at her cottage just outside Bedeque. They flipped through family photo albums and everyone was in tears.

“It’s wonderful,” said Callbeck. “We’re always delighted to have them come back and visit. We exchange telephone calls through the year and birthdays and so on.”

Hai and Anh moved to Toronto years ago, where all of their grown children now live, but P.E.I. will always have a special meaning to their family.

‘It honestly feels like home’
“It honestly feels like home,” said Jennifer Truong, one of their daughters. “I’ve been here probably three times in Prince Edward Island and it just has the same smell, the same memories.”

And no matter how busy they get, the Truongs always want to make time to reunite with the Islanders who feel like family.

“I mean we all work hard and we all have our lives to live,” said Michael Truong, the couple’s son. “But when we’re here, we leave that all behind us so we can put all our energy into just being here.”

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