Love in Limbo: A Post-War Love Story

Published April 27, 2016 in Episode 47

This is a story about love in limbo -- that is, love in a time of uncertainty. The “limbo” in this story takes us back to post-war Việt Nam -- a time of crippling instability and uncertainty. The love is between a singer and a musician.

Lan performs in the Bách Hóa market music troupe. (Photo: Loa/Quyên Ngô)

Lan performs in the Bách Hóa market music troupe. (Photo: Loa/Quyên Ngô)

The war had taken at least 1.3 million lives, but to this day, the impact on the lives of those who survived remains unmeasured.

In 1975, at the end of the war, inflation was running up to 900%, one newspaper reports. There were 1 million war widows, 880,000 orphans, and 3 million unemployed people. The country’s economic chaos and national disarray shaped how people lived and loved, and altered the fate of countless relationships.

Such is the story of Lan Ngô, the daughter of a soldier in the Army of the Republic of Việt Nam, the South Vietnamese Army. Lan was a slender, raspy-voiced young woman. In 1979, at 18 years years old, she was moonlighting illegally for the Communist Party as a singer of Đoàn Văn Nghệ Cửa Hàng Bách Hóa Quận 1, a music and culture troupe of the Bách Hóa market in District 1 where she worked. And that is where she met Đại--mathematician, and a musician, small-framed with a gentle voice.

The two embarked on a journey that would inevitably be dictated by the war. Their love story is one that could not exist outside the confines of place, and time. Their story helps us read between the lines of the divergence in perspectives.

April 30th-- the end of the war in Việt Nam, is known to some as “Ngày Giải Phóng,” or “Ngày Độc Lập,” Liberation or Reunification Day. Others know it as Ngày Quốc Hận, National Day of Resentment, the Fall of Saigon or Black April.

These aren’t minor differences in perspectives; they are fundamentally different interpretations of history. And despite the array of perspectives surrounding the war and its end, there is one simple truth: war invisibly yet fundamentally shapes love, leaving us with the lingering question: What could have been?