Hong Nhung Nechybová

* 1940  

  • “In Algeria in the Sahara desert. This was the freest place of all. Experts were still being followed there but still were more free than elsewhere. We could travel freely, talk to each other freely, the women liked me for driving them in a car, we would meet together at the swimming pool, and it was nice. I hadn’t feared someone following me and reporting on me. And in France, there was complete freedom when I used to live there with my grandma and my aunt at the beginning of my life.”

  • “In the 1960s, did you have any Vietnamese friends in Czechoslovakia?” – “Not at all. In 1963 there were only three mixed marriages in Czechoslovakia. Me and Vláďa in Teplice, another couple in Prague – she was a lawyer and he and he was an engineer, and in Brno there was Huen with her husband, a doctor. So I had nobody. Just sometimes on Sundays we would meet with the students.” – “There were few Vietnamese people here back then. Perhaps hundreds.” – “Yes, just several students. They were prohibited from keeping contact with Czech families. But since I was an exception I was allowed to see them at the dorms. But when they went out they had to go in pairs. They weren’t allowed to go anywhere on their own. It was probably some order. When they were together they said that everything was beautiful but whenever we had a moment alone, they complained about not having enough freedom. They had to look after one another. For me, that was a blow. But I wasn’t one of them so I kept shut.”

  • “How did Vladimír support you at distance?” – “He left me all the money he earned in Vietnam. Then he found out he was only allowed to send me a kilo-heavy package a week, so at least he sent me dried milk. I used to feed my baby girl with condensed milk. I had no right to food stamps.” – “You didn’t have right to food stamps?” – “Only for myself, not for my daughter because her father was not mentioned in her birth certificate. It is a paradox that I wanted him to be there but they didn’t allow it because I wasn’t married. It was horrible. I went to the authorities asking, why. They said I had no right. I had to buy everything at the black market. If Vláďa hadn’t sent me money it would have ended up badly. Every week he sent me a package – milk, then diapers, another time some clothes. And this went on for the year and a half. We lived like this at distance. It was really hard.”

  • “Back then I had nine step-siblings, children of my two step-mothers. The older one had six sons and the younger one two daughters and one son. I admired them a lot because they were terribly poor, owning nothing. They used to sleep on mats, had no furniture, and only had water in a small keg at the yard. It was green, filthy. I asked dad how they could live like that and he said that they were used to it. It was the way to live in communism. He had no money and was happy for getting this apartment at least. That was the first shock that I sustained.”

  • “I could not express, what and how and I went shopping, preferably in self-service shops, but there were only few. You always had to queue to get meat. When I went to the butchers, there was a queue, and I was choosing, taking my time, and suddenly a shop assistant quickly asked me: ‚What do you want?‘ And I didn’t know, how to say beef. So I said: ‚Half a kilo of a cow.‘ The whole store burst out laughing. And I ran away. Vláďa (husband) was forcing me, it was terrible for me, as there was a wire radio back then, and he switched it in the morning and could not understand a word. And he came back home and started again: ‚You have to, simply have to learn,‘ he insisted. And I replied: ‚I know but it is hard...‘ Mainly the declinations in Czech. That is the worst, as I have been here for fifteen years and still don’t know it quite properly...”

  • “It was a shock for me as I lived in France and had a family there. My aunt and uncle and there were many Vietnamese there. But not here. I had no one here, totally on my own. Just my husband. And I could not speak the language... Also I lost fourteen kilograms in fourteen days. And could not put on any weight ever since. I weighted only fifty nine. And it kept dropping down so that a doctor took me to a hospital to examination and could not find out anything. And I suffered psychologically too. But I learnt to live with it. I had good neighbours, many friends and got out of it. But it was awfully hard at the beginning.”

  • “They took me back home and it was quite a shock. As I lived other way in Paris. My father came back from war and was quite poor as they took all property from my granddad and the whole family. So he lived in a house, which had water, but there was no toilet, just a dry loo and it was terrible for me. I immediately wrote a letter to granny asking, why she did that to me. She wrote back that such is life and we have to obey. (How did you live in France?) With my granny and granddad and went to school. I was there since the age of eleven, that is six or seven years.. I learnt French only back home in Vietnam. Then I went (in Francie) to a specialised school for men tailoring. But I didn’t finish it. One year to go my daddy wanted me back. I returned to a terrible poverty. Two mothers, one had six boys, the other one three. So nine half-siblings and one, the eldest brother was my own. He was poor too and had nothing at all...”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, Hůrka, 28.08.2016

    (audio)
    duration: 02:32:24
  • 2

    Praha, 04.11.2016

    (audio)
    duration: 01:45:17
  • 3

    Praha, 11.06.2018

    (audio)
    duration: 28:56
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
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Always, when things seemed hopeless, it all turned out well at last

Nhung at the age of 17
Nhung at the age of 17
photo: archiv Nhung Nechybová

Hong Nhung Nechybová, née Vi, was born in Hanoi on 4 April, 1940 and comes from an important feudal family Vi. When she was a year and a half old, her mother died of tuberculosis and the family separated. The father raised her older brother and Nhung was taken care of by her aunts and granny. At the beginning of Indo-China war in 1945, granddad and grandma immigrated to France. Nhung left to join them in 1951. At the age of seventeen her father asked for her returning back to Vietnam, and with help of OSN she came back to her native country within a repatriation program. After coming back she experienced a cultural shock. She started to work a Vietnamese geological research as a French-Vietnamese interpreter. In 1958 she met her future husband, Vladimír Nechyba, who was at a geological expedition in Vietnam. They wanted to live together in the former Czechoslovak republic. In 1962 the witness had a daughter in Vietnam from the relationship, but the Vietnamese government would not let her go to the CSR. She only managed to get a passport in a year and a half. In November 1963 she married Vladimír Nechyba in Teplice. She raised two children with her husband and nowadays they live together in Prague.