Thứ Sáu, 4 tháng 12, 2015

Medic re-creates war site from memory
Stored memories:Visitors look at a re-created storage hut at the private museum near Dong Hoi. — VNSPhotos Hoai Nam
Show and tell:Nguyen XuanLien leads a group through a classroom like those used during the American War.
by Nguyen Quang Vinh
A former medic and practitioner of traditional medicine has created a reminder of war in Quang Binh, ensuring younger generations never forget and helping veterans heal old wounds.
In Nghia Ninh commune, to the west of Dong Hoi stands 10ha that are a testament to the days of the American War.
The museum includes a thatched-hut hamlet with underground houses and an operating theatre, a hospital, school, anti-aircraft gun positions, mobile ferry landing and dozens of kilometres of trenches and shelters.
In 1961, at 19 years of age, Nguyen Xuan Lien of Ha Noi volunteered to go to Quang Binh, one of the hardest hit provinces during the war, to work in the provincial medical unit.
The next 10 years saw him and other colleagues living in bomb shelters to save the lives of soldiers and civilians.
As the country was re-unified in 1975, Lien thought of returning to the land where he had fought.
But it was only in 1992 that he returned, and was surprised at the enormous change that the province had gone through.
"At the same time, I also felt sad that the vestiges of war had been swept away by time," said Lien.
"Nothing was left, the trenches, the underground houses, anti-aircraft guns and bomb holes are all gone.
"The young generation of this country are now ignorant of the glorious past of the nation and the facts of the devastating war," added Lien.
He felt immense pain at the idea that many would not remember the difficulties of war, and what they had won for their country.
He decided to set up a small museum as a monument to the accomplishments of a generation immersed in war to provide them with independence and freedom.
Lien returned to Quang Binh with the initial VND1 billion to invest in his project.
He began constructing the site from memory on the 2ha-large plot of land, reliving the images of the war: running through barrages of exploding shells and bombs to save the children.
"I still remember my comrades' funerals without any family members by their side, only the smoke of the bombs and the roars of the enemy's aircrafts," said Lien.
There were times when he had to perform operations under the light of the bicycle's dynamo in the shelter.
Their only source of courage was derived from the bowls of hot rice prepared by the mothers in Quang Binh, and the knowledge that these women did not have enough rice to feed themselves.
Lien turned back time, recalling all the familiar faces and places, to search for things now no longer in use and bring them back to his place: a peasant's house made in the 1960s, a wooden rice box, a worn-out shovel, a door torn apart by bombs, a rice mortar filled with shrapnel bomb pieces, and a cradle burnt by napalm.
Seeing his work, locals, especially those who endured the war, rushed to help. They dug the A- shaped shelters and trenches, recreating the underground kindergarten, living quarters, operation theatre, and rice storehouse.
From the initial 2ha of land, Lien decided to expand his plot to 10ha thanks to the donation and contribution of friends and his children.
His children, now living overseas, have returned home to see his work. Understanding his pain, and the therapy gained from erecting this painful monument, they decided to assist him financially.
The compound is just 4km away from the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail (now a national highway).
At first, Lien hired local people to work for him. But when they came to understand his project, they offered much more than the money they received because of their war memories.
"Many old veterans walked for dozens of kilometres to offer their skill, ideas and labour," said Lien.
At the news of the project, the highest provincial officials also came to visit and were all startled by his accurate portrayal.
The museum has now turned into a meeting place for war veterans and groups of school children coming with their teachers to listen to stories on the war.
Matthias, a young German painter, wrote after his visit: "I have for the first time faced the American War at this museum in Quang Binh set up by MrLien.
"I am very touched at the will, intelligence and strength of the people on this land who fought to protect their country against the brutal war."
Now Lien is almost empty handed without money needed for further work.
"I feel happy because I am able to reciprocate the love and protection that the people in this land offered me decades ago. And it is an invaluable asset to me now," said Lien.
At the same time, he is also hopeful that one day, when his project is recognised better, it might become a tourist destination to generate income for the locals that he longs to pay back. — VNS

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