Mr. Luong

Coney Island homeowner recalls fleeing Vietnam with his family in 1981 and settling in New York City

Interviewer:
Interviewee:
Mr. Luong
Interview Date:
September 2015

Languages

This interview was conducted and recorded in Cantonese Chinese. Read Audrey Tam's transcript and translation below. 

Among the more than 800,000 refugees who fled Vietnam in the years after the fall of Hanoi and safely arrived in another country are the Luong family, who were resettled in New York City and have been homeowners in Coney Island for more than 25 years.

Mr. Luong recounts the hazardous journey in 1981 of their family of five, including young children, to a coastal city where smugglers arranged for them to board a small boat crammed with 60 people.  Like many of their fellow "Vietnamese boat people," the Luongs are Hoa (called Hua/Han people in Vietnamese), ethnic Chinese of Vietnam. 

"During that time all you focussed on was leaving Vietnam. You had no idea where you would end up," he recalls. After stops at refugee camps in the Philippines and Thailand, the Luongs were granted asylum in the U.S. Now in his 70s and retired, Mr Luong looks back on his first years as an immigrant in New York City: the frugality of bypassing a 75 cent hot dog stand to buy 15 cent per pound chicken to feed his family, the "sheer good luck" that brought him his first job and good hourly wages.

This program is part of the Cultural Immigrant Initiative supported, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York City Councilman Mark Treyger.