“Are you home?”
An excited Vietnamese woman asked seeing Schreck enter the house. Smiling, he placed his belongings in a room and proceeded to converse with the help of Google Translate.
“His life in Germany is good but when he comes here, sleeps with his aunt and uncle and cousin in one room, he does not complain. He eats all the food I cook,” said Schreck’s forty-odd year old aunt.
Growing up in Southeast Germany, Schreck has fond memories of the childless teachers that adopted him from Vietnam at three months of age.
Schreck in his mother’s hometown, central Thanh Hoa Province. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong.
Aware of the adoption early on, the boy did not ask after his blood relatives until two years ago, his mother providing with him a box full of Vietnamese documents on the occasion.
Schreck’s birth certificate states his name is Luu Phuoc Thanh, born on June 8, 1999, at Saigon’s Tu Du Hospital. Both the names of his mother and father were blacked out.
“I am curious about my blood parents, who they are, whether they are alive and well,” Schreck said.
After graduating from high school in late 2019, dreaming of his roots, he decided to travel abroad for the first time in his life.
On January 30, 2020, he arrived in Ho Chi Minh City where he spent three days in Go Vap District fruitlessly searching for information about his Vietnamese family.
“I had told myself it was only a trip, and that if I was lucky, I would find my relatives. But even though I had little expectation, I was still sad,” he said.
Later, he grew even more despondent during a visit to the Child Protection Center in Go Vap, his former home.
Standing at the center’s gate, a staff member ran over and placed a piece of paper in his hand bearing the name and address of his blood mother in central Thanh Hoa Province.
“It took me about 30 minutes to react to the information,” Schreck recalled.
The next day, he called on the people’s committee of Go Vap’s Ward 4 for help locating the address, only to be told it would take about a week.
Waiting at a nearby coffee shop, he got a text within an hour stating: “Hey, we have found your grandmother’s address.”
Equipped with both address and phone number, Schreck started sourcing an interpreter, but received another message confirming his mother too had been located.
Two-month-old Schreck and his German father. Photo courtesy of Fabian.
Tu Chi Tien, the officer helping Schreck connect with his blood family, did not expect to find the grandmother after only five phone calls.
At 7 p.m. the same day, he received a call from overseas. On the other end of the line, the tearful mother thanked him for his help in finding her son.
“During the past two decades, she had returned to Vietnam annually to search for her child. She had trouble sleeping, not knowing whether he was dead or alive,” Tien said.
As a young mother, adverse circumstances had forced her to place the child in the care of acquaintances, who to her dismay, gave him away.
Traumatized, the medical student decided to empower herself through education to one day find her missing son. Today, the successful mother lives abroad with her current husband and children.
Tien subsequently created a chat group for the mother and Fabian to communicate.
Nervous, the boy opened Facebook and saw a friend request, including a written message.
“It was my blood mother. I was overwhelmed, feeling unprepared for such a conversation. My feelings were hard to describe, I was both happy and confused,” he recalled.
Since then, he has talked with his mother, her children and husband every day. Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, the mother and son have yet to physically reunite.
Having obtained such quick results, a suspicious Schreck decided to complete a DNA test. In early June, he visited his supposed grandmother’s house in Thanh Hoa.
Recalling the day, his aunt said that when her husband had told her about a young man looking for her, she immediately went to see him.
“It was my nephew. His face was similar to my older sister’s,” she said.
After meeting his aunt, uncle and cousins at their home, Schreck grew more relaxed.
“When the DNA results confirmed they were indeed my relatives, I was totally thrilled,” he said.
A joyful Schreck visits Ha Long Bay. Photo courtesy of Fabian.
With his two-month trip prolonged by the advent Covid-19, the boy has had ample time to get to know his family, their local community, and his country of birth.
From being stranded in Da Lat Town in the Central Highlands for six weeks, to visiting southern Phu Quoc Island, central ancient town Hue and capital Hanoi, Schreck has met an array of supportive Vietnamese.
“Though I returned to Vietnam alone, I have met so many warm hearted people everywhere I’ve been,” he maintained.
Returning to Germany on July 24, Schreck hopes to soon reunite with his blood mother.