ABC AM – By South-East Asia correspondent Samantha Hawley Updated
After landing at Ho Chi Minh City airport, Adelaide woman Chantal Doecke asks herself in a whisper: “Where are you mum?”
The 41-year-old is on an emotional journey to find a family she has never met and to connect with a nation where she has never lived.
In April, 1975, Ms Doecke was among 3,000 babies and infants bundled onto aircrafts and flown out of Saigon as part of Operation Babylift, which took place in the closing days of the Vietnam War.
Many were placed in shoe-like boxes on aircraft seats and flown to nations including America, Canada and France.
Ms Doecke was adopted in Australia by a couple from Adelaide, where she still lives today.
For years she has searched for her biological parents and relatives. And now, fighting a battle against ovarian cancer after a diagnosis earlier this year, Ms Doecke has renewed her efforts with vigour.
“When I fly into Saigon, I burst into tears and I say ‘I’m home, I’m home now’,” Ms Doecke told the ABC.
“And I said … to myself, out loud, quietly, ‘Where are you mum? You’re here somewhere’.”
Last week, Ms Doecke came face-to-face with a blood relative for the first time in her life.
DNA testing had proven Thai Tho to be a second or third cousin and they met in a hotel lobby in Ho Chi Minh City.