Cat and Suu Nguyen are spouses from Vietnam. In 1982 they relocated to Portland, Oregon. Both originally from northern Vietnam, Cat was born in 1946 in Cat Bi, while Suu was born in 1949 in a village called Dai Hoi. Both of their families decided to move to southern Vietnam in 1954. They got married on March 20, 1966, through an arranged marriage. After they were married, Cat joined the South Vietnamese army and Suu took care of their home and raised their children. After Cat was wounded in battle, he became a civil officer. Following the end of the war, Cat was sent to a reeducation camp because of his affiliation with the South Vietnamese army. In the early 1980s, Cat and Suu chose to escape the country with their family and friends on a fishing boat. After spending time in several refugee camps, the Nguyen family was sponsored to come to Portland by Cat’s cousin. They have remained active members of Our Lady of La Vang Parish and the Vietnamese community in general. Together they have eight children and, at the time of this interview in 2021, have been married for fifty-five years.
In this oral history interview, Cat and Suu describe their lives in Vietnam and how they came to live in Portland, Oregon. They talk about their childhoods and what led their families to leave northern Vietnam. They go on to discuss their lives in southern Vietnam and how their families were friends, which eventually led to their arranged marriage. Cat describes his experiences serving in the South Vietnamese army, and Suu elaborates on her jobs while he was away. Next, Cat discusses what it was like after the war ended and the difficulties they faced living under the Communist government. Cat explains how he bought a fishing boat and pretended to become a fisherman for six months in order to escape the country. He recounts October of 1981 when they left on their fishing boat with their friends and family and fled to Indonesia, where they stopped at many islands before arriving at the Galang refugee camp. Cat explains that they worked with the United Nations, who later helped them resettle in Portland. He recalls how, after arriving in Portland, the Lutheran Family Services and Cat’s cousin provided support while he secured a job at the University of Portland. Cat also explains the work he has done for Our Lady of Lavang Parish, and how important the Catholic community is to their family. Cat and Suu end the interview by reflecting on all the things they and their children have accomplished since coming to the United States.