Thu Thuy Tran was born and raised in South Vietnam, where she and her family lived near the Mekong River. She and her daughter left Vietnam in 1980 to avoid persecution from the communist government. Before she left Vietnam, Tran was an educator at a local school, and one of her students was able to help her escape. She spent some time in a refugee camp in Thailand before being sponsored by her husband’s family to move to Salem, Oregon. When she arrived, she was able to get a job as an interpreter. She then moved on to work for the Salem-Keizer School District as a teacher’s aide. She also worked as a case manager and oversaw the interpreter program for the YWCA, which was a local refugee program. She was then given the opportunity to become a child welfare worker in Portland during the day, while at night she attended Portland State University. All of these experiences allowed her to become an important leader for the Vietnamese community in both Salem and Portland. She helped to establish the Vietnamese Voice in Salem and the Salem Tet New Year Festival. She is now retired and is focusing her attention on herself and her family.

In this interview, Tran discusses her time in Vietnam, and her journey to and experiences in America. Tran explains how remaining in Vietnam with her daughter while her husband was studying abroad in Japan was very difficult. She details the uncertainty and fear of living under the communist government and how her escape attempts were many, culminating in a successful effort in 1980. Tran discusses the decision to settle in Salem in hopes of reuniting later with her husband and talks about how after her husband joined them a year later, they worked hard in hopes of supporting both their family and community. She then notes her work as a case manager and overseer of the interpreter program at the YWCA. Following a discussion of her family and her observations on the next-generation in the Vietnamese community in Portland, she concludes by describing the impact of COVID-19 on the local Vietnamese community.