Thanks to DNA technology, two sisters have been reunited, 44 years after they were separated amidst the chaos of the Vietnam War.
Berni Slowey, a businesswoman and documentary film producer based in Denver, Colorado had always thought that she would never see her sister, Rose, ever again. The two were born to a Vietnamese mother and a father who was an American soldier.
During the fall of Saigon, the two sisters and their mother were set to be airlifted out of Saigon before the North Vietnamese captured it. However, 2-year-old Rose wandered off from her family. Their mother frantically looked for the younger sister to no avail.
In the end, she had to make the tough decision to depart without her younger daughter.
Berni and her parents settled in the United States and had three other children but never spoke about Rose. She says her mother carried the guilt of leaving her daughter behind for years.
Berni returned to Vietnam in 1995 with her mother in a bid to find her younger sister which was unsuccessful. In 2012, before her mother passed away, one of her last wishes was to be reunited with her long lost daughter. Officially her mother died from complications caused by diabetes, but Berni believes that she also died of a broken heart.
In a curious twist of events, Rose was adopted by a South Vietnamese woman and taken from Vietnam to the United States at the age of 11. By then, Rose was called Vannessa. She never really knew that she had been adopted, though comments from her siblings sometimes made her wonder.
In 2018, her adoptive mother told her the truth about how Rose was found wandering the streets of Saigon when she was 2.
After seeing a TV commercial for a DNA test service, Vannessa took a test and within days was informed that she had relatives living in Colorado who had also handed in their DNA to the same database.
The DNA tests proved that Berni and Vannessa were sisters. Soon they were on the phone, comparing notes from their recollections. Vannessa’s joy was bittersweet, as she realized she was six years too late in finding her family, having failed to be reunited with her mother.
On January 4, Vannessa flew from her home in Orange County, California to meet her sister and siblings for the first time in almost 44 years.
After finding out her name as a toddler was Rose, Vannessa now calls herself Vannessa Rose.
Their father, who has remarried and now lives in Dallas, is still processing the way things turned out but Vannessa hopes to meet him one day.
Vannessa says her story has inspired other Amerasian friends to pay for DNA tests and seek out their birth families.