Revisiting my family's glorious past

(No.4, Vol.6,June-July 2016 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

Mr and Mrs Thien's family
at Viet Bac base in the 1950s

Still full of fresh, warm New Year emotions shared and
multiplied with family and friends, we chose Hoa Binh as the most meaningful destination for the first trip in spring.
The province has plenty of great tourist attractions with which we are quite familiar. Even the sights along the Ho Chi Minh Trail are mesmerizing enough. But this time, we went to a new place, which offered some insight about our family’s past that we could all be proud of.
It’s the new historical relic site in Co Nghia Commune, Lac Thuy District, Vietnam’s first money printing factory. It has a
Memorial for Uncle Ho and my late grandparents, Mr Do Dinh Thien and Mrs Trinh Thi Dien, who made many contributions and sacrifices for the cause of the revolution during the 1930-1954
periods, most remarkably the founding of the first money printing factory for the Ministry of Finance. Prior to that, the area was my grandparents’ 13 ha coffee plantation. We came here hoping to learn more about the family’s legacy.
We saw a new, spacious kindergarten named after my grandfather.
The first thing we did in the Memorial was to offer three incense sticks at the altar of Chairman Ho, the founding father of the
Nation, considered by the grateful people as a most venerable Saint.
The memorial exhibits in a systematic manner many pictures, documents and news columns about the activities of Mr Do Dinh Thien’s family (called at the time the patriotic bourgeois
intellectuals), focusing on their great financial contributions and sacrifices for the cause of the revolution and the nation.
Mr Do Dinh Thien and Mrs Trinh Thi Dien, their comrades and the money printing facilities during the infancy of the Nation,
including the one based at Co Nghia Commune, in their plantation during 1946-47.
The portrait of Chairman Ho that Mr and Mrs Do Dinh Thien bought in 1945 to donate to the People’s Committee of Hanoi. It was later auctioned to raise funds for the Revolution.
There were many family photos during the 9 year war of
resistance, when they lived in Viet Bac and Tuyen Quang. The
stories told by my grandma and my mom about that time came vividly to mind. My grandpa passed away when I was too small to remember anything about him.

The first Green Buffalo banknote (designed by artist Nguyen Sang)
and the printing workshop during 1946-1947

The old printing machine bought by Mr Do Dinh Thien from the French Taupin Printing Services to donate to the Revolution

At the money printing factory relic site, we were received with special warmth as the descendants of Mr and Mrs Thien. The guides and curator showed us the good feelings of the people of Co Ngu Commune for the initiative of building the much-needed kindergarten as a token of gratitude toward Mr and Mrs Thien, and having following up the project in
conjunction with the local government.
The old printing machine bought by my grandfather from the French Taupin Printing Services to donate to the Revolution. It printed the first banknotes here in 1946.
We were introduced to the history of the money
printing industry of Vietnam, which I have also learned in my high school history classes, and the collection of the first banknotes printed on the land that was previously my grandparents’ coffee plantation, a fact that I learned only now at 46.
The first Green Buffalo banknotes designed by artist Nguyen Sang and the old printing machine bought by my grandfather from the French Taupin Printing Services to donate to the Revolution that printed them here in 1946 overwhelmed me with emotions. They witnessed the
connection between our family’s history and that of the country. I feel so proud to be a descendant of generous and heroic generations that had people like my grandparents, and to be a bearer of their values and traditions.
I see no need to mention the amount of my grandparents’ contributions to the nation’s cause, or the titles and medals that the Government conferred on them. Instead I am happy and proud that my little family is attached to this small patch of land with some historical value which is so great to us. My grandparents lived here kindly and gloriously, and their images will be remembered by the people and the society for generations to come.

Text and photos by van thanh nga
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