Lien Ogura's life took her from Vietnam, where she was born, to Korea, Hawaii, Saudi Arabia and finally to Lake Braddock, where she now lives. A few years ago, she wrote "Bird of One Wing," a book about her experiences growing up in Vietnam. Ogura still feels a deep concern for children living in Vietnam and hopes to start a nonprofit organization for them from sales of the book. She recently sat down and answered some questions about her writing and her life.
How long have you lived in the community and what brought you here? Since 1984. My husband got a job here. He was working for the government ... we lived 20 years on Burke Road and moved here in 2003.
Family: My husband is Isaac, and he was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Then he went to Vietnam in 1969, and he met me and we married three weeks after the first time we talked. So we married in 1970 and in 1971 my older daughter was born. That was Ann. Ann graduated from Thomas Jefferson and she went to William and Mary and then she graduated at Virginia Tech ... my second daughter, also born in Vietnam, is Beth. Beth lives in New Jersey. Beth went to Lake Braddock and went William and Mary and got her degree in chemistry. She works for a pharmaceutical company in New Jersey. My youngest son is James, he also graduated from Lake Braddock and Virginia Tech in computer science, and now he lives in Herndon. He’s married and has two children. I have three brothers and two sisters. Four of us live here in the Lake Braddock area, and my sister lives on the other side of Braddock Road, and my younger brother lives in Maryland.
What do you remember from your childhood in Vietnam? There are so many things, but the one that stands out the most is my childhood, my school spirit. I don’t have much education, I only went to a village one-room schoolhouse and that’s it. When I was a little older, like teen-aged, school was just a dream.
What made you decide to write your book? First it was for my family, for my children. It was a very painful time for me because my daughter Ann was only 5-years-old when the Communists took over the country ... we had to move to the south. It’s not like [it is] now; we never had contact with the family that we left behind ... I tried to forget, for myself. When I lived in Korea and people saw me and they would ask interesting questions, and for a while I stopped telling them I was from Vietnam. I would just say, “Oh, we came here from Hawaii.” The first time I talked about my family is when my brother was already here and my children were already older, and I remember my daughter saying, “I didn’t know I had four grandparents.” They kept asking and then I began telling stories, and they were kind of funny and people laughed, and so I finally said, “How about I write it down?”
What do you like about living in the area? I love Virginia because it’s a very diverse town. We have all kinds of culture. Everyone is friendly. You can find any people in the world here. It’s quiet and suburban, but not far from D.C., and that’s what I like.
What is your favorite place to go in the community? I go to Burke Lake and in the summer I have a lot of children here. My grandchildren from Pennsylvania come down and spend the whole summer. I take them to the lake.
What is the last book you read and the last movie you watched? The last one I watched was this year, in April. I saw it with my friend Mary: “Memoirs of a Geisha.” I just read two books. One is “Angela’s Ashes,” and then I read “Memoirs of a Geisha.”
What are some of your community concerns? One thing I would want to change — I want it to, but I don’t think my voice would help — is that in our communities, the property is high now. In this area especially, it’s not unusual for a worker and a family to share a house with some family members. I come from that background and I know. But the community here is so strict, they say “You can’t park your commercial truck outside,” and I say, people have to work to earn a living. And if you are so strict like that — not everyone can be in an office, or be a lawyer or doctor … let people park their vehicles so they can pay the mortgage and make their family happy.
Personal goals: My dream is to set up a safe house for abused girls, teenagers, to go wherever they can, to try and help them get away from that [abuse] and help them with trades so they can earn a living. But I didn’t have enough funds to do that. I met this one girl, a neighbor of my brother’s, and every day she was beat up. Every day the same thing. And so I came back here and I sent her $100. She went into the school where she learned how to sew, make clothes and stuff. The last time I went home, I heard she was married, she had two kids. And I said, “Oh my God, $100, I changed her life.”
— Lea Mae Rice