Vietnam War baby reflects on life in Northern Ireland on 50th anniversary of Paris Peace Accords

Lurgan businessman Vance McElhinney is loving life with his Vietnamese wife and daughter Liz - named after his adoptive mother.

He’s a local celebrity. He was evacuated as an 18-month-old orphan from war-ravaged Vietnam suffering from malnutrition.

Doctors said he could easily have died on the way over. He had lost his hearing due to grenades and bombs going off and his teeth were damaged due to malnutrition.

Vance was one of 99 orphans flown to the UK in Operation Babylift in 1975 - two years after US President Richard Nixon announced the ceasefire ending 18 years of Vietnamese hostilities involving America.

The 50th anniversary of the signing of the peace accord which signalled the end of the War is midnight on January 27th.

"I'm reminded of the Vietnam War every year simply because of Remembrance Day in November' he said.

"I've been going to Vietnam every year since 2015. I've seen the poverty and I've seen the health care and the education and their government is very communist and very corrupt. The UK has a much better life at the moment".

Vance remembers little of his life in the country. He grew up with loving and supportive adoptive parents Cyril and Elizabeth McElhinney and two brothers in Lurgan.

While home life was all he could have dreamed of he says that integrating here was difficult as one of the only ethnic minorities in school and with the Troubles, it was like moving from one warzone to the next.

"I moved from living in a war zone to another. Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland didn't get on. I had a lot on my hands as an adolescent. Over the years living here, I have developed a thick skin and I have been able to cope with it."

When Vance returned to Vietnam in 2015 - the first time since his adoption, he discovered his biological mother was still alive and reunited with her. He also met his future wife, Le while making regular visits before Covid, and now his daughter also born in Vietnam.

All three live together now and half a century on from the announcement of the Vietnam ceasefire, Vance still calls Lurgan, his home.

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