The Brant News
by Colleen Toms
November 24, 2011
Flipping through the pages of Brantford author Marsha Skrypuch’s newest book, The Last Airlift, Tuyet Yurczyszyn points to a black and white photograph.
The picture shows numerous children, including babies strapped into cardboard boxes, sitting in the belly of a Hercules aircraft.
An arrow with the name Tuyet points toward a young girl.
“That’s me right there,” Yurczyszyn said.
Skrypuch’s latest novel, her first non-fiction work, chronicles the story of Yurczyszyn’s journey to Canada as one of 57 Vietnamese orphans rescued from the city of Saigon during the Vietnam War.
Eight years old and walking with a limp as a result of polio, she was one of the oldest children in her Saigon orphanage. Her age and limp marked her as “unadoptable.”
That all changed when a Brantford couple turned up at Surrey Place in Toronto. For the first time she could remember, Yurczyszyn was part of a family. She was about to head to her new home.
The Last Airlift is an uplifting story geared toward readers in Grades 4 to 8. Skrypuch said the book not only offers insight into the fate of children in war, but also how people can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
“Whether they are children or adults, we see people walking around but we don’t know what people have gone through or what they have gone through to become Canadians,” she said. “Every single one of us has something to make them feel that they are different. With this story, the reader can have more empathy for other people.”
Upon her arrival to Canada, Yurczyszyn discovered her first blade of grass, stars in the night sky and a bed of her own. More importantly, she discovered what it was like to be part of a family with a real mom and dad.
“There were mostly nuns at the orphanage, not males so much,” she said. “I remember thinking it’s a really great feeling, like I belong to somebody now. The only thing was, my fear was always that I was going to be sent back, that I wasn’t good enough.”
Enjoying a traditional Vietnamese meal at Quan 99, Skrypuch was preparing to interview Yurczyszyn about her life growing up in Brantford as the newest daughter of John and Dorothy Morris. It will become a sequel to The Last Airlift.
“It was after interviewing Dieu and Hung Nguyen (the owners of Quan 99) in the early 1990s that first sparked my interest in Vietnamese-Canadian stories,” Skrypuch said. “It was an odd thing for Tuyet to have her childhood recorded in other people’s history. I am thankful to have been able to give that back to her.”
Yurczyszyn is now happily married to husband Darren and has two children, Luke and Bria.