Hmong family reunites in Twin Cities nearly 50 years after Vietnam War

Hmong family reunites after decades apart

Hmong family reunites after decades apart

Many in the Hmong community still reckon with the scars of the Vietnam War. Some had to flee when their homes were bombed or burned during the conflict. Thousands of people who were torn apart by the war could only dream of being together again. 

For one family living in Minnesota, that dream came true nearly 50 years later. An emotional reunion took place at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport in mid-August. Ntxawm Vaj and her family couldn’t stop the tears as they embraced one another.

Ntxawm is visiting from Laos, and while she is of Hmong descent, she only speaks Laotian. Her brother, Brandon Vaj, translated for her.

“The very second she saw me, she felt like her body telling her that, ‘Here’s my people. Here’s my brother,” Brandon said on Ntxawm’s behalf.

Ntxawm was 3 years old when she was separated from her family in 1975. Her sister, Mai Vaj, was about 12 years old at the time and tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS she has not forgotten the day soldiers took away her little sister. 

Mai explained in the midst of fleeing the country with her family for safety during the Vietnam War, a sudden outburst of gunshots killed both their parents, who at the time were carrying 3-year-old Ntxawm. 

“Suddenly I heard the soldiers take my little sister,” Mai said. “She was crying out that she wanted my mom. That’s how we knew our little sister was taken.”

It would be the last time Mai saw Ntxawm. Mai and the rest of her siblings eventually fled the country under the care of their aunt and uncle. Her brother Brandon and other family members settled in the Twin Cities. Ntxawm would be raised by foster parents in Laos.

Brandon says he didn’t realize Ntxawm was still alive until about 20 years later when he saw Ntxawm’s story published in a Twin Cities Hmong newspaper called the Hmong Times.

In 1997, Brandon flew to Laos and reunited with Ntxawm for the first time since 1975. However, the rest of the family eagerly waited 26 more years to finally see her. 

The family says they cherished every moment with Ntxawm before she returned home to Laos this past weekend.