Father And Son-In-Law Sought 'Land Of Opportunity'

May 31, 2013

Thanh Phan and Tran Van Vi
Credit Carla Eckels / KMUW

In 1975, Tran Van Vi was a news reporter in his homeland of Vietnam before, at the age of 50, making the journey to start a new life in Wichita.

Vi says he came to Wichita through a sponsorship by a nun at St. Joseph Medical Center, where he worked as a painter until retirement.

Vi’s son-in-law, Thanh Phan, has a different story. In July 1988, at the age of 30, he escaped by boat to America. He says he left Vietnam because of lack of freedom. Phan started over in Wichita, working at a Vietnamese restaurant while studying for his degree to become an electronic technician. He’s worked at Cessna Aircraft for the past 17 years.

The two live together with Phan’s wife and five children in a suburban west side home. Phan says he’s grateful for the life he’s come to know.

“I feel so comfortable," he says. "This is the land of opportunity. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, this country gives us a lot of opportunity to grow."

Phan and Vi talk with KMUW’s Carla Eckels about life before and after moving to the United States.