Breathing new life into old photos of fallen soldiers
Thu Hà, Vân Nguyễn
HÀ NỘI — Sixty-year-old Hoàng Văn Léo could not hold back his tears as he held in his hands portrait photographs of his two elder brothers.
It’s been more than 50 years since he last saw his brothers alive, and now it feels like once again they are together.
This meeting has been made so thanks to computer generated imagery, taking an old, battered and creased photograph and turning it into something new.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Léo’s brothers, Hoàng Văn Mèo and Hoàng Khắc Mẫn, joined the army when the resistance war against America was at its peak. Tragedy struck the family in 1973 when their deaths were pronounced, one after another. Devastated by the loss, Léo’s mother died a year later.
Until now, the remains of Léo’s brothers are still unaccounted for, which has made the healing process even more challenging for the whole family. The only things that remained of his brothers were two stained black-and-white portrait photographs, as small as a matchbox. The photos were taken on the days they joined the army.
Now, thanks to the efforts of a group of young photoshop experts in Hà Nội, these old images were repaired and turned into vivid colour photographs that look like they were taken today.
“When my eldest brother went to the battlefield, I was only six years old so I can just vaguely remember how he looked,” Léo said.
“We had the photos enlarged before, but they were still in black and white and blurry. Only now that I can see my brothers’ faces clearly, I recognise that my older son resembles my eldest brother while my younger son looks like my second brother.
“These images look so real and soulful. I am very touched. Last night my family could not sleep knowing that the photos had been restored. I kept thinking about this and could not hold back my emotions.”
Léo and his family left their home at 5am and travelled a 160-kilometre journey from northern Lạng Sơn Province to Hà Nội to meet and express their gratitude to the team behind the photographic work.
Lê Quyết Thắng, 32, head of the team, said he was surprised to see Léo’s whole family came all the way to collect the photos.
Their joy and enthusiasm is something he and his team could not imagine when they first started this voluntary project.
In more than a month, Thắng’s team of five photoshop experts has helped revive more than 200 old photos of fallen soldiers nationwide, all free of charge.
The idea for this campaign came from a request to restore a photo of a fallen soldier he received on his Facebook page on April 30, National Liberation Day.
“I was really curious about the story behind that photo. I checked and read the story very carefully,” Thắng said.
“I thought that behind such a photo there is always a story with lots of tears and also heroic moments in the past that, somehow, we seem to have forgotten.
“I told my friends and my students and we then had an idea that we could reach out to the fallen soldiers’ families and restore their old photos. We hope that this campaign will help the young generation like us remember the sacrifice of the older generations for the nation’s independence.”
According to official estimates, more than 1.1 million soldiers under Việt Nam People’s Army have died during wars in Việt Nam since 1945.
The team’s initial plan was to help restore 75 photos as this year marks the 75th anniversary of War Invalids and Martyrs’ Day (July 27). But the demand for such work is so huge it exceeds their imagination. Only one day after the team posted the campaign information on social media, requests flooded in from families across the country.
“Now we have received more than 2,000 requests and have done more than 200 photos. We just forgot about the initial number of 75 photos,” Thắng said.
The team uses Photoshop to restore the photos, turn them into colour, print them and get them framed before sending them to the families, normally by post.
On average, it takes about four to six hours to finish a photo. But in some cases in which photos are just sketches or in dilapidated conditions, it will take around three days to finish.
Thắng said: “The most difficult thing is we have to work in the night time, from 8pm to 3 or 4am, because we have work in the daytime. Sometimes, as we are all too focused on the story behind the dead soldiers’ photos, we could feel a chill go down our spines.”
Like Léo’s family, some other relatives would come to Thắng’s place to pick up the photos. In some special cases, the team would arrange trips to bring the photos back to the families who do not live too far away from Hà Nội.
“When we give them the photos, the families were all touched and cried a lot. There were tears from the elders. They even laughed in tears. It is very difficult for me to describe the feeling at that time. But that has become our motivation and we’re going to try harder to fulfil this task,” Thắng said.
“This campaign is just the beginning. We will try to do more to help and pay tribute to the families of fallen soldiers who have devoted their lives to the country’s independence.”
Like any family of fallen soldiers, Léo and his family members regard the photos of his brothers as a treasure. Before saying goodbye to the team, they wrapped the framed photos in a national flag that they have brought from home.
“The red colour of the flag represents the colour of blood. Millions of soldiers have fallen down for national independence,” Léo said.
“I hope that in the future the team will continue this work to preserve these photos for future generations, reminding them that many people have sacrificed their lives for us to have a happy life and for the nation to enjoy the independence we are having today.” VNS
Playground by Google equips children with cyber self-protection skills
HÀ NỘI — Children can learn how to protect themselves and embrace cyber civility though diverse interactive activities taking place at the Children’s Palace in Hà Nội.
The activities are among the Online Safety Playground event organised by Google on the occasion of International Children’s Day (June 1), aiming to raise awareness and enhance knowledge on self-protection and courtesy in the online environment for children and parents.
As summer comes, children have more time to go online. According to a survey by the Department of Children’s Affairs (Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs) in 2022, Vietnamese children are spending 5-7 hours a day on social networks. Vietnamese children must be equipped with essential skills and knowledge on selecting healthy, age-appropriate information for themselves. Moreover, parents in Viet Nam have become more concerned about their children’s online safety, and 64.1 per cent of parents have sought to improve their technological knowledge in order to teach their children about this topic, according to a survey by Google in 2023.
Understanding the practical needs of Vietnamese families, a discussion has been organised at the Online Safety Playground event to provide parents with comprehensive information on the topic of online safety for children. Featuring the family of the movie producer Lý Hải – Minh Hà, educational experts, and a Google representative, the discussion focused on improving parents’ skills and equipping them with knowledge about Internet safety, so that they are capable of guiding their children to effectively experience the online environment, especially in the summer when children spend more time on the Internet.
Alongside the discussion targeting parents, at the event, an interactive playground for children has also been introduced with many fun games, providing them with knowledge, while building up their self-protection skills and online courtesy.
This is also the first time educational games from the “Be Internet Awesome – Safer with Google” project have been deployed offline, helping children learn five fundamental rules: Be Smart – Be Alert – Be Strong – Be Kind – Be Brave while playing familiar games online.
At the same time, parents can experience many helpful content management applications such as YouTube Kids, YouTube Family Link, and YouTube SupeX. They will learn how to direct their children toward healthy content, and set restrictions to prevent children from accessing inappropriate content.
“Through the Online Safety Playground playground, Google and YouTube are committed to continuing to expand the programme to more schools, teachers, and students this year, thereby helping more children gain great benefits from the Internet in a safer space,” said Marc Woo, Managing Director for Việt Nam, Google APAC. — VNS
Sơn La festival promotes local tourism and ethnic culture
SƠN LA — Hundreds of artists staged a stunning performance to open the Sơn La Province’s Tourism and Cultural Festival on Saturday night at the Mộc Châu National Tourism Area in the northern mountainous province.
Standing vice-chairman of the National Assembly (NA) Trần Thanh Mẫn, former standing vice-chairwoman of the NA, Tòng Thị Phóng, Chairman of the NA’s Ethnic Council Y Thanh Hà Niê K’đăm, and Sơn La Provincial Party Secretary Nguyễn Hữu Đông, participated in the event.
Themed “The World’s Leading Regional Nature Destination”, the festival is an opportunity to connect cultural-tourism products, promote tourism development, attract investment in tourism, and simultaneously create distinctive tourism products.
Speaking to open the festival, the Chairman of the Sơn La Provincial People’s Committee, Hoàng Quốc Khánh, said that the festival is not only to create a new development step for Sơn La’s tourism economy but also to strengthen the cooperation between the province and other localities in Việt Nam and other countries.
“This is also an opportunity for businesses in the tourism industry to improve their product quality associated with conserving and promoting cultural identities,” he said. “The distinctive, professional, and attractive tourism products can magnet domestic and international tourists.”
The festival features an interesting agenda of diversified activities presenting unique local ethnic culture. Those include the plum harvesting festival in Mộc Châu District, home to the best plums in Việt Nam.
An off-road motor race in Vân Hồ District and a photo contest are also on the festival agenda. Festival-goers can learn about the rich culture of various ethnic groups living in the province through the display presenting traditional costumes and typical architecture or through a fair showcasing ethnic gastronomy and handicraft products made by ethnic people.
“Through their own experience at the festival, visitors will have an impression of special unique tourism products that present the ethnic identity of Sơn La Province as well as the warm hospitality of Sơn La people,” Chairman Khánh said. “They can also realise the transformation and development of the province, being a great place to visit.”
Also at the opening ceremony on Saturday, founder and president of the World Travel Awards, Graham Cooke, has given a trophy to honour Mộc Châu-Vân Hồ in Sơn La as “The World’s Leading Regional Natural Destination” in 2022. — VNS
A memorable summer with fireworks and fun festivals in Đà Nẵng
ĐÀ NẴNG Colourful fireworks performances at the Đà Nẵng International Fireworks Festival (DIFF), together with numerous cultural festivals at Bà Nà Hills, promise to offer tourists an unforgettable summer.
Magic of fireworks
The vibrant summer days in the coastal city of Đà Nẵng will begin with the return of DIFF 2023.
Taking place from June 2 to July 8 by the Hàn River, the event will feature stunning fireworks performances by international teams, including the UK, Italy, Poland, France, Australia, Canada, Finland and the host team Đà Nẵng.
Through five nights with five different themes: “Peace for Humanity”, “Love without Borders”, “Conquering Dreams”, “Dance of Nature”, and “World without Distance”, the fireworks performances will send the audience a special note honouring the recovery of world tourism after the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the festival, the night sky in Đà Nẵng will turn out to be a perfect backdrop for beautiful paintings created by colourful and splendid fireworks performances.
The Polish team will showcase the Firework Dragon, while the British team will stage the Light Up The World presenting the human resilience to overcome the global pandemic.
The host Việt Nam has prepared an extremely elaborate light show with the theme Đà Nẵng – Peaceful Timbre, Canada and France will amaze spectators with Northern Lights and Colours of Hope, while Italy and Australia will offer a feast of light and music.
Festivals at Bà Nà Hills
Alongside DIFF 2023, this summer, at Sun World Bà Nà Hills, tourists can enjoy several festivals, which are among a series of events called Bà Nà WOW Festival – Wonderland without Distance.
The best culture and art of different countries in the world will all be presented at the wonderland of Bà Nà. The bustling atmosphere of the German Oktoberfest will be recreated, offering tourists a chance to enjoy one of the biggest festivals in the world, where festival-goers can sip 20 different kinds of beer while enjoying famous cuisine.
During June, fans of Hallyu or Korean Wave will be able to “live their passion” with the Korean Cultural Festival. Trendy K-pop songs, exciting dances, popular dishes, and several traditional Korean games, will be presented at Bà Nà.
On June 3, Vietnamese celebrity singer Hồ Ngọc Hà will have her concert Love Songs – Love Vietnam, which is expected to be a special entertainment event for music lovers.
In July, visiting Bà Nà, any tourist who is in love with French culture and French wine, will be delighted with a series of activities honouring French culture, of which the celebration of “100 Years of Bà Nà Wine Cellar” will be a highlight.
Besides, tourism-magnet hotspots such as Golden Bridge, Moon Castle, and the French Village, promise to enhance the excitement of tourists visiting Bà Nà.
Specialities of ‘kimchi land’
Coming to Đà Nẵng this summer, alongside the DIFF 2023, guests can also enjoy a full agenda of impressive activities at Asia Park.
A hotspot for young people, the ongoing “M-Pack Festival & Carnival Street Food” features a beer and soju [a Korean alcoholic drink made from rice or sweet potatoes] festival, K-pop dance, and food carnival.
DJ parties will be held every Saturday with the performance of popular DJs. In addition, art shows presenting Vietnamese traditional art forms, and K-pop concerts will be taking place monthly until September 20.
If tourists want to fly high into the clouds and enjoy the Đà Nẵng City landscape from a bird’s-eye view, they should take a hot air balloon flight available for the first time at Asia Park.
Especially, Asia Park provides a special offer for pupils and students with all-in-one tickets for only VNĐ120,000. With this ticket, junior visitors can enjoy all the outdoor games and a ride on the Sun Wheel to contemplate the panorama of Đà Nẵng City from above. They can also enjoy puppet shows by guest artists from the Huế Theatre.
Shows across the city
The DIFF 2023 will not only light up the Hàn River but also bring the hectic atmosphere to every popular sightseeing spot across the city with numerous art and cultural shows.
During June, the Street Music and Magic programme will take place in Southern Park on the west bank of the Dragon Bridge.
Different kinds of Vietnamese traditional music will be presented every Saturday and Sunday night during June and July on the east bank of the Dragon Bridge, on Trần Hưng Đạo Road.
Exhibitions displaying antique ceramic objects, and traditional Japanese dolls are taking place at the Đà Nẵng Museum and the Đà Nẵng Museum of Fine Arts, respectively.
The photo exhibition The Colourful Conversation of Two Rivers at the APEC Park is another suggestion for visiting tourists. VNS
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