Who is Hien Phan?

Two years away from Vietnam in Germany

Life as a contract worker in the GDR

How people saw the Wall

After 1989: From contract work to suspension of deportation

The long road to obtaining a residence permit

Reunification, peaceful and without bloodshed

Did you encounter racism?

Turnaround in the new home country

How do you see the time since the turnaround?

The Vietnamese community

"For me personally it was – well, apart from the challenges at the time – the turnaround was generally positive."

Hiền Phan, 2021

Hiền Phan arrived in East Berlin in 1988 to work for the GDR under a temporary, two-year contract. She worked in the VEB Narva lightbulb factory, not far from today’s East Side Gallery. When Germany was unified, she was laid off. She decided to stay in Germany, nonetheless. A bureaucratic struggle to gain a residence permit began. Issued a series of short-term residence permits, valid for only one to three months, finding work and a home was a major challenge. Yet despite the struggles and the hard work, Hiền Phan regards the transition period 30 years ago as positive – it was when she laid the foundations for her life in Berlin with her family. Today she runs a restaurant.

Additional information:

The online exhibition "Minds of their own. Migrants in the GDR" presents contemporary witnesses as well as materials and information about the life of "contract workers" in the GDR: https://bruderland.de/episodes/werktaetige/

Contemporary witnesses