President Ho Chi Minh and his godchildren abroad

During his life President Ho Chi Minh had a deep affection for young people all over the world.

He said: “All children in the world are my children.” He was a godfather of some foreign teenagers, some of whom later became well-known politicians, writers and artists.

In 1946 during an official visit to France as an honoured guest of the French Government, President Ho Chi Minh (Uncle Ho) adopted Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Raymond Aubrac – a high ranking official at the Ministry of Reconstruction, and Madeleine Riffaud, a renowned writer and journalist of France . It has been affirmed that they were the first godchildren of Uncle Ho.

President Ho Chi Minh holds Babette, the eldest daughter of Raymond Aubrac (1946).

President Ho Chi Minh visits a children’s camp in the former Soviet Union.

The Hartmann family and the godson Knuth presented flowers to President Ho Chi Minh
(July 29, 1957) at Moritzberg Village (Dresden, Germany).

With lawyer Loseby and his family in the Presidential Palace in Hanoi(1960).

President Ho Chi Minh with Vietnamese and foreign children
on the Vietnamese National Day, September 2, 1961.

Children congratulated Uncle Ho on his birthday (May 19, 1958) at the Presidential Palace.

During his stay in France, Uncle Ho stayed at Raymond Aubrac’s home for several weeks at the invitation of Aubrac’s family. On August 15, 1946 Aubrac’s wife, Lucie gave birth to Elizabeth at Bodeloque Maternity Hospital on Port Royal Avenue. On that day, under the escort of a group of motorbikes, Uncle Ho visited Lucie and her newborn, bringing with him flowers and gifts to present to Lucie.

He also distributed gifts to the medical staff. He affectionately held Elizabeth in his arms and said he embraced her as “a goddaughter” with the pet name “Babette”. From that day until he died, Uncle Ho and Aubrac’s family regularly exchanged letters, postcards and gifts.

When Babette was married he presented her a piece of yellow silk for her wedding dress. Raymond Aubrac, who was later a member of the France-Vietnam Friendship Association, participated in many activities to support the just cause of the Vietnamese people.

In 1990, the Vietnamese State invited him and Babette to Hanoi to attend the 100th anniversary of Uncle Ho’s birth. On that occasion Babette had an opportunity to visit President Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and she was very touched.

Answering a query about the gift she had sent to her godfather (an egg made of precious stone placed in a square box), she explained: “The egg symbolizes life, the future and perfection. My godfather is the embodiment of these”.

Madeleine Riffaud met Uncle Ho in Paris for the first time when she was a young journalist of 18 years old. With affection for the pretty girl, who during her brave fighting against the fascists, was arrested and sentenced to death, Uncle Ho asked tenderly: “Is this the courageous Paris girl?” He called her “my daughter” and advised her to work well.

He said: “My daughter, journalism is a true career. You work and study now and when you become a true journalist, come to Vietnam ! I am ready to receive you as my daughter at any time!”

From being a trainee at “Le Soir” Newspaper, Madeleine Riffaud became a talented dynamic journalist of the “Humanite” Newspaper. She was present on the fierce battle fields in Algeria and Vietnam and authored many well-known reports.

Enjoying the conditions made by Father Ho, she went to Southern Vietnam to work for a long time. On a page of the book “In the base of the Viet Cong” (Vietnamese Communists) she presented to Uncle Ho, she wrote: “To President Ho Chi Minh, with my deep gratitude and love for you and for your people who are winning over the neo- fascists”.

Uncle Ho also gave Madeleine Riffaud two pieces of silk. She used to wear the shirts made from these silk pieces on the occasion of great events, feeling grateful to her godfather.

The case of Knuth Wolfgang Walther Hartmann in Germany , who was embraced by Uncle Ho as a godson was rather special because he was born on May 19, the same day of President Ho Chi Minh’s birth. Knowing that Knuth Wolfgang’s birthday was also that of President Ho Chi Minh, Wolfgang’s father, Walther R. Hartmann who was Head of the post office and President of the city’s Peace Committee sent a letter to President Ho Chi Minh to express his wish that the Vietnamese people’s struggle against the French colonialists comes to victory soon.

He also asked President Ho Chi Minh to adopt Knuth as his godson. About four months later, from Viet Bac base Uncle Ho sent a reply to Hartmann’s family, informing that he accepted Knuth as his godson.

All members of Hartmann’s family were very happy. Since then, although very busy with his work, Uncle Ho regularly sent gifts and letters to his godson. In the spring of 1957 during an official visit to the Democratic Republic of Germany, President Ho Chi Minh visited Hartmann’s family in Moritzberg Village, Dresden City.

At that time Knuth was 6 years old and he was very happy to receive the gifts from his godfather, including three issues of Vietnam Pictorial, a set of landscape postcards and two ivory buffaloes.

Also in Germany , Uncle Ho had two goddaughters, Honolore Kaufen - a correspondent of “New Germany” Newspaper, and Ursula Bayreuth - an interpreter. As the members of a delegation from the Free German Trade Union Federation, they visited Vietnam in May 1966 where they were received by Uncle Ho at the Presidential Palace.

After his warm meeting, Uncle Ho said: “From now on, I have two more daughters.” Hearing that, they were very happy and asked him to allow them to embrace and kiss their beloved and great father. He sent regards to their families and said: “I wish both of you have a lot of children.”

Recalling this story, Wolfang Bayreuth, former head of this delegation, who later was a member of the Central Committee of the German United Socialist Party and a member of the Council of Ministers of the Democratic Republic of Germany said that after their visit to Vietnam he and Ursula became husband and wife.

He said: “We have three children, a greater number of children compared with other German families. We have realized the wish of Uncle Ho. I ask to be allowed to proclaim myself as ‘a son-in-law’ of him.”

In Russia, Uncle Ho called Irina Dimitrievna, born in 1958, a daughter of Dimitri Grigorievich Kolosov, who was an APN correspondent ( Soviet Union), as his goddaughter with deep affection. In November 1960 when Uncle Ho visited the Soviet Union, the family of Dimitri Grigorievich Kolosov was invited to meet him on Aleksei Tolstoy Street where he lived.

Uncle Ho warmly asked Dimitri Grigorievich Kolosov and his wife about their health and life and talked tenderly with 2-year-old Irina who called him “paternal grandfather”. While talking with Irina, Uncle Ho gave her apples, grapes, cakes and candies. He also told her Vietnamese fairy tales and sang the songs “Cachiusa” and “Afternoon over Moscow ’s outskirts” together with Irina’s parents.

It is reported that Irina graduated from high school with good grades and worked in the public security branch. She married a cadre from the civil aviation sector in the oil exploitation area in Tiumen (western Siberi). Irina’s father said proudly: “The goddaughter of President Ho Chi Minh is a work-loving woman and is bravely working with her husband in that area …”

When Patricia, a daughter of lawyer Loseby visited Vietnam , Uncle Ho took care of her as his daughter. Later, when talking with Vietnamese journalists, she said: “My friends, Uncle Ho loves children and flowers very much, which left on my heart indelible impressions of him since my childhood. Flowers and children, nothing is as beautiful as them. Remember that in my heart I accept him as my father forever!”

When hearing that Uncle Ho died, her family was very moved. They hung his picture to commemorate him. She confided: “My mother, my husband and I wore mourning dress. There were more than 2,000 vases of flowers into our house which were covered with black bands. The whole family melted into tears in boundless sorrow for him …”

Those who had an opportunity to see the documentary film “Ho Chi Minh with China” certainly remember the scene: During his holiday in Kunming, Yunnan Province ( China ) in 1962, Uncle Ho met Du Li Hua, a singer and accepted her as his goddaughter. At the guest house in his Stone Jungle, an artistic troupe from Yunnan Province came to perform to welcome him. Du Li Hua sang the song “Sound of T’rung musical instrument” in Vietnamese and she was praised by Uncle Ho: “You are a true artist of the people of China and Vietnam ! You sing like a Vietnamese and very well!”

For her, nothing was more honourable and happy than being praised by Uncle Ho. Another honour and happiness that she could not expect was that she was accepted by Uncle Ho as his daughter.

Writing about the godchildren of Uncle Ho, it is impossible not to mention Indira Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India. This was a very special case: Uncle Ho had a close relationship with three generations of her family.

In 1927, at the international conference on the struggle against the imperialists held in Brussels ( Belgium ), Uncle Ho met the father of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who was the father of Indira Gandhi.

Uncle Ho had composed poems to present to Nehru and expressed his close solidarity. After the visit to Vietnam (1954) by Prime Minister Nehru and the visit to India (1958) by Uncle Ho, the relationship between the two leaders became closer.

When meeting the daughter of the Indian Prime Minister during his visit, Uncle Ho showed his affection for her and called her “My niece”, later he called her “My little daughter”. In return, Indira Gandhi always called Uncle Ho “Father Ho” with pride and sometimes when talking about him she affectionately called him “Uncle Ho” in Vietnamese.