On the surface, it might seem that eight-year-old Victoria is the typical all-American girl. She loves BBQ, chocolate, playing with her American girl dolls and cheering for the New York Yankees.
However, Victoria is steeped in Korean heritage. Her parents were both born in South Korean, she speaks fluent Korean and many of her relatives reside in Korea.
“When I was younger, I had a dream to go to South Korea,” wrote Victoria. “My mom’s family still lives there and I really wanted to see them.”
In 2011, Victoria was supposed to travel to South Korea for the first time to be the flower girl in her uncle’s wedding. Weeks before the trip, she was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia.
This illness affects bone marrow, rendering it unable to produce enough red blood cells. Her diagnosis meant that Victoria would not be able to travel out of the country. The family had to cancel their trip.
Victoria started receiving chemotherapy almost immediately and would require a bone transplant a year later. It would be years before Victoria would be able to travel abroad.
When her medical condition was finally stable, Victoria’s wish was clear: go to South Korea and meet her family for the first time. By this time, however, she also had another motivating reason to go.
“My life saving donor lives in South Korea also,” said Victoria. “I want to thank him. I’m so excited to go because I’ve never been there. I just can’t wait to go.”
While in Korea, Victoria visited the cities of Seoul and Busan, the two most populous cities in the country. She and her family got to see Lotte World, an amusement park in Seoul, and Jeju Island, a beautiful volcanic island off the southern coast.
Most importantly, Victoria finally got to meet her family members in person for the first time in her life. She spent most of her time talking and playing with her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
“Victoria got to meet all of her family and relatives and she was so loved by each one,” said Victoria’s mother. “We came back with unforgettable memories and tons of pictures. Words can't express how much we thank you. We're forever grateful.”
For a young girl who simply wanted an international family reunion, this was a wish come true.