this book mainly relates to my early years during World War II and my settlement
in 1950, after two earlier attempts, it was not written until the late
thirty-eight years of marriage, bringing up three sons, hard work, often
incurring adversity and many hardships, we finally managed to retire and settled
into a new house we built by the seaside in Victoria. But only six months
later, I was on my own when my husband died through war related injuries. He too
had been a prisoner of war of the Japanese in the infamous Burma-Siam railway
was at a loss for something to do. During all those years, I never had much time
other than looking after the family, office work and household chores. Now I had
lots of time, so I decided to record some of the incidents of those war years.
It took me almost two years, many failed pages, on a typewriter at first, but
finally the story was written and I even made a quick trip to
in March 1989 to discuss the finished manuscript with my father who was then
aged ninety-one. I had lost my mother nine years earlier.
I returned to
after three weeks, fate stepped in, as it has a habit of doing in my life. I
remarried almost a year later and naturally met many more family members and
more journeys ensued.
I lost my father in late 1993. My husband and I had made another quick trip to
to see him just before he died. Eventually we moved to
and led a very active retirement life, including many journeys, for pleasure,
. Thoughts of publishing my manuscript were shelved again, but in April 2005 I
was left on my own once more, when I lost my second husband.
many promptings, from family members, friends and ex-colleagues, I was motivated
to have another attempt to publish my story.
least it would then be on record for my family.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
finally arrived and settled in
in 1950, and have lived in the ACT, three other states, many, many different
homes and now live in
have quite an extensive family. Of my own family, two of my sons and daughters
in law and numerous grandchildren, as well as my brother and sister-in-law are
. One other son and his wife now live and work in
. Many more family members scattered around the world, in
the original five family members plus one, in my story, four are still alive. My
, my brother, here in
, the girl next door, now lives in
and me of course. I stay in contact with them all and have long chats, by
phone, or keep in touch by mail. Emails are too impersonal and anyway I don't
own a computer now.
I was suddenly left on my own the first time, I worked as a volunteer for the
Australian Red Cross in
in various capacities. Without the Red Cross medical parcels in the third and
fourth camps, I would not have been here today.
enjoy music very much, preferably classical, old time tunes or anything that is
melodious. I am an avid reader and a tennis fanatic. I used to play it a lot,
way back, but cannot do so now much to my regret. I never avoid watching the
grand slam matches if I can help it and often miss out on sleep to watch the
games during the middle of the night, when they play in
. It is never the same to tape it and watch it later. Great when the matches are
I can now enjoy some leisure years with more journeys to family and friends.
wonder where and when my next journey will be. Will it be another actual journey
or just a few more steps towards the next milestone of my life? Odd, how often
journeys have featured in my life. Some have been little ones, but some to other
continents and to the other side of the world. And most of them have been
unusual to say the least.
exciting ever happens to us and we never go anywhere different,” I once
remarked to my father.
was in December 1941. How those words would haunt me for the next few years and
how often I would come to wish for those carefree years of my early teens,
living in such a beautiful place.
parents are English, so by the law of blood (jus sanguine) I am English by
birth, but was born and grew up in Java, a Dutch colony before World War II. My
grandfather, on my mother’s side lived there and worked for an English company
of tea brokers. My grandmother, who was Dutch, had insisted that all her
children should have a European education, so my mother and her sisters and
brothers all had been sent to boarding schools in
. When the three girls were in their late teens they were sent to
to be ‘finished’. This was where my mother eventually met my father and
where they were married. As a wedding present, my grandparents gave them a trip
to Java. Their honeymoon trip, however, would last for twenty years. Dad had
decided to settle in Java as well, when he managed to start a leather
manufacturing and tannery business out there.
reason for my outburst to my father at the time, was because I was unhappy
having again to spend our school vacation in our holiday house up in the scenic
hills of the Tenger mountain range. We had spent most of our holidays there,
ever since I could remember. I was always very envious of my friends. They used
to go overseas every three years or so because their fathers would be entitled
to overseas leave. Unlike my father, who owned his own business, my friends’
parents were Dutch civil servants or worked for the many English and other
international companies established in Java.
Nongkodjadjar, Nongko for short, our
holiday house had originally belonged to my grandparents. As soon as you entered
the wide sweeping driveway of the property, it was as though you were entering a
different world. A huge, tall pine tree stood sentinel at the gates. Often our
school friends, when they came to stay, would be invited to climb the tree with
us, the one daring the other to climb higher, uncaring for any consequences a
fall would create. My grandmother had landscaped a beautiful garden over the
years. It was a riot of colour in all directions, with every imaginable flower,
shrub and fruit tree. It had its own little stream running through the entire
property, which stretched over many acres. And behind the house, the wide open
spaces surrounded by orange groves, always reminded us of the prairies in
as seen on the movies. Here we were able to ride horses to our hearts’
content, imagining we were cowboys and cowgirls, chasing a band of Indians.
just a short ride away, we could swim in the coldest, clearest mountain streams,
either below or above the magnificent waterfall. The waterfall, with the
beautiful name of Rambut Maja, which means fairy hair, was always a favourite place.
There was a great variety of trees and flowers, many rare and unique, and the
large families of monkeys used to squawk their hellos as you rode your horse
along the trail leading to the falls. Or if you were more energetic, a few hours
horse ride would bring you to the awe-inspiring Bromo volcano. Once you reached
the plateau, with the descriptive name of the
, a further climb along the side of the crater, enabled you to view its smoking
often I would remember those fantastic holiday excursions when we were locked up
like animals in barred cells.
the background Java’s highest mountain and volcano, the Semeroe (3680m)
answer to my remark that day in December, my parents told the three of us there
would be plenty of excitement soon and told us about their plans to send us to
boarding school in
in fact. My brother and I were very excited, but my sister was not too
enthusiastic. She had never liked any new adventure much and was usually quite
happy in the same familiar routine.
is this going to happen?” I asked.
until the end of January; the school year in
starts early in February.”
it was not such a surprise to me really. Dad was very English and had not liked
the idea of us having to attend a Dutch school. At home it had always been a
strict rule for the three of us to speak only English to each other. To our
brother that was not so hard as he was much younger, but to each other? We both
thought that was very odd. After all, we spent the whole day together at school,
speaking Dutch to everyone as well as to each other.
I am digressing, I was reflecting on some of the journeys I have made, most of
them decidedly strange. Some of the definitions of ‘strange’ are
‘unexpected’, ‘bizarre’, ‘singular’, ‘unaccustomed’. I will
start with the unexpected journey.