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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Camp life at it's worst.

Food was getting worse by the day. There was hardly anything.We were given some rice porridge( a ladle  per person) and some watery veggie soup.When the rice was finished we got some starch porridge, without sugar or salt, it was hard to swallow.Nobody liked it, but it was something to put in your stomach.After the war my mother was taken to a hospital and I was taken to an orphanage where nuns took care of children who had lost their parents.I refused to eat the porridge, and the nun got frustrated,and threw it on my head. I was shocked and screamed even louder. I missed my mother!(I will write about that episode later in my story) The starch porridge was later given to us twice a day. It tasted awful. It looks like wall paper paste.
This was our space. Our bed was our living room our storage room, our play room.We had no privacy at all.
Each morning the Japanese decided we had to do gymnastics. This was done on the plaza, with loud shrieks from the"Japs" My mother always thought this was such an hilarious story to tell. These Japanese little yellow men (that's what she called them, my mother was a tall woman) looked like lunatics. We made fun of them, and even do we were in such distress we sometimes had to laugh our heads off. It was good to laugh. The "Japs" had no idea why we laughed and they laughed with us, so we had to laugh even louder. This is what my mother always told me, and she still had to laugh, she said it was so hysterical! This was one of her stories she liked to tell, over and over again.
She supposes that as a child I didn't attend the cruel sanctions the Japanese applied, or that it didn't affect me. But I think in both cases she was wrong; of course I must have seen in all those years some events of extreme actions of the Japanese (I think only of the endless roll-calls in the burning sun), and a child unavoidable is sensitive for the desperation of his/her mother being mistreated.

I am so sorry that I have not pushed my mother to tell me more about that time she was in Japanese Prison Camp in the Dutch Indies (now called Indonesia). I always tried, but she was always able to avoid it. Except when I told her I remembered some things, then she would listen,and if it was a bad memory, she always told me that I must have dreamed it. But later, when I read some articles from other children who had found diaries from their parents, I realized she only wanted to protect me. I think that a lot of these women went to their graves without telling what really had happened to them.Of course, even when you are so young, you feel the distress your mom is in. I have some hold of situations and images, although very vague.I would have liked to talk to her about it. Sadly my mother passed away in 2003, and had lost her memory.I know that she could never leave that part of her life behind her. I felt there was more to it then she let me believe. Those years in Japanese Camp had put a stamp on her, she tried so desperately to forget. For years  she screamed at night and cried. I snuggled then in her bed, and asked her why she was crying. She always told me that she had a bad dream. She was holding me than so tight, as if I was going to leave.
No where in Camp you had your own little place. Everywhere it was drab and grey, long grey hall ways, always hungry, never something good.Suddenly we would be called to come immediately to the plaza for roll calls. No matter what time of day it was. The endless counting, standing in the burning sun, until the Jap had it right.If he did not get it right you would stand there for hours. Some women would pass out.There was always some uproar. Arguments between the mothers. Cries and screams, two days long from women who got tortured,the screams always came from the church, which was where the Japanese had set up office.
 Some of the women who were called into church never came back.
The Japanese seemed to enjoy themselves immensely when a women got spanked.
Some women were chosen to be camp leaders.But of course every thing had to be asked first to the "Jap". Also their orders had to be executed. It was an awful job, because these women were the ones who received the beatings the most.
These women had to divide the work, the jobs the "Japs" told them had to be done.The worst job my mother told me(but still she thought it was so funny) was cleaning the shit from the "Japs" The human shit from the pit had to be shoveled out the pit into pales,than they had to carry this to a field outside the camp, where vegetables were growing, and they had to empty these pails on the vegetable field as manure. Some times: she said:" we were able to steal some little tomatoes. But if you got caught, you were in deep trouble. It was impossible to steal sometimes, because there was always a "Jap" close by, and they kept an eye on us. Although my mother often said she was amazed how they could see, with those slanted little eyes.Sometimes when she talking about it, I could always hear the hatred in her voice. Although the things she told me were most of the time funny.I think that's how she was able to cope with it, make it sound like it was funny.
We had heard that the Red Cross had send food packages, and we knew that they were lying in the Church. There was one very mean "Jap" who liked to tell the children to come with him,and he would give them some of these food parcels.  Then when they were in front of the church, he would all of a sudden wave the key and pretend he could not open the door. How cruel to do this to little children.Was this some sort of joke to them? My mother said,she would cry .This to her was one of the sad stories she would tel me.
If my mother was able to get her hands on an egg, she would grind the shell, until it was powder. She would give this to me in some water and told me that it was good for my bones and teeth.I have good teeth, so that's why, she would say.

What a terrible time they must have endured. How could they have possibly spared us from this? It must have been very difficult for her. I read from other stories from women who were in Japanese Prison Camp that they some times liked to give up, but had to stay alive for their children.
In Camp Moentilan we had nuns, they had to work the fields. They had these long dresses on; it must have
been very hot in these clothes.

I was told by my mother that the children were not allowed to be educated. But the nuns had set up a little place on the veranda, where we were allowed to listen to stories the nuns were telling. We also sang songs, as long as we were kept out of site of the "Japs". But of course the nuns were teaching us other things. Every time a "Jap" passed by to check what was going on, the nuns were hiding pencils and paper under their long skirts. We would giggle.We all had to stand up and bow, no matter what you were doing, no matter how young you were.I loved going to the nuns, and I have learned a lot from them. They also taught about God, and apparently I always asked my mother questions about "HIM". She always said: " listen carefully and when you are a big girl you know what to think about it, and make up your own mind". If this "GOD" would let me grow up.My mother had given up to believe in God, she told me later. She could not understand why he allowed all this cruelty. From the 140 nuns who were in this Moentilan Camp,only 5 survived. Most of them died between (March 1944-August 1945) I never understood this, when a nun got sick and did not come back to the veranda to sing with us.Why was this, why did "He" let this happen? I had so many questions.These nuns were so nice.
In Moentilan Camp we had some women who could draw very good. They drew a picture from me, which my mother managed to keep. It was done when I was only 2 years old. On the top is written Moentilan 26-10-1943.  On the bottom right are two initials, but I cannot make out what it says. Which is a pity.

In 1945 another portrait was done from me. This one is signed. I wish I know this women who draw this. My mother had kept all these things hidden in a pouch, which I found after my mom and step dad passed away.Did this women survive from that terrible place?How come my mother never told me about these things. It must have been too horrible.I hope if anybody reads my story and sees this picture that somebody out there recognize this drawing of me. It was done on the back of a propaganda paper from the Japs.The picture is signed : N v/d Molen. Febr. '45. Moentilan.

I hope through my blog somebody might know who drew these portraits of me.I feel sad when I look at this picture. It is like the eyes are trying to tell me somethings.



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