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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A story my cousin Toby told me.

Woke up this morning, and there was more snow on the ground. It is suppose to rain tomorrow so lets hope the snow will disappear. Just watched the golf and can you believe they had snow in the dessert. They say the last time they had snow there was 30 years ago.This is Tuscon Arizona.The other day I was talking about my cousin, who I had not been in touch with for a long time. We had lost each others addresses.I grew up with my cousin Toby and her brother in the Dutch East Indies.My cousin Toby was born in May, 1942 in Soerabaja, 5 months after her father had been killed on the 016 a submarine.She was born on the same date her father Tobias was born. Now if that is not a coincidence.When she was born we had house arrest, because the Japanese had occupied the Dutch Indies.In that same year we had to leave our houses and were taken by train to Moentilan and were put in Japanese Prison camps. I wrote a book about what we endured in those camps. My cousin told me a couple of things which I would have liked to have added to my book. But my book was already published and I was not able to ad it. So that's why I am going to write about it on my blog.
Sister, my mom on the right in Soerabaja.

Her mother and my mother are sisters and were both living in the Dutch Indies before the war broke out.My mother lived in Bandoeng and her sister lived in Soerabaja.On December 7 1941 Pearl Harbor was bombed and seven days later my uncle who was serving on the 016 a Submarine was killed.My mothers sister was pregnant and my mother decided to be with her sister in Soerabaja.
My mom with her brother in law, Tobias van Driel. It was the last time she saw him.

My cousin told me something which I never knew about, and made me even more proud about my mother. How unbelievable strong my mother must have been. All her life she has protected me from all the horrors, she and her sister had to endure while they were in these Japanese prison camps.My cousin Toby told me that her mother told her that she had been so lucky to have her sister (my mother)in the same prison camp as her, otherwise she would not have been alive today.Her mother told her that numerous time my mother had to convince her Mom to please not give up.Think about your children,it was getting too much for my aunt she had just given birth after her husband had been killed she was so undernourished and so weak. All she liked to to do was just lay down and let her be.She had been beaten by the Japanese guards already a couple of times because she did not bow for them, and was hoping they would beat her to death.One day when they were working outside the camp, where they had to dig and shovel a vegetable garden for the Japs, she asked one of the guards if she could take a break to go to the bathroom.The bathroom was a couple of yards away from where they were digging behind some bushes.After a while my mother got concerned because her sister had not returned. The Japanese guard must have forgotten that my aunt had not returned.My mother waited a few more minutes and hoping that the guard would not get suspicious asked if she could take a break to go to the bathroom. He mumbled something to my mother and said something like hurry, hurry!!! and showed his whip. As my mother approached the place behind the bushes, she saw her sister laying face up in the sun totally unaware what was going on around her. When my mother asked what she was doing there laying in the hot sun, she begged my mother to please leave her there, and let the sun do its job. I do not want to go on anymore.We all are going to die, so I might as well end it now. My mother got mad at her, and told her that she was selfish and had to think about her two children.You better get up, my mother said otherwise I have to drag you by your hair, and you better be quick and put yourself together, because the guard would miss us soon, and then we are both in trouble.My mother told my cousin later, when my cousin questioned my mother about this , that she had no idea how she was able to get her sister in a standing position and took her back to where they were working. Her sister was in a total trance.She had been very close to a sun stroke.My mother and her mother had such a strong bond, they had gone through so much together, during the time they were prisoners of war of the Japanese.When my mothers sister passed away in 1989 my mother was never the same. She had lost the only person she was able to connect with.How she missed her sister. They had been so close. Her sister was only 77 years old. She was in the Hospital getting a pacemaker, after the operation every thing seemed fine. But she had told her children that she was so tired, she never woke up the next day. My mother always said, she was tired of fighting, she gave up.The only person my mother was able to relate too about their years in Japanese Prison camp was gone.Now she had to carry this heavy load by herself. She became very quiet, and very tense.But now I know that all that happened to my mother and my aunt in these Japanese camps had serious consequences on the rest of their lives. Even after the war the struggle to cope was not over. I know that in my mother's head, the war continued as horrible memories. The unimaginable brutality at the hands of these Japanese soldiers in these prison camps, trying to take care of their children with hardly any food to give them, has haunted them for the rest of their lives.Life in Japanese prison camp had been hell! The feeling that nobody ever believed what they had endured must have done a lot of damage.They had to cope with the mental and physical damage done to them, caused by the horrendous suffering, torture, and treatment they received by their captors, the Japanese, while imprisoned, they never received any help.These days they have a name for these lamentations. They call it post-traumatic war stress.

My mother and my aunt have protected us all their lives, and did everything they could to let us forget, what we thought was in our heads and what we had seen. They always told us that they were bad dreams, and we should forget about these dreams. The hurts and pain that we experience in childhood don't just magically evaporate as we grow older. They are forever burned in our brains. When we reached a level of strength and maturity, insight and awareness to handle them, they come to the surface, and we try to work them out.

My mother, my aunt, and thousands of women, children, and men have suffered immensely under the Japanese occupation. What has happened to those prisoners was often so gruesome and appalling that it remained with them the rest of their lives.

I have not even told the whole story yet. But some of them are to unbearable for me to write about it yet.One day when I have the strength I will tell the whole tale. My cousins Toby and Fop van Driel the two children of my aunt, who I grew up with in prison camp will tell me some of their stories, which they remember. I will meet them in May in Holland.
This is a picture taken in 1948. Two years after we came back to the Netherlands. We were close, we had gone through so much.My cousin Fop in the middle barely survived.I will post a picture from us when I see them this year in Holland.Sixty three years later.
We were adjusting to the Dutch climate.That's me on the left, with my couisins Fop and Toby on the right.

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