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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Today I received a letter

Today I received a letter from my cousin Leni de la Court. It was very nice to hear from her. I think the last time I ever saw her must have been 40 years ago.Leni was the first cousin I met when my mother and I arrived in Holland after the war from Indonesia. She is the daughter from my stepfathers sister. It was spring 1946, when I met Leni at my stepfathers mothers house in Zandvoort.
When I met my new grandmother, the mother of my stepfather, I was so scared. This grandmother had so many clothes on. I clung to Leni, my new cousin. Everything was so strange for me. All these new people I met were living in nice houses. I was used to a muddy camp with women and children living in confined places,on top of each other.My mother was telling me, that I asked her all the time, if we please could stay here in these camps. These camps I liked better then the other camps we had been in.In these camps we did not have to bow for men.And the men in Holland were much nicer, they did not hit women. I often said to my mother, don't you have to bow, there is a man coming.I was petrified for a long time., that these men would hit my mother again.
My cousin Leni on the left.
My new grandmother on the left, 

My new grandmother on the left, second from the left is my mothers brother Itse, he came with my mother for support, because my stepfather was at sea,in the middle my mother and me, my mother looked still very pale, she had been very sick after the war in Indonesia and was still recovering. On the right a sister from my grandmother Aunt Arendje.It was a strange day, which I can remember as the day of yesterday.It was for my mother not easy, because soon we were moving in with my fathers mother.We could not stay with my mothers mother, because their house was so small, and their was not enough food for all of us.Holland was just recovering from the War with the Germans.Their were so many changes in my life at that age. It is not easy for a child to understand .When I received the letter from my cousin Leni, memories came flooding back.
Here follows the letter I received:

Dear Thea,and husband Ruud

Thank you so much for the picture, which I did not know existed.I thank you too for the lovely words you wrote and of course for your book I received from my sister Cobie. What a fantastic title you gave your book, and I read it with a large box of tissue next to me. I recognized a lot, because of the stories I sometimes heard  from my parents, 65 years ago.I am so happy to finally know how your father Klaas van der Wal looked like. I admire your courage to write this book, and I think it probably was not easy to do.It is such a tribute to your parents, and for all the people who had to endure this.

Bravo! I salute you.

Lots of love and greetings from Leni.

I wrote;
Dear Leni,

Thank you so much Leni for your kind words. Indeed it was not easy to write this book. I wrote this book with lots of tears. Tears of sorrow that I now understand what they had to endure in these Japanese prison camps.As a child I never understood why my mother screamed in the middle of the night. She must have had terrible nightmares. She became so quiet when she got older.Her short memory had gone ,she was living in the past the last couple of years of her life.She never spoke about what had happened to her. All she tried to do was protect me from all that horror.She tried so hard for me to forget.All she ever talked about,  how beautiful Indonesia was and what a great time she had over there, before the Japanese invaded the Dutch East Indies.On her death bed she was trying to climb the wall to the ceiling, we had to hold her down.I now understand probably what she was trying to do.I do not know where she got the strength from, because a few hours later she passed away.The memories must have been playing havoc in her mind. I hope she is at Peace now.
Thanks again Leni for your kind words and I hope you stay healthy for a long time.

Lots of love, from Thea your cousin. Greetings from Ruud.

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