If Mom Had A Blog In 1942

There are no family photographs, only memories. Memories of a five-year old imprisoned by Japanese soldiers. Memories of love, courage and most of all hope. Hope that there was a God who would walk through the valley of death, known as WWII, with her. And He did.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Death by Boredom

There just can't be anything worse in life than not being able to run and play. Here I lay on my tieker (bamboo woven mat) getting more bored by the minute. The only thing to keep me company are stacks of dirty clothes and my pain. My eyes are now infected and the wound on my leg hurts so much.

Mammie is trying to make my eyes better. My Oma took a few leafs of a red plant, rolled them in her hands then placed them on my eyes. More lying on my tieker and doing nothing. But it does feel very nice on my eyes--cool and it doesn't smell too bad. Maybe the sharp pain in my eyes will go away soon.

Since I can't run around I am suddenly noticing that my head is very itchy. Mammie says I have koetoe ramboet (hair lice). "Stop scratching," she whispers. Easy for her to say. Looks like all the children in our camp have the same problem since I see everyone scratching their heads. Not a pretty sight. All we can do is wash our hair. But that doesn't seem to help much. We still have koetoe.

I also have an awful tummy ache. Most do. My brothers, sisters and I are lucky. Mammie still has a lot of money. So she goes to the fence late at night, always praying that the guards don't see her, and digs a hole. She leaves the money there and her Indonesian friends come and bring her bananas. I have to eat the whole banana with the yellow banana peel. How gross. When I can't manage the peel she scrapes the inside of the peel and makes me eat that. I do it because I don't have to go to the bathroom anymore. Tummy ache gone.

So here I lie, on my tieker which separates me from a dirty cold floor, checking to see if there are holes in the roof. Only three, or are they shadows? Will I ever walk again? Maybe I should sing a song. Even the guards like that. Well, maybe. Boredom is very bad for my soul.

I guess other children are worse off than me, like standing in the hot sun with hands tied behind their backs and no water. Better stop complaining.

Tuhan, Tuhan, Tuhan...
Engkau sungguh baik bagiku
Tuhan, Tuhan, Tuhan...
Engkau sungguh baik bagiku
Tuhan, Tuhan, Tuhan...
Engkau sungguh baik bagiku
Karena Engkau sudah membuat apa yang dunia tidak bisa membuat!

Lord, Lord, Lord,
You are really good to me
Lord, Lord, Lord,
You are really good to me
Lord, Lord, Lord,
You are really good to me
For you've done what the world could not do!
(Song Source:)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Coconut Soldiers

Mammie was already on her way to meet Greta and me near the kitchen. She felt something was terribly wrong and immediately ran to find us. I guess mommies are good like that. As soon as she took me into her arms I felt safe. Maybe I am dying but at least I was with her.

Poor Greta had my blood all over her arms and her clothes and even a little bit on her face. She was crying but she was listening to Mammie telling her what to do. I wish I was as strong as her. One day I will be.

Against Mammie's wishes, Greta had made friends with a few of the soldiers and today it helped us. She walked Mammie and me to the gate and sweetly asked if we could go to a doctor. There is no doctor inside our camp. I don't really remember what the soldier said, but he let us go. Mammie, me and my brother Frederick were allowed outside the camp. Greta had to stay behind.

"I'll be all right, Mammie. Trust me," she said.

The doctor was only a street away and Mammie carried me there. Frederick in the meantime decided to get himself into trouble. Why are boys that way? I guess being free was too much temptation. We don't know where he got the money from but he bought himself a couple of coconuts from a street vendor. He tried to hide them under his shirt. Looked rather silly if you ask me.

There were soldiers walking on the streets and Frederick seemed a tad bit too suspicious for their liking. They kept an eye on him which I suppose was good for me. Soldiers can always change their mind and tell us to go back to camp. They had Frederick to deal with now.

Finally we made it to the doctor's house. He wasn't very happy to see me. Frederick was not allowed to come in. I could tell that Mammie worried about that. But she had no choice. Brother was still trying to hide his coconuts. The soldiers still watched him. Then suddenly they shouted at him to give up the coconuts.

"I paid for them," Frederick yelled.

"You stole them," they said.

Then he darted off down the street. Mammie screamed at him to run back to the camp. He must have heard her cause that's where he ran off to. The last thing I saw was Frederick throwing his coconuts at the soldiers and them throwing their bamboo spears at him. They missed. I am sorry, but I had to laugh. At least it took away my pain for just a second.

The next half hour, however, was the hardest half hour of my life. My wound was not washed and the doctor had no anesthesia. He just sewed me up like I was a dress or something and he kept telling me not to move. Mammie said it was okay if I cried. I didn't want to, but I did. She held my hand for a long time. I wasn't scared anymore as she sang "Safe In The Arms of Jesus." Then everything went black.

When I woke up Mammie was carrying me back to camp where we found Greta and Frederick waiting for us at the gate.

"I lost my coconuts, Mammie," Frederick said.

Everyone laughed, even the soldiers.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

It Wasn't A Bullet

Where is Sister? Why didn't I listen to her? Oh, where is she? Is this what dying is?

It was already hot around 6:00am. There was lots of noise in the early morning. Children ran around and mothers were fussy. Everyone had their tasks to get ready for. Young girls scampered to the kitchen, others were dragged to the building where Japanese soldiers lived. Those girls cried and struggled to free themselves. I thought of Greta. Where is Sister? "Do not be anxious, do not be anxious. Trust in the Lord." Where is Sister? "Please, Lord, keep the soldiers away from her."

I walked outside with other children. Mammie was near the fence. I wondered how long she had been there. How do the guards not see her? I see her, and I know what's she's up to. "Keep her safe also, dear Jesus. Close the eyes of the guards." Mammie is very good at not being caught. With a little bit of help from God, we should have bananas tonight.

A woman called to me from the mandi bak (wash basin). "Mari mandi!" I nodded and walked towards her. A quick washing will feel good. Leave Mammie to do her secret work, she will be fine.

On my way to the mandi bak I saw a little girl, my age, standing on top of the cement sewage pipe. It is dangerously high and the cement must be burning her bare feet. She's not moving. Her hands are tied behind her back. Don't cry, Becca. They will let you down soon. Don't cry and please don't fall. I walked slowly past her.

"Mari mandi!" someone else called out.

Finally, at the mandi bak I waited behind hundreds of people to fill my small bucket with water. Sister always said to stay in line and be patient. Yet other children were playing, so I joined them. I am the fastest runner in Tjeweng. Nobody could catch me. But today that became my curse.

I ran and ran. We laughed and jumped onto old machinery and over the slippery sheets of zinc which covered everything--no one stopped us. Suddenly, I lost my footing and the sharp edge of the zink flooring slashed into the inner part of my left thigh. The world became very bright for just an instance, with a million tiny flashing stars, then almost black. I saw lots of blood draining from my leg yet I did not feel any pain. Don't cry, I thought. But then I felt a piercing pain.

The children who were playing with me immediately stepped into line at the mandi bak. Adults turned their backs but tried to hide me. The line to the mandi bak was now my human shield. If the soldiers knew I had been running they would punish me and anyone who dared to help. I heard the whispers. "Stand up, get up Laney." It was hard to stand, but I did.

My body seemed too heavy and the sounds of the world were strange. Voices whispered and echoed. I cupped my hand over my ears. My leg didn't feel connected to my body which scared me more than anything. The other leg trembled terribly. Mammie told me once to just call out His name and it would make me feel strong. I whispered His name--Jesus. God is with me. God is with me. Mammie was right. Though I was still scared, His name did gave me strength.

I walked on, dragging my leg behind me. I fell a few times in a cloud of dust, got up time and time again. Then I heard the clangs of old pots and smelled the old oil drums they used to cook rice in. I had somehow made my way to the kitchen. I crashed into the bamboo door leaving bloody fingerprints. Where is Sister?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Am I dying? "Is Sister here?" The last thing I hear is Greta's voice yelling, "Mammie!" And I let myself collapse into Sister's arms.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Old Enough To Work

We have lived inside the factory for more than a week now. I know it must smell bad, but I just can't tell anymore. People are constantly coughing, sobbing, and some of them don't move at all. Sister is writing down the dates in her school book so we won't forget what day it is. She is so smart. She winks at me to let me know that everything will be all right soon. I pray to the Lord that the soldiers don't even look at her. We have to keep her safe.

Today, we found out that we are prisoners of both Japanese and Indonesian soldiers. They must be working together which is very confusing. Mammie says to pray for our president, Sukarno ,because he doesn't seem to be on our side. I really don't understand, but I will pray for him.

Greta was taken away later this day. She told me not to worry. The soldiers said that she was old enough to work. She will work in the kitchen. "Dear Jesus, keep her from all harm. Send your Angels to protect her and surround her every minute of every day that we are here."

Oh no, I have to go now. There is a young girl being dragged away. I have to find my Mammie and my brothers. Soon I will write again and hopefully with good news. Pray for that little girl. Her name is Becca.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

An Unsafe World

The train has stopped. Sister says to stay quiet and just follow everyone inside. She holds my hand and we walk very slowly behind hundreds of other children holding their mommies' hands. No fathers are here. I miss my Pappie very much.

"This is Twejeng," Sister says. "An old sugar factory."
"It looks like a big, cold monster with evil eyes," I whisper. "And there are no windows. How will we breathe?"

Sister just squeezes my hand. There is a wall of bamboo spears around the whole area. Are we in prison? I miss our home and garden. I just want to play and forget everything else. The soldiers have guns, their uniforms are dirty and there is a high tower where other soldiers can see the whole camp. Are we prisoners of this war?

There is some confusion amongst all the "prisoners." Everyone is whispering. Mammie is telling us to keep moving, don't ask questions and stay together. I look at the soldiers. They are not Japanese. They are . . . Indonesian. We are prisoners of our own people. I don't understand this at all.

Sister says to keep up with her. We walk inside the factory and Mammie finds a little spot on the cold, hard cement floor to lay our belongings. She makes a square by lining up our suitcases.

"This is home," she says. "It's not so bad. And remember . . . God is still with us."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Train Ride (June 1942)

I haven't written for a while . . . I know. It's getting harder every day. A letter was sent to our house and the next thing I know, we are packing our suitcases. Then they put us on a train. Many people are with us, all women and children. Pappie and Opa were put on another train.

It's not much fun. Nothing smells right and we are all hungry, thirsty and scared.

I hear whispers that we are going to a place called Twejeng. Why are we going there? It's just an old sugar factory. Maybe my big sister will tell you more later. I think she knows why we are going there. Yes, I'll have her write more about this train ride when she is ready to talk.

My sister's name is Greta. She's twelve and very beautiful. I hope the Japanese soldiers will leave her alone now. Yes, maybe in Twejeng she won't have to worry about them. God will keep us safe. That's what Mammie says and I believe it with all my heart.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Between The Fences

There is now a guard standing at our gate--all day and all night. Maybe there are more soldiers around our property. It's hard to tell. I guess we are amongst the lucky families. Our house is very nice, so I don't mind being locked up and I'm with my family. I will miss the garden. I will miss going to Sunday School.

Are we going to run out of food? Maybe the guard will let us pick fruit from our trees. Yes, the jackfruit will feed us all.

Mammie did something very dangerous tonight. I think my brother helped her but I'm not sure. Our neighbors next door are Chinese. They are still free. It looks like the Japanese will leave them alone. They own a rijst pellerij (rice factory). Somehow they flattened out a 100-kilo-bag of rice (125lbs), dug a hole under our fence and left it there for Mammie to get whenever it was safe. Those big burlap bags make good pillow cases.

Mammie says our neighbors will give the children treats. Can you imagine the delight when she gave us bean bak pao? More than a treat for me.