Elisabeth Sutorius spent her childhood in Indonesia and The Netherlands and her family immigrated to New Zealand when she was 12. Now a retired teacher of English and German, she revels in reading English and European literature and is enjoying reconnecting with her past through Deborah’s Life Writing course.
Elly, it was called, the small house set in a pretty tropical garden with the bamboo forest behind. At night those trees swished and sighed in the wind.
My father had been transferred from Surabaya on Java, where we lived for a year soon after the war, to Medan, a large city on the island of Sumatra. Dad’s work was in the city, but he could find no accommodation for us: Mum, my two brothers and me. So we ended up in Elly in the mountains, some distance from the city. It should have been an idyllic solution. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. My father could only visit us about once a month, and then only accompanied by an army convoy. Indonesia wanted its independence from The Netherlands and there were a lot of freedom fighters, ‘pelopors,’ about, hiding in the hills ready to ambush any white people foolish enough to be driving the roads without army protection.
We were caught up in this fear of an attack, too, and our little house seemed quite vulnerable.
“What were those noises? Were any of the pelopors hiding in the bamboo forest?”
My mother couldn’t sleep and those sleepless nights also affected me. I still remember coming into the living room in the middle of the night and finding her sitting at the table playing patience.
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