learning and teaching full awareness in Portugal

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I learn from history

(PORTUGUÊS) (NEDERLANDS)


Liesje Schul-Knuivers 27 August 1918 – 5 May 1995 and her husband Willy Schul

I never called my aunt Liesje, “aunt”. We only used that prefix for the Dutch aunts. My Dutch-Indonesian aunts only had a first name, just like my Dutch-Indonesian uncles. 

Liesje was not only married to my mother’s eldest brother, she was also my mother’s bestie. They knew each other from primary school. You can read all about it in the book Kind van de koloniën (Child of the Colonies) that I wrote last year (there is no English translation yet). Our families being together and even living together was a matter of course. 

Liesje was always there to take care and put things in order. With five children, she was very busy and then my sister Patricia and I also received all the attention and care we needed when we were on leave with our parents in the Netherlands. Then we lived with them in the big house above my grandmother’s hairdresser salon in Bezuidenhout, The Hague. 

Tomorrow would have been Liesje’s birthday and I have to think about her all the time. Especially of her life that was influenced by a deteriorating economy and war, as it is now. She was born in 1918.  The First World War had just ended, a recession was in the making, few jobs in Holland. Her father got a job in the colony of the Dutch East Indies in 1920, where the future still looked bright. So Liesje moved two years old to Bandung on Java with her big sister and little brother. Father Knuivers went to work in the patisserie Maison Bogerijen. Everything went well, until in 1942 the Second World War broke out in the East with all its consequences. From Japanese concentration camp to concentration camp and in 1947 repatriation to Holland. 

For a Dutch girl, Liesje was very Indonesian in her behaviour. She was also a dreamer who was always ready to help anyone who needed help. And, she could talk your ear off. She always seemed cheerful and optimistic. Her later life in Holland has not been easy, it was sometimes a hassle to survive but the memories of her lost life in the Dutch East Indies always gave her strength. How happy she was when we went to the Pasar Malam Besar – the former Tong Tong Fair (a huge yearly Dutch Asiatic event and fair) — to drink syrup soesoe (rose syrup) with a big piece of kue lapis (Indonesian steamed cake). She sang along with all the songs that were performed on stage and often her smile could not prevent her tears from flowing. 

Liesje’s history, like that of my parents, makes me one hundred percent aware of how lucky our “boomer” generation is, in terms of peace and security in the West. Although every day I see the global threat, that could disturb this peace, growing. I also know from my parents’ experience of war that human beings are flexible and adapt quickly to circumstances. That is, if there is no choice, and for the people now alive there still is, it seems.

Aprendo com a história

Liesje Schul-Knuivers 27 agosto 1918 – 5 maio 1995 com o seu marido Willy Schul

Nunca chamei à minha tia Liesje “tia.” Só utilizámos esse prefixo para as tias holandesas. As minhas tias da familia de Indonésia só tinham um nome próprio, tal como os meus tios indonésios. 

Liesje não era apenas casada com o irmão mais velho da minha mãe, Els, ela era também a amiga do coração da minha mãe. Eles conheciam-se desde a escola primária. Pode ler tudo sobre isso no livro Kind van de koloniën (Filho das Colónias) que escrevi no ano passado (ainda não há uma tradução portuguesa). O facto de as nossas famílias estarem juntas e até viverem juntas era uma questão natural. 

Liesje esteve sempre presente para cuidar e salvar. Com cinco filhos, ela estava muito ocupada e depois a minha irmã Patricia e eu recebemos toda a atenção e cuidado de que precisávamos quando estávamos de licença na Holanda com os nossos pais. Depois vivemos com eles na casa grande por cima do cabeleireiro da minha avó na Haia. 

Amanha teria sido o aniversário de Liesje (104) e eu tenho de pensar nela o tempo todo. Especialmente da sua vida que foi influenciada por uma economia em deterioração e uma guerra, como é agora. Ela nasceu em 1918.  A Primeira Guerra Mundial tinha acabado de terminar, uma recessão estava em curso, poucos empregos na Holanda. O seu pai conseguiu um emprego na colónia das Índias Orientais Holandesas (Indonesia) em 1920, onde o futuro ainda parecia brilhante. Então Liesje mudou-se na idade de dois anos para Bandung em Java com a sua irmã mais velha e o seu irmão mais novo. O pai foi trabalhar na pastelaria Maison Bogerijen. Tudo correu bem, até que a Segunda Guerra Mundial rebentou em 1942 no Leste com todas as suas consequências. De campo de concentração japonês para campo de concentração e em 1947 repatriação para a Holanda. 

Para uma rapariga holandesa, Liesje era muito de Indonesia no seu comportamento. Era também uma sonhadora que estava sempre pronta a ajudar qualquer pessoa que precisasse de ajuda. E, ela podia falar pelos cotovelos. Liesje sempre pareceu alegre e optimista. A sua vida posterior na Holanda não tem sido fácil, por vezes foi um incómodo para sobreviver, mas as memórias da sua vida na colónia sempre lhe deram força. Como ela ficou feliz quando fomos à Pasar Malam Besar – a antiga Tong Tong Fair (uma feira anual) – para beber xarope soesoe (rosas) com um grande pedaço de kue lapis (bolo). Ela cantava juntamente com todas as canções que eram cantadas em palco e muitas vezes as lágrimas ficavam-lhe nos olhos. 

A história de Liesje, como a dos meus pais, torna-me cem por cento consciente da sorte da nossa geração “boomer”, em termos de paz e segurança no Ocidente. Embora todos os dias eu veja crescer a ameaça global que poderia perturbar esta paz. Também sei pela experiência de guerra dos meus pais que os seres humanos são flexíveis e adaptam-se rapidamente às circunstâncias. Isto é, se não houver escolha, e ainda há, parece que sim.

Ik leer van de geschiedenis

Liesje Schul-Knuivers 27 augustus 1918 – 5 May 1995 en haar man Willy Schul

Mijn tante Liesje noemde ik nooit “tante”. Dat voorvoegsel gebruikten we alleen voor de Hollandse tantes. Mijn Indische tantes hadden alleen een voornaam net als mijn Indische ooms. 

Liesje was niet alleen getrouwd met de oudste broer van mijn moeder Els, ze was ook nog eens de allerbeste vriendin van mijn moeder. Ze kenden elkaar van de lagere school. Je kunt er alles over lezen in het boek Kind van de koloniën dat ik vorig jaar schreef. Het samenzijn en zelfs samenwonen van onze families was een vanzelfsprekendheid. 

Liesje was er altijd om te zorgen en te redderen. Met vijf kinderen had ze het druk en dan kregen mijn zus Patricia en ik ook nog alle aandacht en zorg als we in Nederland waren met verlof. Dan woonden we bij hen in het grote huis boven de kapperszaak van mijn oma in het Bezuidenhout, Den Haag. 

Morgen zou Liesjes verjaardag (104) zijn en ik moet steeds aan haar denken. Vooral aan haar levensloop die beïnvloed werd door een verslechterende economie en oorlog, zoals dat nu ook speelt. Ze werd geboren in 1918.  De Eerste Wereldoorlog net afgelopen, een recessie in de maak, weinig werkgelegenheid in Holland. Haar vader kreeg in 1920 een baan in de kolonie Nederlands-Indië waar de toekomst er nog wel rooskleurig uitzag. Liesje verhuisde dus twee jaar oud naar Bandoeng op Java met haar grote zus en kleine broertje. Vader Knuivers ging werken in de patisserie Maison Bogerijen. Alles ging goed, tot de Tweede Wereldoorlog in 1942 in de Oost uitbrak met alle gevolgen van dien. Van Japans concentratiekamp, naar concentratiekamp en in 1947 repatriëren naar Holland. 

Liesje was voor een Hollands meisje heel Indisch in haar doen en laten. Ook was ze een dromer die altijd klaar stond voor iedereen die hulp nodig had. En, ze kon de oren van je hoofd kletsen. Ze leek altijd  vrolijk en optimistisch. Haar latere leven in Holland is niet makkelijk geweest, het was soms een gedoe om te overleven maar de Indische herinneringen gaven haar altijd kracht. Hoe blij was ze als we op de Pasar Malam Besar – de vroegere Tong Tong Fair – lekker stroop soesoe gingen drinken met een groot stuk kue lapis. Ze zong alle liedjes mee die op het podium werden gezongen en vaak stonden de tranen in haar ogen. 

Liesjes geschiedenis, net als die van mijn ouders, maakt dat ik me honderd procent bewust ben van het geluk van onze “boomer” generatie, qua vrede en veiligheid in het Westen. Hoewel ik iedere dag de wereldwijde dreiging die deze vrede kan verstoren, zie groeien. Ik weet ook van mijn ouders als oorlogservaringsdeskundigen dat een mens flexibel is en zich snel aanpast aan de omstandigheden. Als er geen keuze is tenminste en die is er nu nog wel, lijkt het.

Women Power

(PORTUGUÊS) (NEDERLANDS)

Patricia, Els and Liesbeth (2011)

How difficult can it be to write about your own family? About the bond between my mother, my almost twin sister Patricia and myself. I know everything straight from the source and yet… It makes me think about the roles we fulfil in this female triumvirate. Where we strengthen or weaken each other and what we mean to each other. Never before have I had to think about it. It was so obvious that we were together day and night. And now that I have written the Dutch book about the family history – Child of the Colonies – I have become aware of who I am in this constellation.

Today, 4 July, Els Steur-Schul, our mother, would have turned 103. On this day I always write something about her and this time I do so with something from the archive. An interview I had long forgotten. It was in 2011. At that time Patricia and I were making a series of family stories for Dutch Nouveau Magazine and the editors thought that our family should do the kick-off.


Nouveau 2011:

At the age when other children go to primary school, Patricia and Liesbeth were in their mother’s class. In those early years, they lived in places where there was no suitable education, according to Els. First on Sicily and then at three locations in Turkey. When Patricia and Liesbeth were 10 and 11 they went to Holland, because their parents considered a good education necessary and boarding school was not an option.

“My husband drilled for oil and that brought us to remote places. Yes, the girls were taught by me. In the morning we did a serious class and in the afternoon they were free. Actually I am too impatient to teach, but there was no choice.” Patricia and Liesbeth have to laugh when they think back to the classes.

“I remember very well”, says Patricia, “that you threw a notebook at my head. I ducked in time and got the giggles. The three of us then went to the beach instead of continuing with the lesson.”

“During those years abroad”, Els continues her story, “we depended on each other. I watched over the two like a hawk. I had never planned to have two daughters and, even then and still today, I consider them the most beautiful thing that has happened to me.”

“Yes, I suppose so, and you kept up that watch until the end of high school,” says Liesbeth. “I always had to make up excuses when we were late to avoid being grounded. Patricia was never quick to leave a party. That was in her blood from an early age.” 

Els comes from the former Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), is Indo-European and from an early age used to dealing with all cultures.

“I finally felt at home in Sicily after that turbulent post-war period. War, Japanese prison camps, repatriation to Holland by trial and error, having two children within 14 months. Here on Sicily we immediately felt included in the community. When Liesbeth got typhoid fever, the whole village prayed for her every day in church. It helped because she is still here, even though her life was hanging by a thread at the time. For two years we enjoyed life on the slopes of Mount Etna.”

“Later in Turkey we started out a lot more primitive. We lived in a village on the border with Greece in a house without a water supply. The water was brought by donkey cart. In the attic was a tank that was filled bucket by bucket by the water carrier. The unpaved village streets were dusty and on Sundays, you could watch wrestling in the schoolyard. Big men with oiled bodies slid past each other. I played tric-trac with the notables of the village and made cakes without mixer or oven, and the maid taught all three of us belly dancing. Patricia and Liesbeth played hide and seek with their Turkish friends and soon spoke Turkish as well as Sicilian, English and Dutch.

“Then Istanbul and Ankara followed.” Patricia takes up the story. “We were living more and more luxuriously in the sense of inhabited world and yet my father was home less and less. In the period of Ankara he drilled at the border with Afghanistan and was away for 36 days and at home for 12. Do you remember Lies, we knew exactly when dad had come home. We could smell that. The familiar smell of oil and cigarettes. And then it was party-time for 12 days.”

“Yes, good times were those. I think the girls and I have a lot in common because we were dependent on each other. All three of us are open to all cultures and have no trouble moving around the world. Of course, there are also differences. Liesbeth was always in the lead and could learn well. Patricia was a dreamer and needed more support. It was nice for me that they were in the same class. And yet the girls developed in a very different direction.”

“Patricia the dreamer, yes, sure … school didn’t interest you at all … That’s why you were always dreaming,” laughs Liesbeth. “You didn’t do much in that area. There was no time for that. Going out, having fun, friends were your priority, weren’t they? You were then and still are – rock ‘n’ roll. You did everything that God had forbidden. While I studied to be a translator, married young and had two children. You found your way to yourself in photography, I found my way to myself through my yoga mat and that is still my best friend.”

“We both have an optimistic outlook on life and we got that from our mother Els,” says Patricia. “You have a duty as a human being to have a nice life, I think. That’s why you have to see what you can learn from an unhappy situation instead of staying in it. I have learned the most from friends and enemies. You are a great mirror and the family bond is indelible. Maybe that is why I am so attracted to indigenous peoples where family ties are vital.”

Liesbeth sees it differently: “In my life, family also played a big role. We used to sit over each other’s heads and do nothing without each other. From the age of forty, I experienced this closeness as an obstacle. And that was more down to me than the family. The departure abroad has given me a lot of breathing space. It was wonderful and still is. The family bond is indelible and it doesn’t matter if we live far apart. That bond is there day and night. Now I have found a balance. Liesbeth thinks for a moment and then says: “What connects us is that all three of us are connectors deep inside.”


Els remained the centre of the Indonesian family until her death in 2013 (94 years old). Every self-respecting family member visited regularly. Even from abroad. There were always food and drinks in the house and that listening ear. Els was active on Facebook and Twitter, cherished the family archive and wrote about the old days.

Patricia connects with her camera. She gets the best out of people, gives them self-confidence and makes friends for life. There are always food and drinks in her house too. She is – as we speak – working hard on her newest book that will be published in March 2023 under the title Hungry Eyes. Not just photos this time, but all the stories. You don’t want to miss them.

I connect through my yoga and meditation work, listening and especially hearing between the lines; all my writing is about awareness and what moves people. Child of the Colonies is a good example of this. By the way, in my home there are always food and drinks, without which life for us and the whole Indonesian family would not be complete.

Women Power (pt)

Patricia, Els and Liesbeth (2011)

Quão difícil pode ser escrever sobre a sua própria família? Sobre a ligação entre a minha mãe, a minha quase irmã gémea Patricia e eu. Sei tudo directamente da fonte e no entanto… Faz-me pensar nos papéis que desempenhamos neste triunvirato feminino. Onde nos fortalecemos ou enfraquecemos uns aos outros e o que significamos uns para os outros. Nunca antes tive de pensar no assunto. Era tão óbvio que estávamos juntos dia e noite. E agora que escrevi o livro holandês sobre a história da família – ‘Filho das Colónias’ – tomei consciência de quem sou nesta constelação.

Hoje, 4 de Julho, Els Steur-Schul, a nossa mãe, teria feito 103 anos. Neste dia, escrevo sempre algo sobre ela e desta vez faço-o com algo do arquivo. Uma entrevista que há muito que eu tinha esquecido. Foi em 2011. Nessa altura, a Patricia (fotos) e eu (entrevista) estávamos a fazer uma série de histórias familiares para a revista holandesa  Nouveau e os editores pensaram que a nossa família deveria dar o pontapé de saída.


Nouveau 2011:

Na idade em que as outras crianças frequentam a escola primária, Patricia e Liesbeth estavam na turma da sua mãe. Nesses primeiros anos, eles viviam em lugares onde não havia educação adequada, segundo Els. Primeiro na Sicília e depois em três locais na Turquia. Quando Patricia e Liesbeth tinham 10 e 11 anos, foram para a Holanda, porque os seus pais consideravam necessária uma boa educação e o internato não era uma opção.

“O meu marido perfurou para o petróleo e isso trouxe-nos a lugares remotos. Sim, as raparigas foram ensinadas por mim. De manhã fizemos uma aula séria e à tarde estavam livres. Na verdade, sou demasiado impaciente para ensinar, mas não houve escolha”. Patricia e Liesbeth têm de rir quando se lembram das aulas.

“Lembro-me muito bem”, diz Patricia, “que me atiraste um caderno à cabeça. Dobrei-me no tempo e perdeu me a rir. Nós os três fomos então para a praia em vez de continuarmos com a lição”.

“Durante esses anos no estrangeiro”, Els continua a sua história, “dependemos um do outro”. Vigiei os dois como um falcão. Nunca tinha planeado ter duas filhas e, mesmo nessa altura e ainda hoje, considero-as a coisa mais bela que me aconteceu.”

“Sim, suponho que sim, e mantiveste esta maneira de vigiar até ao fim do liceu”, diz Liesbeth. “Tive sempre de inventar desculpas quando chegámos atrasados para evitar ficar de castigo. Patricia nunca foi rápida a sair de uma festa. Isso estava no sangue dela desde tenra idade.” 

Els vem da antiga colónia holandesa, Indonesia, é Indo-Europeia e desde muito cedo habituada a lidar com todas as culturas.

“Finalmente senti-me em casa na Sicília depois daquele turbulento período pós-guerra mundial. Guerra, campos japoneses, repatriamento para a Holanda por tentativa e erro, tendo duas filhas no prazo de 14 meses. Aqui, na Sicília, sentimo-nos imediatamente incluídos na comunidade. Quando Liesbeth apanhou a febre tifóide, toda a aldeia rezava por ela todos os dias na igreja. Ajudou porque ela ainda está aqui, embora a sua vida estivesse pendurada por um fio na altura. Durante dois anos desfrutámos da vida nas encostas do Monte Etna”.

“Mais tarde, na Turquia, começámos muito mais primitivos. Vivíamos numa aldeia na fronteira com a Grécia, numa casa sem abastecimento de água. A água foi trazida por carroça de burro. No sótão havia um tanque que era enchido balde a balde pelo transportador de água. As ruas da aldeia não pavimentadas eram poeirentas e aos domingos, podia-se assistir à luta livre no pátio da escola. Grandes homens com corpos oleados deslizaram uns sobre os outros. Joguei triquetraque com os notáveis da aldeia e fiz bolos sem misturador ou forno, e a empregada ensinou-nos os três a dançar a dança do ventre. Patricia e Liesbeth jogaram às escondidas com os seus amigos turcos e logo falaram turco, assim como siciliano, inglês e holandês.”

“Depois seguiram-se Istambul e Ancara.” Patricia retoma a história. “Vivíamos cada vez mais luxuosamente no sentido do mundo habitado e, no entanto, o meu pai estava cada vez menos em casa. No período de Ancara, perfurou na fronteira com o Afeganistão e esteve fora durante 36 dias e em casa durante 12 dias. Ainda lembra-te Lies, sabíamos exactamente quando o pai tinha chegado a casa? Podíamos sentir esse cheiro. O cheiro familiar do petróleo e dos cigarros. E depois foi tempo de festa durante 12 dias”.

“Sim, os bons tempos foram esses. Penso que as raparigas e eu temos muito em comum porque éramos dependentes uma da outra. Todos nós os três estamos abertos a todas as culturas e não temos problemas em deslocar-nos pelo mundo. É claro que também existem diferenças. Liesbeth estava sempre na liderança e podia aprender bem. Patricia era uma sonhadora e precisava de mais apoio. Foi bom para mim que eles estivessem na mesma turma. E no entanto as raparigas desenvolveram-se numa direcção muito diferente”.

“Patricia, a sonhadora, sim, sim … a escola não lhe interessou em nada … É por isso que estava sempre a sonhar”, ri-se Liesbeth. “Não fez muito nessa área. Não houve tempo para isso. Sair, divertir-se, amigos eram a tua prioridade, não eram? Nessa altura, era e ainda é – rock ‘n’ roll. Fizestes tudo o que Deus tinha proibido. Enquanto estudava para ser tradutor, casei jovem e tive dois filhos. Encontraste o teu caminho para ti na fotografia, eu encontrei o meu caminho para mim mesmo através do meu tapete de yoga e continua a ser o meu melhor amigo.”

“Ambos temos uma visão optimista da vida e isso foi-nos dado pela mãe”, diz Patricia. “Como ser humano tem o dever de ter uma boa vida, penso eu. É por isso que se tem de ver o que se pode aprender com uma situação infeliz em vez de se ficar nela. Aprendi o máximo com amigos e inimigos. Vocês éstão um grande espelho e o laço familiar é indelével. Talvez seja por isso que me sinto tão atraído pelos povos indígenas, onde os laços familiares são vitais.”

Liesbeth vê isto de forma diferente: “Na minha vida, a família também desempenhou um grande papel. Costumávamos sentar-nos por cima da cabeça um do outro e não fazíamos nada um sem o outro. A partir dos quarenta anos de idade, experimentei esta proximidade como um obstáculo. E isso foi mais para mim do que para a família. A partida para o estrangeiro deu-me muito espaço para respirar. Foi maravilhoso e ainda é. O laço familiar é indelével e não importa se vivemos muito afastados. Esse laço existe dia e noite. Agora encontrei um equilíbrio.”

Liesbeth pensa por um momento e depois diz: “O que nos liga é que todos nós os três somos conectores no fundo.”


Els permaneceu o centro da família indonésia até à sua morte em 2013 (94 anos de idade), como deveria ser. Cada membro da família que se respeite visitou regularmente. Mesmo do estrangeiro. Havia sempre comida e bebida em casa e aquele ouvido atento. A Els estava activa no Facebook e no Twitter, apreciava o arquivo familiar e escrevia sobre os velhos tempos.

Patricia liga-se com a sua câmara. Ela tira o melhor partido das pessoas, dá-lhes auto-confiança e faz amigos para toda a vida. Também há sempre comida e bebida com ela. Ela está – neste preciso momento – a trabalhar arduamente no seu mais recente livro que será publicado em Março de 2023 sob o título Hungry Eyes (Olhos Famintos). Desta vez, não apenas fotografias, mas todas as histórias. Não os quer perder.

Ligo-me através do meu trabalho de yoga e meditação, ouvindo e especialmente ouvindo nas entrelinhas; toda a minha escrita é sobre a consciência e o que move as pessoas. A Criança das Colónias é um bom exemplo disso. A propósito, na minha casa há sempre comida e bebida, sem a qual a vida para nós e para toda a família indonésia não seria completa.

Women Power (NL)

Patricia, Els and Liesbeth (2011)

Hoe lastig kan het zijn om over je eigen familie te schrijven? Over de band tussen mijn moeder, mijn bijna tweelingzus Patricia en mezelf. Ik weet alles rechtstreeks uit de bron en toch… Het zet me aan het denken over de rollen die we vervullen in dit vrouwelijke driemanschap. Waar we elkaar versterken of verzwakken en wat we voor elkaar betekenen. Nooit eerder hoefde ik er over na te denken. Het was zo vanzelfsprekend dat we dag en nacht samen waren. En nu ik het boek over de familiegeschiedenis heb geschreven – Kind van de Koloniën – ben ik me bewust geworden van wie ik zelf ben in deze constellatie.

Vandaag 4 juli zou Els Steur-Schul, onze moeder, 103 geworden zijn. Op deze dag schrijf ik altijd iets over haar en dit keer doe ik dat met iets uit het archief. Een interview dat ik zelf allang vergeten was. Het stond in Nouveau Magazine in 2011. Patricia en ik maakten in die tijd een serie familieverhalen voor Nouveau en de redactie vond dat onze familie de aftrap moest doen.


Nouveau 2011:

Op de leeftijd dat andere kinderen naar de lagere school gaan, zaten Patricia en Liesbeth in het klasje bij hun moeder. Ze woonden in die beginjaren op plekken waar geen geschikt onderwijs was, volgens Els. Eerst op Sicilië en daarna op drie locaties in Turkije. Toen Patricia en Liesbeth 10 en 11 waren gingen ze naar Nederland, omdat hun ouders een goede opleiding noodzakelijk vonden en kostschool geen optie was.

“Mijn man boorde naar olie en dat bracht ons op afgelegen plekken. Ja, de meisjes kregen les van mij. ´s Ochtends deden we een serieus klasje en in de middag waren ze vrij. Eigenlijk ben ik te ongeduldig om les te geven, maar er was geen keuze.” Patricia en Liesbeth moeten lachen als ze terugdenken aan de klasjes.

“Ik weet nog goed”, zegt Patricia, “dat je een schrift naar mijn hoofd slingerde. Ik bukte op tijd en kreeg de slappe lach. We zijn toen maar naar het strand gegaan met z’n drieën in plaats van verder te gaan met de les.”

“In die jaren in het buitenland”, vervolgt Els haar verhaal, “waren we op elkaar aangewezen. Ik waakte over die twee als een havik. Ik had nooit gepland twee dochters te krijgen en ik beschouwde ze toen al en nu nog als het mooiste dat me is overkomen.”

“Ja, dat zal best en dat waken heb je volgehouden tot einde middelbare school”, zegt Liesbeth. “Ik moest altijd de smoesjes verzinnen als we te laat kwamen om maar geen huisarrest te krijgen. Patricia was nooit van een feestje weg te branden. Dat zat er al jong in.” 

Els komt uit voormalig Nederlands-Indië, is Indo-Europese  en van jongs af aan gewend om met alle culturen om te gaan.

“Ik voelde me op Sicilië eindelijk weer thuis na die woelige na-oorlogse tijd. Oorlog, jappenkampen, repatriëring naar Holland met vallen en opstaan, twee kinderen krijgen binnen 14 maanden. Hier op Sicilië voelden ons meteen opgenomen in de gemeenschap. Toen Liesbeth tyfus kreeg, bad het hele dorp iedere dag voor haar in de kerk. Het heeft geholpen want ze is er nog steeds ondanks dat haar leven toen aan een zijden draadje hing. Twee jaar lang hebben we genoten van het leven op de helling van de vulkaan Etna.”

Later in Turkije begonnen we een stuk primitiever. We woonden in een dorp op de grens met Griekenland in een huis zonder waterleiding. Het water werd gebracht met de ezelkar. Op zolder stond een tank die emmer voor emmer werd gevuld door de waterdrager. De onverharde dorpsstraten waren stoffig en op het schoolplein kon je op zondag naar worstelen kijken. Grote mannen met geoliede lijven gleden langs elkaar heen. Ik speelde triktrak met de notabelen van het dorp en maakte taart zonder mixer of oven en van de werkster leerden we alledrie buikdansen. Patricia en Liesbeth speelden verstoppertje met hun Turkse vriendinnen en ze spraken al snel net zo goed Turks als Siciliaans, Engels en Nederlands.

“Daarna volgden Istanbul en Ankara.” Patricia neemt het verhaal over. “We leefden steeds luxer in de zin van bewoonde wereld en toch was mijn vader steeds minder thuis. In de periode van Ankara boorde hij bij de grens met Afghanistan en was 36 dagen weg en 12 dagen thuis. Weet je nog Lies dat we precies wisten wanneer papa was thuisgekomen. Dat roken we. Aan de vertrouwde geur van olie en sigaretten. En dan was het 12 dagen party-time.”

“Ja, mooie tijden waren dat. Ik denk dat de meisjes en ik veel overeenkomsten hebben doordat we op elkaar aangewezen waren. We staan alle drie open voor alle culturen en hebben geen enkele moeite ons waar dan ook op de wereld te bewegen. Er zijn natuurlijk ook verschillen. Liesbeth was altijd haantje de voorste en kon goed leren. Patricia was een dromer en had meer steun nodig. Het was voor mij prettig dat ze bij elkaar in de klas zaten. En toch hebben de meisjes zich in een heel eigen richting ontwikkeld.”

“Patricia de dromer, ja, ja … school interesseerde je helemaal niet … daarom zat je altijd te dromen,” lacht Liesbeth. “Je voerde weinig uit op dat gebied. Daar was ook geen tijd voor. Uitgaan, stappen, vriendjes hadden alle prioriteit toch?. Je was toen al en bent nog steeds –  rock ‘n’ roll. Je deed alles wat god verboden had. Terwijl ik keurig volgens de wens van pap en mam studeerde voor vertaler, jong trouwde en twee kinderen kreeg. Jij vond de weg naar jezelf in de fotografie, ik vond mijn weg naar mijzelf via mijn yogamat en dat is nog steeds mijn beste vriend.”

We hebben allebei een optimistische kijk op het leven en dat hebben we van Els,” zegt Patricia. “Je hebt als mens de plicht om een leuk leven te hebben, vind ik. Daarom moet je kijken wat er te leren valt van een ongelukkige situatie in plaats van erin te blijven zitten. Van vrienden en vijanden heb ik het meest geleerd. Jullie zijn een grote spiegel en de familieband is onuitwisbaar. Misschien voel ik daarom zo aangetrokken tot inheemse volkeren waar familiebanden van levensbelang zijn.”

Liesbeth ziet dat iets anders: “In mijn leven speelde de familie ook een grote rol. We zaten vroeger boven elkaars lip en deden niets zonder elkaar. Vanaf mijn veertigste heb ik die hechtheid ervaren als een belemmering. En dat lag meer aan mij dan aan de familie. Het vertrek naar het buitenland heeft me veel ademruimte gegeven. Heerlijk. De familieband is onuitwisbaar en het maakt niet uit of we ver uit elkaar wonen. Die band is er dag en nacht. Nu heb ik daarin een evenwicht gevonden.

Liesbeth denkt even na en zegt dan: “Wat ons verbindt is dat we diep van binnen alle drie verbinders zijn.


Els is tot haar dood in 2013 (94 jaar) zoals het hoort  het middelpunt van de Indische familie gebleven. Ze was een verbinder en een goed luisteraar. Ieder zichzelf respecterend familielid kwam regelmatig langs. Ook vanuit het buitenland. Er was altijd te eten en te drinken in huis. Els was actief op Facebook en Twitter, koesterde het familiearchief en schreef over vroeger.

Patricia verbindt met haar camera. Ze haalt het mooiste uit de mensen, geeft ze zelfvertrouwen en maakt vrienden voor het leven. Ook bij haar is er altijd te eten en te drinken. Ze werkt – as we speak – hard aan haar nieuwste boek dat in maart 2023 zal verschijnen onder de titel Hungry Eyes. Niet alleen foto’s dit keer, maar nu ook alle verhalen. Die wil je niet missen.

Ik verbind door mijn yoga- en meditatiewerk, door te luisteren en vooral door te horen tussen de regels door; al mijn schrijfwerk gaat over bewustwording en over  wat de mens beweegt. Het Kind van de Koloniën is daar een goed voorbeeld van. Trouwens ook bij mij thuis is er altijd te eten en te drinken, want zonder dat is het leven voor ons en de hele Indische familie niet compleet.

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