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.

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