In 1948 our grandmother Elsa Hemsing-te Kolsté wrote down the story of her life. As children, we knew a little of what she and her family had been through, but we were too young to ask questions. It is wonderful that she wrote it down and how nice that my father digitized it. This way, the story can also be read for the many generations to come.

She was a very sweet grandmother to us and having read her story once again, I think she is was a tough lady as well. Just imagine, after the war and having been incarcerated in the camps, to return to the Netherlands a widow with three children. But she did it, her story starts at her birth and stops when she starts writing around 1948. At a later stage she sporadically added details to her story.

There are many memories of her and one of the most tangible ones is a doll she made by using an old sock. She made this doll for my daughter Tetske and told her "this is how we made dolls in the camp".

A tribute to our Grandma Els.

Vivienne Fanoy, September 2022

This is the doll my grandmother made, off an old sock for my daughter Tetske. The doll is 35 years old now.

I was born at the Gending sugar factory near Kraksaän. At the time of my birth, Halley's comet was visible. I do not know whether this event has had any influence on my life.
It should have been visible in my horoscope. On my Dutch passport it says "Probolinggo" because that was easier than Kraksaän.

De Komeet Halley

Click on the image for more information about Halley's Comet

Stories about my mother

Maatje, as her Uncle Wim and I called her, grew up on a corporation above Blitar, Sietho Redjing residence Kediri. Grandpa Bob was an administrator (that is, the head of the company) there. Here in Holland this word has a different meaning. Once or twice a year the whole family went to the city, which was called Blitar. They also had a house there. When they moved to the city Nothing was left behind, the dogs, cats, monkey, chickens, every living being moved with the family.

Once a year there were tiger fights in Blitar. Men with spikes were lined up in a square in the middle of the aloon-aloon, that is the village square. Then the two tigers were released and began to fight, because they had been starved beforehand. If one tiger tried to escape, it would be impaled to death by the spikes of the men standing around the arena.

This also happened once when the family was in Blitar. After lunch, people in the Indies always rested. So grandma was asleep when the door to the room opened, she woke up, and screamed, because she saw to tigers coming through the door. But when she opened her eyes again, they were not tigers, but the two Great Danes or German shephard dogs from next door.


Grandpa Bob

My Grandmother

My grandmother Jeanette Soesman died at a very young age of diabetes. She was not on amy prescribed diet. She was buried in Probolinggo. What happened to this cemetery after the war is anyone's guess. My grandfather had no job at that time, and the family went to live with our "Uncle Charles", a brother of my grandfather. He was assistant resident in Probolinggo. The housekeeping was done by a cousin, Aunt Claartje.

Aunt Klaartje

Uncle Charles

Maatje and Auntie Wies taught us to dance (waltz) which was a popular dance at that time. We danced in front of the goedang, this is the pantry, I suspect with a His Masters Voice gramophone.


Record Label

Some time later my grandfather was appointed administrator of the Nobo company near Ambarawa. Then aunt Wies had to do the housekeeping. After Aunt Wies married Uncle Münch, Maatje had to do the housekeeping at Nobo.

Aunt Wies

Uncle Münch

The "Uncle Charles" lived nearby. When he was still assistant resident, he had as assistant wedono, the later regent of Banjoewangi. The story about this will follow after my marriage.

My parents

My parents got married from the house of Uncle Henry and Auntie Toon in Djatiroenggo

1= Rosalie (Grandma Nie, Maatje)

2= Grandpa Jan Willem te Kolsté

3= Aunt Wies Münch-Mac Gillavry

4= Uncle Henry, Granpa from uncle Edwin

5= Grandpa Bob, father of granma Nie and aunt Wies

6= Grandpa te Kolsté, father of Jan Willem te Kolsté

7= Aunt Claartje

8= Aunt Toontje

9= Uncle Willy Mac Gillavry, father of Bob Mac Gillavry

Bride and Groom te Kolsté

Aunt Toontje was like a second mother to my mother and Aunt Wies. Nobo and Djatiroenggo were very close and my mother was close friends with Uncle Donald (father-in-law of Annemarie), Ned (father of Edwin) and Tjet.

Uncle Henry

Uncle Donald

Aunt Toontje


Aunt Wies


The way we called my mother Maatje, we called my father Paatje. Paatje was an employee at the Gending sugar factory. I had already been born when one night he heard a rumbling on the roof. He filled his rifle, didn't put pellets (hail) in it but gabah, that is unhusked rice. He then went outside and in fact saw a man on the roof who tried and succeded to get down off the roof again. Paatje shot the fellow in his buttocks, after which the man screamed and ran away. The next day doctor Engelmayer, the factory doctor came to the factory (this happened once a week). He told us that he had experienced something strange; A man came to his surgery whose buttocks were full of gabah. My father started laughing out loud and then told him what had happened.

Doctor Engelmayer

Doctor Engelmayer was a doctor in Probolinggo and also a factory doctor for the sugar factories. He was German by birth but had been nationalised a long time ago. Wim and I were born with his help. He was a very kind man. If he had not received a salary from the sugar factories, his wife would not have had any household money. He never issued invoices, so the rich Chinese of Probolinggo always sent something in kind. Once Mrs Engelmayer found a small box in a bag of rice containing a precious ring with a brilliant.
The doctor still drove to the factory in a dogcart or bandy.

Stories about my father


A dogkart

When he was celebrating his silver doctor's jubilee, a new car with a driver drove into the yard. A present from the Chinese. But no, he did not accept this gift and told the driver to leave. A phrase he used at the birth of babies was: "Keep his/her head cool and the feet warm". Once when I had a wart on my thumb, i must have been around 15 years old, he said, "Come with me". In the consulting room, he took a piece of bamboo with a very sharp point, dipped it in hydrochloric acid and pricked my thumb, i.e. the wart. I screamed out in pain, but after a few days the wart was gone. That was Dr Engelmayer.

Sugar factory Gending

As I told you, my father worked at the Gending sugar factory. At the sugar factory, before the "campaign" started, a big party was held. Wim, my two year old brother, walked around the tennis court, where the party was held. Moving from one lady to another who gave him a fruit from their glass bowl. At one point he became deathly ill, my mother took him home immediately. She wanted to call the doctor, but grandpa te Kolsté who was staying with us said laconically: "that boy is besjoggen (drunk), let him sleep it off". Wim always walked around with his pockets full of old nails, screws, etc., which he found and kept between the gravel. Perhaps this was a prelude to his career as an engineer.

Uncle Wim and me


From Gending we moved to Kandangdjati, a factory near Kraksaän. This is also where we went to school for the first time. Our first house we lived in was next to a kali and somewhat later, when the house of the first employee was finished, we moved there. We then had a collie, a Scottish shepherd. Every day that animal would jump into the kali when he was hot, but when we moved this was no longer possible. One day he fell ill, probably rabies, and my father shot him. The man was devastated when he had to do this but there was no alternative. Shortly afterwards we went on holiday and stayed in Poedjon, above Surabaya. We stayed in a house and Auntie Noes Lastdrager stayed in the hotel. The cat of the owner of the hotel just had had a litter of young angora's and I was so enchanted by this that Auntie Noes gave me a white kitten: "Poesje Mauw".

Ofcourse Wim had to have one too and it was a grey one, "Kattekop". Later, when Wim and I were in Malang "in de kost" (this means work and board) and Mum and Dad were at home, the cats always sat on the corner of the table when my parents ate. Kattekop was a real stray cat, at 5 o'clock in the afternoon he had to be locked up otherwise he ran away and went on an adventure. Once he was gone for five days. We must have thought that he had been beaten to death, but after 5 days he came home emaciated. He had probably been locked up in a rice barn and there were not enough mice to eat.

1918 eruption of the Goenoeng Kloet

When I was at school in Kraksaän, the Goenoeng Kloet erupted. It suddenly became very dark and shortly afterwards a fine rain of ash began to fall. Fortunately, buddy had immediately sent the coachman with the dog cart to school, because all the children were sent home. With this eruption also the father of a later friend of mine (Anny Teding van Berkhout) was killed. They lived on one of the ventures on the mountainside of the volcano. They then fled, but on the way Mr. T.v.B. thought he had forgotten something and he and his son went back to the factory and that was his misfortune because on the way back they were overtaken by the lava flow. Mrs. T.v.B. and the three girls who had ridden on made it out alive. Later they lived in Malang and that is where I met them. The company "Ngrangkah Pawon" where we last lived, was on the Kloet. The soil was extremely fertile. You could, so to speak, put a stick in the ground and it would start to grow. After this eruption, the Kloet was equipped with a kind of channel through which the mud level could be monitored, so that there would be no repeat of 1918.

Wedana and wife


Resident West Java

Education, Wedono, Regent

As I metioned, we were at school in Kraksaän. The children of the Wedono (municipal official, mayor of the native population, first you had the assistant-wedono, wedono and then the regent) were also at that school. For the Dutch population it was the assistant-controller, controller, assistant-resident, resident and later on when there was a reclassification the governors came. (The Pateh was for the judiciary) Wedana,

Schools, Kraksaän,Ursuline Monastery, Tjilaket and Malang

The wedonos were always of noble descent and had studied a little more, so his children were allowed to attend a Dutch school. Other native children had to go to the native school or Dutch-Chinese school H.I.S. or H.C.S. The native children had to go to the native schools where the guru was often the head. But anyway, I had native friends, children of the wedono. These children were much more sexually aware than we Dutch girls. One day I came home with some kind of story; I never heard about and I don't remember the details anymore. The end result was that with the new school year I went to Malang and interned at the Ursuline convent on Tjilaket. I attended the 4th class with Mère Ignazlie. However, this was not a good situation either, because when I once came home with a rosary, monastic life was soon over. Wim also came to Malang and we moved in with the Stolp family in Oro-Oro Dowo. We then attended a public school, a kind of utility school. I was taught by Miss Ipes, I had the pleasure to meet her again in 1939 when we were on leave. In the 6th grade we had a very young teacher Mr. Weekhout when the principal Mr. Ribbink retired. All the girls were what you might call "in love" with him. I still have to laugh when I think about it. We used to walk him home after school every day and after the war I met him again in Tjideng.

Nightlife and toekang satay

When my parents were still at the Gending sugar factory and later at Kandangdjati, the centre of entertainment, the " social club " was in Probolinggo. In their childhood, the "waltz" was still fashionable, but when the "step" became fashionable, my mother did not want to dance any more. My father then started to "turn around", a card game. The ladies would sit in front of the gallery or on the terrace, as there was also a dance floor outside. At a certain time, the toekang satay man and his chicken satay would pass by and would be called upon. But then one day this satay vendor was caught catching turtles that lived in the ditch under the toilets of the social club. It turned out that these turtles had supplied the meat for the chicken satay and that was the end of eating satay.

Oma Nie undiplomatic

Oddly enough, my father was always a target. At the factory Gending he did not become an administrator because my mother was never "political" enough. The supervisor at that time was a certain Mr. Nieuwdorp. One day after my birth, Mrs Nieuwdorp came to visit the maternity ward and she had brought packs of aniseed milk from Holland. To Mrs Nieuwdorp's surprise my mother said: "Keep the aniseed milk because I don't like it". Mother should have flushed it down the toilet and said "how delicious" thank you. So when a new administrator had to be appointed it was not my father but John Douglas Mac Gillavry. One day we were playing with sand and John threw a load at me, it ended up in my eyes, we had to go to Surabaya where my eyes had to be thoroughly cleaned. That is why later on when I was a teacher, I always got angry when children threw sand at each other and I told them what had happened to me.

Satay vendor

source: collectie Tropenmuseum

Paatje was the personification of goodness.

Paatje was the personification of goodness. In the sugar trade there were different kinds of cane, one kind was sugarcane no. 100. Paatje told that it could only be planted on a certain kind of soil, but the supervisor Mr. Zell said: "No you plant it there and there." That turned out to be wrong as Paatje had predicted and the yield was much less. When the director came over, Paatje was the one to blame, because Mr Zell was not telling the truth. Paatje resigned when Mr. Schrauwen was appointed administrator and started the bibit company. Here, too, he was duped by his business partner. Thus began his period as cinema manager with all the unpleasant consequences, both in Buitenzorg and Djokja. Bob Mac Gillavry never saw so many films as in those years. After that he became a bookkeeper at the sugar factory hospital in Slawi and Maatje became the head of the housekeeping there. Shortly before the Japanese occupied Java, they moved in with Aunt Wies and Uncle Münch in Sidho Moekti.

Aunt Wies

Aunt Wies died in the ambulance of peritonitis. She probably had appendicitis and because the native doctor was a "blanda hater", he had sent for the ambulance too late. This is what Maatje heard from sister Risakotto.

Source: Oorlogsgravenstichting

Uncle Münch

Uncle Münch joined my father in the prison in Pekalongan, the same place he perished.

Source: Oorlogsgravenstichting

Jan Willem te Kolsté

My father was transported from Pekalongan to Tjimahi and was buried on the Field of Honour "Leuwigajah" in Tjimahi.

Bron: Oorlogsgravenstichting

Grandpa te Kolsté

Grandpa te Kolsté moved in the last century to Java as a young teacher. He was appointed at a school in Serang, Bantam residence. From here Grandpa, Grandma and Aunt Willemien went to Bonthain on Celebes, where Grandpa became headmaster of a school (Dutch-European). This is where my father was born in 1878.

The monkey head

Along with the doctor, notary public and the assistant resident, grandpa belonged to the city's elite. One day, all these gentlemen were invited to the house of the Prince of Bonthain. When it was time for dinner, a large cauldron (with a stove underneath) of soup was placed on the table. The gentlemen ate like crazy, because the soup was delicious. When everyone had eaten enough and the pot was empty, the prince asked if they knew what they had eaten. Of course, everyone said "no". Then the prince took a spoon and pulled out a cute little monkey's head, which was staring at everyone with its dead eyes. Grandpa left at once for the toilet, and many others followed him. But grandpa later told us "the soup was delicious!

An inherited hobby

It was from this grandfather that I inherited the hobby of cutting out and saving all kinds of interesting or amusing things. This gave me a lot of pleasure during my school life as a teacher. I could show the children many things from days gone by and I could always look back in my clippings to tell them about what we had been doing. When I had passed my teacher's exam in 1930, I applied for a position with the government.

I was appointed a teacher in Oengarang, a village above Semarang. This was the region where my mother had lived as a child and young woman and where the Mac Gillavry family (our branch) was well known as "the family of Djati Rongo", the cigarette factory that later became so famous.

Ursulines convent Tjilaket (Malang) 1927 final exam teacher 2nd left with bow on chest is me.

The cigarette factory

Aunt Toontje, Uncle Henry's wife, always rolled the cigarettes for her husband and everyone liked them so much that more and more cigarettes were rolled by specially hired native women who did nothing else for the goedang. This was the beginning of the cigarette factory where Uncle Tonny (the youngest brother of Uncle Edwin's father) later became the manager.

Uncle Henry even went to America and Africa to see how things like advertising were done there. Finally, "Djati Rongo cigarettes" became widely known and brought great profits to Uncle Henry's family. The Djati Rongo cigarette was also made in South Africa.

Henry Donald Mac Gillavry had started his cigarette factory around 1905 in Java, presumably Surabaya. Factory was a big word: as the photo shows, the cigarettes were rolled by hand by the babus. On the far right is the proud owner, busy with the production administration. The poster hangs on both walls. The photo was taken by a grandson of Mac Gillavry. In 1978, he gave a print of the photo to the collector Werner Löwenhardt from Amsterdam. The Löwenhardt collection became the property of the Reclame Arsenaal in 2001.

Djati Rongo was in the region of Ambarawa. Uncle Charles, assistant resident of Ambarawa, bought a house there in Kali Sari and worked there on the coca plant, from which cocaine is made. So when I was going to work in Oengarang, my mother naturally phoned Uncle Charles to ask if I could come and live in the house and so one day, when the school year began, I moved in with Uncle Charles and Nana, his Chinese wife. On the way from Semarang station to Kalisari I lost a whole suitcase with all my study books. The driver had tied the suitcase so badly to the carrier - they didn't have closed ones like they do now - that the whole thing had rolled off. After reporting it to the police, it was said that there was no trace of it. I lived with Uncle Charles and Nana for a month. I went to school by taxi and was picked up in the afternoon. I think that schools started at 7.30 in the morning and ended at 1.30 pm back then. Eventually I became very annoyed with the drive to and fro. Uncle Charles phoned his friend Aunt Roos Monod de Froideville-Butin Schaap to ask if she knew of a room for me. One afternoon Uncle Charles and I went to see her to talk about the matter. She then said that she had a room in her big house and so I moved in with Aunt Roos.

Daddy in the picture

This is where I met Daddy, he came once a year to stay with his mother on leave. Grandma Meetje lived with her sister "Auntie Roos". Auntie Roos' husband was also called Charles. His brother was also married to a Roos and that was "Auntie Roosje". This Auntie Roosje gave me my first facial during our leave in 1939. Daddy and I got engaged on 9 June 1931 and we were married on 16 January 1932.

Uncle Charles Mac Gillavry

Aunt Roos Monod de Froideville-Butin Schaap

This is me in a Sarong and Kebaya

Hotel Batoeraden and Marta

In October I resigned as a teacher and stayed at home for a few months in Batoeraden, a small mountain village on Gunung Slamet, in the Banjoemas residence. Grandpa and Grandma te Kolsté, my parents, ran the Batoeraden hotel that was well-known at the time. From this hotel we also got married. The cook in this hotel was called Marta. Grandma trained him to be a first-class cook. When Grandpa and Grandma left, Marta left too. He then worked with us for a year, but we almost went bankrupt because Marta cooked like in a hotel. When Uncle Wim was at a tournament in a hotel in Cheribon, a man suddenly came running and shouted Toean Mudah! That was Marta.

Regent and Raden Ajoe Noto Hardisoerjo

When we had been married for a couple of months and I was expecting Loes, there was a reception on the occasion of Javanese New Year at the Regent's house in Banjoewangi. I stayed at home because I was still suffering from nausea. When I got up in the afternoon, there was a basket in the dining room about a metre high and 60 centimetres in diameter. This basket was full of the most delicious mangga's goleh-aromanis and the Tiniana-lagi (this is a hybrid of the goleh and aromanis and these may only be planted in regent's yards). The regent of Banjoewangi who gave me these mangga's was called Noto Hardisoerjo. In the time that Uncle Charles was still assistant resident, this Regent was assistant-wedono in the district where Uncle Charles was assistant resident. Uncle Charles arranged for him to get a dog cart (instead of a horse) to visit all the dessa. This man was so grateful that he always followed the Mac Gillavry's life. At that time grandfather Bob Mac Gillavry was administrator of the Nobo company near Ambarawa. This was also where the land of Djatiroenggo was situated. Maatje and Aunt Wies were at home here and they also married from Djatiroenggo. The Raden Ajoe Noto Hardisoerjo became a good friend of my mother. Maatje taught her sewing and crafts and she taught my mother how to cook. I still have some recipes. After the marriage of my parents, these people followed my parents' lives and as a result, they knew exactly who I was when I came to Goenoeng Raoen. After the retirement of the regent he went to live in Kalibaru and we had a lot of contact with these high-ranking Indonesians. So recipes of soto and gulle are in my recipe book.

The 3 recipes from Mamma's recipe book

Loes and me

Roseline Louise (Loes)

Loes was born in the enterprise hospital at Krikilan. The doctor there was Dr. Nijk. It took up to 22 hours until she finally was delivered. She had a pointy head, which scared me to death. But the doctor said this would correct itself and it did. On the 9th day, when I was allowed to walk again and sit on the toilet seat for a wee, suddenly a hemorrhage and a whole blob of blood emerged. It is funny that Vivienne had the same with the birth of Menno. This must be a family ailment for sure. When Loes was a few months old, she got an onset of Rachitis, because she hadn't been given enough vitamin C. Education about babies was not as thorough in those days. I had to give her a lot of "katjang idjo" porridge, orange juice etc after which the suffering vanished quickly. I received a feeding schedule from the nurses' grandmother which I used for Wim and Sonja too.

Life on the plantation

Life on the plantation was very boring. The employees only got a day off once every 10 days at first. Later, that changed to the normal "Sunday" off. We would then go to Kalibaroe, where the company "agent" had a shop, or to Djember if more shopping needed to be done. The road to Djember, a 2-hour drive, passed over a ridge the "Merawan" a road with many curves. Not very pleasant for someone who can't stand such a winding road, like Loes. So we constantly had to stop along the way. Once a year, daddy was granted 14 days of holiday "leave" as we used to call it. Then we took the car the driver and the babu to visit the family. When we were engaged, Daddy had a two seater (two-seater Ford.)

De nieuwe Terraplann

Aunt Eugenie, Grandma Meetje and Daddy with th two seater

Later when Loes was due, he sold two-seater and bought the Pontiac; it would be closed with tarpaulins. One got wet before the car was closed. When Wim was due, we exchanged this car for a big (2nd hand ) Chrysler. Wim could then be at our feet as a baby. However, the bad luck we had with this car on trips to Oengaran, Bandoeng and Buitenzorg cannot be described. We had to fill up at every petrol pump. In Djokja (on the way back), I even had to exchange my gold Paul Kruger coin, value fl 12.50, to buy petrol. When we got home, we rushed to trade in this car for our last car, a new Terraplanne, i.e. a small Hudson.

Willem Frederik ( Wim)

Wim was also born in Krikilan. When we arrived at the hospital in the middle of the night, the doctor said after a few hours:'' Go back home", but there was no way I was going to do that. With pushing, the contractions came after all and after about 12 hours, I believe, Wim was born.

Luckily there were no complications like with Loes. After 10 days I was allowed to go home again. Wim is called Willem after both his grandfathers, Frederik was made up by Mrs Ter Horst, the administrator's wife of Djatirono, and we thought it was a nice combination too, Willem Frederik.

Mrs Ter Horst later resided in Amsterdam. We visited her during our leave in 1939. Mr ter Horst was also still alive then. The funny thing is that Sonja's friend Anneke Visser later moved in with her when she studied at the drawing academy in Amsterdam. Funny how life can turn out like that. I went to her house with Sonja at the time to visit Anneke. She obviously didn't know this story then.

Me and Wim

Charles with Wim and Loes

When Mr Ruygrok came to Goenoeng Raoen we moved to Djatirono and then Mr Perlbach told us to go to Holland on leave. The company would advance our passage.

So we left for Holland on the m.s. Baloeran on 8 March 1939.

Click here for information about m.v. Baloeran

The administrator of Goenoeng Raoen was Mr Hilling he lived with a Sundanese woman we called "Mas Adjeng". (Raden Adjeng = noble title unmarried woman). And although Mas Adjeng always stayed in the background, the executives of the firms always made their appearance with her. Hr. Hilling was a " most kind man" but as lazy as you could possibly imagine. He left practically everything to daddy and he was the one who arranged everything. If the djongos (houseboy) arrived in the afternoon with a book for me, I already knew it what this meant. It meant that daddy had to work overtime in the office again in the evening. Work that Mr Hilling really should have been doing. In the early part of 1938, there was a sudden notice in the newspaper (Soerabajasche Handelsblad) that with effect from ....... Mr Perlbach would become chief administrator of the counties Goenoeng Raoen, Djatirono and Soekamade (this county was on the south coast) Mr Hilling and Mr Ter Horst were surprised because they knew nothing about it. But further information revealed this to be true. Mr Perlbach (a German) had only spoken out of turn. Both administrators could choose between fl 20,000.= at once or fl 200.= per month until their death. Mr Ter Horst chose fl 20,000.= as he left for the Netherlands, settling in Amsterdam (I previously wrote about this). So that's how the Perlbach family came to Djatirono. All employees were to be discharged, including daddy.

Mr Perlbach was a smart guy, n.v. he knew nothing about the tea culture and so daddy was then transferred to Djatirono.Hr Zeeff, who was a 1st enlisted man here, became administrator of a small land near Loemadjang.On Goenoeng Raoen was Mr Ruygrok, and on Soekamade Mr Jonker. The crazy thing was, when I saw Mr Ruygrok I got a hunch that I knew his wife and when I asked, it turned out I did. She was Nancy Coenraad teacher at the Ursulines. I had still cultured with her when I was studying to be a teacher. In early December 1938, Mr Ruygrok came to meet Mr Perlach and daddy who was still at Goenoeng Raoen. Mr Ruygrok was coughing so terribly and looking so bad that I thought, that he was sick. On 1 January he took over everything. Nancy came only one week later and that was just as well, because he became fatally ill with the final result that he ended up in hospital in Krikilan at the end of January with double pneumonia. He was not released from there until May, then had to go on sick leave and while he stayed with Nancy's mother in Malang, he had to undergo surgery etc. etc. The final result was that he could only return to work 1 year later so on 1 January 1939. All that time daddy thus stayed at Goenoeng Raoen. During that time, Mr Perlbach grew to appreciate him and was glad he had not fired "Hemsing". So when Daddy was in charge of the entire administration, it turned out that in the secret correspondence between Mr Hilling and the firm were letters in which the firm asked for details of Hemsing and whether he was capable of running the factory. Mr Hilling had replied in the negative, while daddy did everything and Hilling sat on his krossi males, his lazy chair.

Grandma Meetje who had never been to Holland either, went with us. We drove our own car to Sidho Moekti to greet my parents, Aunt Wies and Uncle Münch. We left the car here and took the train to Batavia, where we boarded at Tandjong Priok. In Belawan the port of Deli, Uncle Dick and Aunt Hilly were waiting for us. With them we then went to Medan, where I bought a mackintosh from Gerzon.

Before we left, Mrs Zeeff gave me coats etc. for Wim and Loes, as they had just returned from Holland. The sea voyage went well until we entered the Mediterranean Sea at Suez. It then started to storm so badly that the four of us were seasick. Whether this included Grandma Meetje, I don't remember. We had booked the whole trip by boat, but because we remained so terribly ill, we got off in Marseille and continued by boat train to The Hague.

Hilly and me

Oma Meetje, Dick Hemsing, Pappa, ik,Loes en Wim

The Hague

This is where we were met by Uncle Herman and Aunt Cor Hemsing (Oma Meetje's brother-in-law and sister-in-law). Grandma Meetje was staying with her brother and sister-in-law. They had rented a flat for us in the Balistraat, right next door. This is where we stayed for ± 2 months. When we arrived in Holland, in early April, it was still very cold. At that time, the trees were just starting to sprout. It was always, coat on and hat on. Loes also wore a hat, Wim with a cap, and gloves. It was always quite a costume party.


After 2 months, we went to Amsterdam. We had an apartment close to the Vondelpark. This is where we spent a lot of time. We celebrated the birth of Princess Irene in Amsterdam. It was quite a party. Fairground organs in the streets and people dancing and celebrating.


      Van Amsterdam gingen we 2 maanden naar een pension in de Emmastraat in Amersfoort. Hier kwam er weer kleur op de wangen van Loes en Wim, want we wandelden veel. De heide was er dichtbij en dat was dus fijn.

The Hague

From Amersfoort, we went back to The Hague where we then stayed with Aunt Annie Buurman van Vreede, a cousin of Grandma Meetje, on the Obrechtstraat. Yes, that's when the war with Poland broke out. Daddy then had to report to the municipal authorities and they advised us to go back to the Indies as soon as possible.

Wim and Loes

Grandma Meetje, Loes and Wim

The journey back

So in early October we boarded the m.s., "Dempo", back to the Indies. We had wanted to make another trip to Belgium, but of course that was not to happen.

The Dempo

On the Dempo, we had 2nd class cabins and that was much nicer than when we went 3rd class. In those days, 1st class was only for the very rich and we were really just "poor buggers" who had to pay for the trip ourselves. Later, when Mr Perlbach noticed how hard and well daddy had actually worked, they waived half of the fare we had received as an advance from the firm Tiedeman and van Kerchem. The journey to the Indies first went through the English Channel, which by now was full of mines, so it was very dangerous. Then we headed towards South Africa. We saw absolutely nothing but water except for once when we saw a submarine. After 3 weeks, we arrived in Cape Town. We stayed here for 1½ days so we were able to make another day trip along the coast. I only remember the town of Muizenberg, a seaside resort. From Cape Town we went straight to Sabang and there we could disembark again for a while. From here we went along the other side to Padang, so not to Deli. After five weeks of sailing, we arrived back in Batavia in mid-November. From here we went first to Sidho Moekti again to collect the car. Granny Meetje stayed in Semarang (Oengarang, Villa Rosa with Auntie Roos.). We went to Goenoeng Raoen. The dogs were ecstatic with joy, howling as it were. We had to pack up everything shortly after this and moved to Djatirono.

Oelar Weling

Oelar Welang

This is where we came to a house teeming with snakes. We therefore kept geese because they caught the snakes. They were quite venomous snakes, oelar weling and oelar welang. One species had stripes horizontally, the other like rings around the body. I found them dead scary. Once one such snake was slithered around the style of the spare bed.

The Beds

The beds there had bars because there were mosquito nets around the beds because of the mosquitoes. The malaria mosquito was common there. The mosquito net was opened in the morning and hooked with silver tooled hooks. The sheets had beautiful crocheted lace on both sides. Grandma crocheted a lot of lace, which was often 50 centimetres wide. The sheets were therefore not tucked in like they are here. The blankets were folded at the foot end. The blankets were called waffle blankets and the striped soldier blankets. These were made of a kind of flannel and therefore not so warm. Only very, very high up in the mountains did they have woollen blankets. We also slept a lot under kaïns, two sewn together. A kaïn is a sarong that is not sewn together. Like the one I still have; mine is very precious. It has a name (I have forgotten it) but the meaning is: if you own this kaïn, nothing will ever be stolen from you. Near the house in Djatirono was a deep ravine, where monkeys and panthers lived in the forests

Bed with musquito net

source: Collection Tropenmuseum

10th of May 1940

We lived in this house when war broke out in Holland on 10 May 1940. Mr Perlbach (the administrator a German) had been very nervous for a few days. He just wanted to stay near the phone all the time. It turned out later that he was waiting for a message from the German embassy and would have had to capture or shoot all Dutchmen. "Die Deutsche Ferrein" had a whole list of all the people who should have suffered this fate. But things turned out differently; the message did not come and the Dutch government (gouvernement) knew about the outbreak of war earlier, resulting in the capture of all Germans.

Mr Perlbach was also taken away and Messrs Ruygrok, Jonker and daddy became acting administrators on Goenoeng Raoen, Djatirono and Soekamade. We continued to live on Djatirono until October 1941. Mrs Perlbach continued to live in the administrator's house until local residents objected. The management of Tiedeman and van Kerchem thought that Mr Ruygrok and daddy were behind this but fortunately they were able to prove they had nothing to do with it. Ms Perlbach then had to leave and went to Malang. I never heard from or about her again.

Then Mr Zeeff started making trouble, because there was talk of the acting administrators becoming administrators. He had been an employee on Djatirono before the war, went on leave to Holland in 1938 and had managed to get the management to agree to him becoming an administrator on Djatirono one day. So he showed up with this paper when there was talk of daddy becoming an administrator. After much haggling, we had to leave and so we ended up at Ngrankah Pawon 38. So that's how Sonja was born in Paree. Mr Colenbrander was the administrator there.

Daddy then became the sub-administrator. Ngrankah Pawon actually consisted of three small companies and because Mr Colenbrander then became Tiedeman and van Kerchem's adviser, he needed help because he had to go away a lot. At the end of November 1941, daddy was called up for retraining exercises and did not get out of the duty because in the meantime the bombing of Pearl Harbour had taken place.

Our house in Djatirono

Sonja and me

When Sonja was born, he was still in Kediri and did register her. When the Japs invaded and marched through Surabaya on 6 March, and daddy and his fellow comrades had to resist that, they were already being shot at from the trees in Kediri. The Japs had already entered the city. Daddy who was in the back of the car then got a bullet through his calf and through his stomach, and ended up in hospital in Kediri. We were in frequent telephone contact and I made one visit with Loes and Wim. I was not allowed to take Sonja with me however, because we had to take a dogcart through back roads to Kediri. The 2nd time I accompanied the Colenbrander family by car to the hospital. Back to the Kempetai I had a guardian angel on my shoulder. Because there was a Jap in a tree whom I did not see and not bowed to. As I drove into the Kempetai a little later, this incident ended with a fizzle. When we were supposed to go to Kediri alone again, which was early May, all the wounded soldiers had already been taken to Malang that morning, so we never saw Daddy again.

The Camp Period

Letter from mum to National Institute for War Documentation

Wassenaar, 28 August 1947
To Mrs. A.H. Joustra
National Institute for War Documentation

Department- Research Women's Camps of the Indies

Dear Madam,
Further to your request of 21 Aug, I would like to inform you about the various camps and free addresses where we were during the Japanese Occupation and afterwards. You can then see for yourself what you can use

We lived at the company Ngrangkah Pawon in the Kediri residence. Since My husband was interned, we ( my children and mother-in-law) were among the first to enter a so-called ,,, protection camp (Perlindoengan). Dec 27, 1942, I was told to come to Mantri Police in Wates on the 29th with as little luggage as possible. Each was allowed to bring a bed, chair, spoon, etc., other than that we were allowed to carry as much food and clothes as possible. The rest was kept "well" by the Japs. We were not allowed to be told where we were going, I only knew it was in the heat. The destination was the cassava company Galoehan ± ½ hour outside Kediri. Here the administrator's house + 2 adjoining pavilions had been arranged to accommodate ± 300 women and children. We and three others ended up in a huge kitchen. Afterwards, this turned out to be not so bad because there was running water and water meant everything in the coming months. The big boys and men were soon housed a little further on in a separate house. In this Camp, we still enjoyed some freedom. I could e.g. still send the laundry to the company with my old garden boy and so I also got regular support in food and money from the administrator who was still at the factory. So did others. We were also allowed to buy freely at the passar and Chinese shops. Food we could have cooked outside. Furthermore, we were allowed to visit the doctor and dentist. Deaths did not occur here in this camp, notwithstanding a few diphtheria cases. At the end of August 1943, the other loose people were also interned. After these were first given a few days of family internment, the women and children were then put up in Kawarasan (a sister company of Galoehan) and the men were taken to Bandung. Life did get harder then. In February 1944, we were all transferred to Camp 10 at Banjoebiroe Ambarawa. Here we really ended up in a prison. High walls and in the beginning still barred doors in front of the rooms. Here we were given food from the soup kitchen, very poorly cared for in the beginning,
afterwards, however, everything was done to make what was there tasty. In November 1944, the boys aged 10 and over were taken away to Camp 7 in Ambara

After the Japanese capitulation

As capitulation came. Those who signed up as Blanda Indo were allowed to go outside at their own risk. As we did not know what the situation was like outside, I went with the children (my mother-in-law had already died) because we owned a house in Bandoengan above Ambarawa and I also had my husband's aunt living there. We were taken to Ambarawa by truck and had to look after ourselves there. So 40 we spent the 1st night in freedom at the home of the bread baker Bie Sing Hoo, well known in Ambarawa. My name was well known to them and I was received hospitably. The next day, we went up by tjikar (ox cart).

My mother was also interned in the following camps::

Camp Toban in Tegal from October 1943 to March 1944

Gedung Badak near Buitenzorg until October 1944

Tjideng Camp

E. Hemsing - at Kolsté

Between Bandoengan and Ngablak was the boys' camp where regularly the big boys from Camp 7 had to work in the fields. Above Ngablak was our old shooting bivouac Soemowono. Women were also interned here and later transported to other camps. When I was in Bandoengan, the order came that no more Inlanders were allowed to work for us or sell to us. Anyway, things were arranged through a back door and I never had any problems with it. On 6 November I was told through the Red Cross that we would be picked up by the British on 8 November to go back into the camps. As many ladies had come to live in Bandoengan, it became quite a transport, some went to Camp 6, we, among others, to Camp 8 where the first extremist attack took place 14 days later. We were transferred 26 November to Ambarawa itself and 2 December we were transported to Semarang. On 5 December, I was on the plane to Batavia, where my mother was in the Tjideng camp and where we were then also given shelter. Here, for me and the children, all horrors had come to an end.

Tjikar for passenger transport

Tjikar for freight transport

To my great surprise, I was not allowed into my own house because it was still the outpost for sick Japs. At the hands of my brother who came out of the buoy (prison) Ambarawa and then worked for the RAPWI in Semarang, I managed to be allowed to move into the house. Fortunately, all this time we were able to stay with the aunt who lived in Ngablak, just above Bandoengan.

My mother Loes Fanoy-Hemsing is now almost 90 and told me the following details that I would like to add. When my grandmother were back from the East Indies after the war, she started writing down her life story. After all, she was a teacher and was skilled at writing. Later, my father digitised it, as you can read above, and added the photos. The interview conducted years later is independent of this.

Also to conclude my grandmother's story above: After the war, the surviving families of both my father and my mother went back to the Netherlands. Both my grandfathers died as prisoners of war at the infamous Burma and Pakan Baru railway line.

Eventually, they came to live in the Trompstraat in Leidschendam. My father with his mother, brother and sister at number 6 and my grandmother and mother with her brother and sister at number 20. That's how my parents got to know each other and partly because of their shared background in the Dutch East Indies, they fell in love. They married had 5 children, 14 grandchildren and now my mother has 10 great-grandchildren. My father passed away in 2020 at the age of 90.

On 27 August 2022, we were with many relatives at the commemoration of the Brima and Pakan Baru railway in Bronbeek.

Vivienne Fanoy, September 2022

Wedding picture of my parents

Loes Hemsing - Fanoy and Ru Fanoy

My mother (right) with her brother and sister at the commemoration on 27 August 2022 at Bronbeek

My mother Loes lays flowers at the monument on 27.08.2022 at Bronbeek