Dutch-Canadian Survivors of Japanese Prison Camps

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A First Taste of Freedom

by Lynn Huysman van Frankfoort

I remember that, just after the war, we were able to get out of the camp because the guards were gone. We then walked to the town, I believe it was Ambarawa.

"We" were my mother, my older sister and I, and we went to the camp where all the men and boys were kept. It was almost deserted and only the sick and the dying were still there. We looked around and found my father, who was very weak and near death. We dragged him between us and found a place we called home — this place was the Grand Hotel. During the war, the bombs and the tanks had just about destroyed the hotel. Part of its roof and walls were gone, but we found a room with a sort of patio and a door. We also found some mattresses and chairs.

My father had shingles and was in bed most of the time. My mother, who had been a cook at camp Banju Biru, always wanted to care and provide for others so she told me to help her find food. There were fruit trees all around us and I could climb a coconut tree faster than a monkey. I brought home mangoes, pineapple and djamboes.

Later, my mother dressed me in Indonesian clothes: sarong and kabaja. I have no idea where my mother got these, but she made me walk like that to the nearby dessa, or native village. There, I hung around with the people and asked them for food. I got mostly eggs and sweet cakes and ketella or sweet potatoes. I brought everything home, but my work was not yet done. I had to go to the other side of town to get more food. There I got meat and chicken.

When I came home, my clothes were changed once more and I had to lie on a stretcher, with my left arm all bandaged up and in a sling. Chicken blood was used on my arm and leg. Meat and eggs were tucked between my arm and body. Then, helpful hands carried me to a camp, not too far from the Grand Hotel. There were Indonesian guards there — not friendly at all. Lying on that stretcher, with food under my arm and between my legs, I was not only very uncomfortable, but also very scared, so I cried and cried. This must have convinced the guards that I was really sick and in pain. I was taken to the hospital in that camp and there was one doctor and many sick and dying people. They were very happy to receive the food I brought to them. My bandages — just rags, really — were changed and I was carried out again. I had to do this several times a week. My Mom said that I was a daredevil and the best suited for the job. She has never known how frightened and how scared I was.

Around that time, the Indonesian people were getting restless and started to demand. their independence. Sometimes there were raids and they searched all the buildings, looking for boys and men. These would be lined up, healthy or sick, and were made to run down the wide boulevard nearby to the local prison. Few of them survived this because of their poor physical condition. Our place was also searched, but my father was still very weak. My mother told the men that he was very ill and that what he had was very contagious, whereupon they left us alone.

Then I developed an infection under my right foot. It became so bad that it had to be lanced, but there was no anæsthetic! It was done while some Gurkhas held me down, while my father sat on top of me, and while I just kicked and screamed!!

I was glad when finally the Gurkhas and the English had come. They moved into the hotel as well and took over the dining room and made that beautiful area their quarters. Their tanks and trucks were parked all around the hotel and filled the grounds.

Now there was food for everyone and my Dad got better. But then the political situation deteriorated and for our own safety we mere moved again, to yet another camp which turned out to be the former town jail.

About the Author

Lynn Huysman van Frankfoort was born in Amsterdam, but lived in Surabaya when the war broke out. During the war she moved from Malang Wijk to Banju Biru, and during the bersiap to Ambarawa. She spent the war with her mother and sister, while her father was in the Ambarawa men's camp. They returned to the Netherlands in 1946 and lived in Bussum. She met Kees van Frankfoort while she worked in the Juliana Kinderziekenhuis (children's hospital) in Arnhem as a nurse and they were married in 1952. They emigrated to Canada in 1958 and after fifteen years returned to Holland for a one-year period. In Canada, they lived in Montreal and later in Ottawa. Their family consists of a daughter and two sons. Kees passed away in 1999.

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