19  To The Netherlands

1956: Jakarta - Amsterdam on the “Johan van Oldenbarnevelt” and KLM

About our journey by boat I should mention the following: all Dutch passenger ferries, including those of the Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland (SMN; Steamroller Company Netherlands) and the Rotterdamsche Lloyd (RL), had, during the years of war, been put to use for the transport of Allied troops and had been fitted with dormitories and bunk beds.

Onboard J. v. Oldenbarnevelt. Proud mothers Loes with Glenn and Gerda with Roy.
On board J. v. Oldenbarnevelt. Proud mothers Loes with Glenn and Gerda with Roy.
The repatriation back to the Netherlands of the Dutch and East Indian people, who were often completely penniless, didn’t really take off until after the end of the Second World War. On the way back, the passenger ships would transport professional servicemen and war volunteers back to the Dutch East Indies (as they were still called then). Of course, the Dutch passenger ships had huts on board for the army officers and other officials, but soldiers and lower officers would stay in those dormitories with bunk beds. We, that is, my mother, myself and my younger brother each with our families, were assigned to a dormitory.

New Stage of Life

When I saw the tricoloured Dutch flag flying proudly from the mast upon boarding the ship “Johan van Oldenbarnevelt”, I actually felt quite emotional and I felt just as emotional when I set foot on Dutch soil again in early March 1956. Nothing but praise for the waiters and the many other staff on board, who by then knew from our stories better than anyone else about the miserable conditions we had suffered in the Indies, and they themselves not long before either during the German occupation!
Here I am on deck, together with Loes and sister-in-law Gerda.
Here I am on deck, together with Loes and sister-in-law Gerda.

Along with some crew members on the photo
Along with some crew members on the photo
Being one of many repatriates arriving in the Netherlands, we were put up in boarding houses, first in Beekbergen for a short period of time and then in Loenen, and all sorts of trouble came with it. The Netherlands were still in the reconstruction phase; there was already a shortage of housing and yet, on top of that, almost 350,000 of us outsiders, considered ’strange’ by the Dutch people, arrived. Many people in the Netherlands didn’t really know we existed, the East Indian Dutch people. As such, everyone arriving from Indonesia was simply considered to be “Indonesian”, even though strangely enough – strange from their point of view, that is – we had Dutch, French, German, English or even Portuguese names, we spoke Dutch and had Dutch passports. They would go quiet and wouldn’t know what to say when I mentioned casually that we had more Dutch blood flowing through our veins than our own princes and princesses, seeing that all of them (Queen Emma, Queen Wilhelmina, Queen Juliana as well as Queen Beatrix), from mother to daughter, had German husbands. But anyway, it was hard to find a job upon arrival in the Netherlands and in the village of Loenen I could only find a job as a labourer with a rope maker and in a factory where they made toilet paper.

Undeserved Reproach

In this village, one of the East Indian boys drove the landlord inadvertently to despair. You see, he went to farms where they were slaughtering cows and where he could get the organs and intestines for free as they were only intended to be used as tinned pet food. They didn’t have the slightest idea suspicion that we East Indian people actually consume bodily parts such as tripe, intestines and lungs. When he arrived back at the guest house, the landlord was beside himself and he was to immediately bury his prize in the garden. I’ve never seen someone look as dumbfounded, as the opportunity to finally prepare a delicacy – like we were used to – had just been taken from him.

Looking for work and commencing with KLM

In the mean time, we adults were facing the problem of how to find a decent job in this rural environment. That’s when I ‘fled’ to Amsterdam to find a job, leaving my family, my mother and the associated boarding house behind. For the time being I could stay with my sister and her husband, who had been living in Amsterdam for a few years by that time. They had only a small home, so I slept on a folding bed under the stairs that led to their bedroom.

Experience not acknowledged

I worked with KLM at Schiphol for only one month, as it wasn’t easy to only be allowed to count screws and such and to scrub the floor of the warehouse after having been warehouse manager in Jakarta. It didn't take long either before I got on the wrong side of the older gentlemen who delivered the aeroplane parts from the warehouse. These men were still wearing ‘false’ cuffs and collars in those days.

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