Friday, 5 April 2013

My Mum-in-law was also my lovely friend - I wonder how often any of us can say that?
 She was Dutch, born in Jakarta on Java 81 years ago, the child of a girl who fell in love with Ferdinand a married man, who was part Serbian, part Czechoslovakian, which was all the information she could find of her father when years later she searched, and searched.  So, my Mum-in-law was heartbreakingly given up to be adopted by the Matron and her husband, of the nursing home where she was born.  She must have led an idyllic life on the island,  described as paradise on earth, with it's green rice-fields, distant mountains and tropical sunsets, that is until the second world war wrenched that life-style from them, flinging her and her adopted mother into one of the horrendous concentration camps formed by the Japanese invaders, whilst her adopted father and  older brother were separated from them to be sent to one of the men's camps.  The death rates in these camps was between 13 and 30% and as a consequence her adopted father sadly died there, only a few days before they were liberated.

She didn't speak a lot about her time there, and always answered our questions with,
"I can't remember a whole lot except to say, I remember the hunger.  The terrible hunger - I was always hungry.  And I can remember having to stand for long hours in the baking sun at roll-call.  And I remember the Japanese."
She could not be in the same room or on the same side of the street with someone Japanese even after sixty years.

 She told us a story of one day standing queueing for something and of hearing a violin being played somewhere nearby in the camp, she could recall the sound clearly.  It wasn't until years afterwards that she discovered that the person she had heard playing was her real mother, they had been interred in the same camp, and that her mother had been a gifted musician.  But at that point she wasn't even aware that she was an adopted child, that was a fact she stumbled upon when she was in her twenties.  During a time whilst her adopted mother was in hospital she was asked to produce some document or other and my friend in her search for it came upon her adoption papers.  I can only imagine what a massive shock that must have been. By then they had been repatriated to the Netherlands and my Mum-in-law was working as a nurse/midwife.  Eventually she met her husband an Englishman and they moved to England, where they were together for over fifty years and had five children.   She did manage to trace her real mother again many years later, but alas too late to meet her, but she never forgot the violin music she had heard being played that day in the camp.  So yesterday because I was unable to attend her funeral I listened to that music - to Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major, Opus 61, in honour of my lovely, lovely friend, that little girl all those years ago.

9 comments:

A Super Dilettante said...

My dear Jane,

I send you all my deepest condolences. What a blow it must be for you to hear the sad news of your mother-in-law's death. And thank you so much for sharing her story. I found it absolutely fascinating and moving. I remember reading a poem that said if you have lived through the wars, if you have lived in a country other than your a place of birth and if you have experienced love, then your life is a history. I hope that you have so many treasured memories of your mother-in-law and keep them alive always and forever....May she rest in peace.

With best wishes, ASD

Splenderosa said...

Oh my goodness, Jane, you fit right into our "By Invitation Only" post of last Tuesday with it's theme "challenges." What a sadly poignant story you have told us. Imagine all those challenges? I know how much she must have cherished your love and friendship over the years, and what peace and contentment she felt knowing you were the wife of her son.
This is all a mother asks, that her children be happy. I hope you are feeling better, we shall light those candles soon. Much love....

L.P. said...

What an incredible story! The part about hearing a violin in the concentration camp and it turned out to be her birth mother playing gave me goose bumps. How lucky she was to have such an appreciative and caring daughter-in-law!

Teresa Evangeline/Bayou Summer said...

What a beautiful story of the violin playing, and it was her real mother! Then universe is a splendid thing... What a wonderful tribute to this woman, your mum in-law.

Half-heard in the Stillness said...

Thank you SO much everyone.
She meant a great deal to me, all those challenges she faced with courage and didn't let it make her bitter or angry. She was a very loving person and a lovely mother to all her children. I shall miss her cheery voice over the telephone signing on with, "Hi!" and finishing with "Tarrah!" with her lovely Dutch accent.
I do hope that we go somewhere else it is too hard to think such a lovely light might be lost forever.

Hugs everyone,
Jane xxxx

WOL said...

What an amazing and inspiring life your MIL had. Sounds like instead of "losing a son" she gained a daughter. How fortunate you were to have been able to develop a close relationship with her.

Deborah Lawrenson said...

What a moving story. I'm so sorry for your loss, Jane. All good wishes to you and the family.

Ruthie Redden said...

Dear Jane, so sorry to hear of your loss. What a poignant and heart sore story your dear Mum-in-law had. Thinking of you x

Mady Dooijes said...

What a beautiful moving story Jane… I'm sorry to hear about your loss. Wishing you well Jane, thinking of you.