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  • Writer's picturePauline Kok


Freedom is a precious thing – an expensive, never valued enough commodity.

Once lost, the effort to win it back consumed my soul. After years of disease, torture, malnourishment and emptiness— nothing seemed more important, more life saving to me than freedom—which by then was far out of reach.

When the war ended in 1945, we travelled to Medan, the capital of Sumatra, and I found no freedom there. After almost four years in concentration camps we expected to find normalacy. Yet, in the cities, around the homes, and throughout the streets roamed angry and violent young men yielding clubs, whips and threatening faces. “Stay indoors” we were advised. It was dangerous.

I was not free.

Leaving Indonesia and arriving in the Netherlands, our own fatherland, we were once again not welcome. We were confronted with sarcastic, snide and accusitory remarks along with the advice to go back where we came from. No freedom to choose; no freedom of opinion or speech; no freedom of expectation or rights. We were considered ballast.

I was not free.

When my parents needed to return to Indonesia to continue the work my father had started, there was no room for me in among the Dutch families. There was however, room for me in a boarding school, run by Franciscan nuns. High walls surrounded the building and the students were controlled by strict rules. Each day was always the same routine and only the nuns made the decisions. We simply had to obey. My only highlight was our weekly walk through the village on Sunday  – long rows of three students, carefully watched by nuns.

I was not free.

I did not feel free for a very long time.

Since then much in my world has changed. Looking back on the years after the war and my feelings of loneliness and yearning I almost feel ashamed for the rebellion of my strong state of mind.

Because now, in this time of living, I realize how precious freedom actually is.

Freedom. How many people have been slaughtered because of it; continue to be slaughtered. Countless children, murdered in the name of freedom.

Freedom is the luxury of time and planning.

Freedom is care and giving.

Freedom is hope and future.

Freedom is life itself.

Freedom is everything!

2015 has begun — we are wealthy beyond our wildest imagination because we have freedom.

And now, I am free!

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