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  • Writer's picturePauline Kok


Travelling to Holland was not a problem, but seeing Emma-M was difficult. The last time I saw her was in 2002 when it was she who travelled to Canada to visit me and my family.

It was a lovely visit.

We cried a little and laughed a lot.

Last week, I saw her again.

We cried a lot and laughed a little.

On the day I left her for the very last time I suddenly recalled the Dutch physician as he entered our prison camp in Indonesia to examine and possibly help us. It was the first time we saw a true doctor; one who didn’t speak a foreign language. He became physically ill by the visions before him and when he returned to his own camp, he spoke about what he had seen: “Women with edema, never seen before, even reaching their bellies and breasts. Children so emaciated and thin that I was afraid to lift them, in case I would hurt them. Festering, tropical ulcers. Dysentery and unstoppable diarrhea, advanced lung tuberculosis, women suffering from hysteria, depression and suicidal feelings”.

Emma-M looked tired and much older than her seventy-two years. Instantly it brought me back; as seeing her reminded me of the women who suffered more than three years in those Japanese concentration camps. As I write this I think back to the last sentence of the last blog. For Emma-M I would change that to: “I recognized her in the image of the haunting pallets of autumn – the colours of unity, love and peace”. Emma-M had finally discovered peace within her self. She loved seeing me and as always never complained.

In the end it was a bittersweet visit. Emma-M and I said “good-bye” as we did not expect to see each other again. Her last words to me were: “I’ll see you in heaven”.

All in all I have enjoyed the last visit to my homeland. I was surprised with the welcome I received from my brothers and sisters. We spoke briefly about my book: The Remains of War, which has been translated into the Dutch language under the title: The Forgotten Camp. In a way it was a one-sided conversation, since the two little girls were too young to remember, and my brother has chosen to block those bitter years out of his memory.

But I remember them – as they were long ago, when everything was so desperate; and as they are now, aged in time. I am left with only a sense of gratefulness, that we could be together, once more in unity, love and peace.

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