The toil and moil group
On the 18 th of September 1944 a group of boys between twelve and seventeen years old, several nuns and several old men, altogether 217 people were transported to Camp 8 in Ambarawa, not far from Banyu Biru. That very same day 200 women and children from camp Ambarawa 8 were transported to our prison Banyu Biru 10.
Many girls of my age had to take-over the jobs the boys of 16 and 17 used to do, and so I came in a toil and moil group. We had to work outside the camp where we had to plough the fields, or walk to Ambarawa with several old Dutch cavalry carts loaded with all sorts of luggage, or we had to carry stones from one place to another, just to keep us busy.
It was often very hard work but I was also happy that I could walk outside of that prison every morning when we finished our roll call and after eating that sick making small bowl of starch.
At least we had fresh air, a beautiful panorama and we could see the real world again with all its wonderful colours. I worked in a good team, our leader ( I can't remember her name) was a real fine lady. In the beginning we only had Japanese guards but later on also Heihos, they were Indonesian volunteers in the Japanese Army. During World War Two there were around 42.500 Indonesians who served as “heiho” in the Japanese army.
When we worked on the land nearby the prison, we received two small bowls of coffee with sugar. We received our coffee outside near the gate of our prison. So I often asked one of the more friendly Heihos, if I could bring one cup to my mother, it was seldom refused, I always walked as fast as I could.
When we walked to Ambarawa, we also saw quite some Indonesians walking from and to Ambarawa. They always looked at us and most of them quickly looked away, most certainly when we had a Japanese guard walking with us. The Indonesians were just as scared as we were, but nevertheless I have seen some friendly smiles as well. We could see that most of the Indonesians felt sorry for us, we must have looked terrible, most of us walking barefoot and in warn-out clothes.
I noticed that the Indonesians didn't look rich either. We knew nothing about life outside the camps. There were also still many Eurasians outside our camps as well, struggling for life because they received no money at all, as I learnt after the war.
But for me working outside the prison was a real blessing, nevertheless the extremely hard work, nevertheless the heat, nevertheless the hunger and thirst, nevertheless the pain in my shoulders and stomach at night. And also nevertheless the malaria attacks.
Each time when our group came back “home” we could smell the toilets, because many people had diarrhoea or worse dysentery. It was a real bad smell. There was no soap there wasn't anything to disinfect the toilets either, there was just some water. To be honest there was hardly any hygiene at all, it was simply impossible to keep our prison really clean, and then don't forget the bugs.
Washing clothes also gave trouble, there was no soap. We used salt (that we received now and then) to wash our clothes so everything began to look greyish. When my mother had done the washing for the four of us, she and Henny would hang everything on a clothesline. My sister had to watch the clothes otherwise someone might steal them. It didn't take too long before everything was dry again thanks to the Indonesian sunshine. And there was of course no way to get the creases out of our clothes, but nobody cared, we all looked completely neglected.