Indonesian Pilgrimage, Part V

Kembang Kuning, Surabaya

Seventy Years after the Gubeng Massacre

Two girls

and 84 unknown people

sharing a grave:

An entire row of women and children

who all died on October 28th, 1945.

Now almost 70 years ago,

their evacuation ambushed

during the Indonesian Revolution.


Two girls

Two teenagers

Two sisters, on their way out

with hunger gnawing in their bellies

while mourning their dad

who perished in Bandung.


Two girls and

four hours of relentless shooting.

Like target practice

after which the machetes,

bamboo spears and bayonets

finished the job.


Two girls

close in life and death

resting together and

never once seeing the homeland.

Yet sharing their long sleep

In Indonesian soil

tended by Indonesians,

wearing wide-brimmed hats

and warm smiles.

Two girls

whose undernourished bodies

on those British trucks

really didn’t stand in the way of

Indonesian independence.

Yet pay they did

for the sins of their ancestors

and countrymen.


Two girls…

They have become my girls.

And wherever I go

(And in Indonesia even more so),

I carry them with me

while they have been watching over me

so I could tell their story

if only to remind the world

that women and children

are often handed the short end of the stick

in wars and conflicts caused by men.


Two girls

Willy and Joke Francken

Rest in peace.


Having made it to your final resting place

I can give this story some rest

and thank the Dutch-speaking groundskeeper

for taking care of you

and all of those who, for 70 years,

have been swept under the rug

by both the mother- and fatherland.


Your grave

and those of all the others will remain.

And with these words

I hope that in the end

You did not die in vain…

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7 Responses to Indonesian Pilgrimage, Part V

  1. Nora Valk says:

    Ik was daar met Theo in 2010. Wij overleefden die dagen net. Jouw gedicht verwoord het zo goed. Dankjewel.

  2. Nora, ik ben dankbaar voor het contact met jou de afgelopen jaren; het heeft de geschiedenis doen leven voor mij persoonlijk zodat ook ik het verhaal weer door kan geven. Veel liefs.

  3. Editor BDH says:

    This must have been such an emotional experience to visit their grave sites. So much senseless killing of innocent civilians throughout history. I’m sure you must have felt their spirits embrace you for honoring their memory.

  4. Laurine says:

    Wat een ontroerend, mooi gedicht. Door jouw boek zullen hun verzwegen levens gelezen en herdacht worden. Dankzij jou heeft hun lieve broer zijn verhaal kunnen vertellen waardoor hij eindelijk uit die bunker van verdriet kon komen.
    liefs en Dank. Laurine

  5. Rike says:

    Inez, de rillingen gingen door me heen. Die foto en het gedicht. Moest denken aan de 80e verjaardag van je Moeder, de broer van de meisjes van de foto en het verhaal er achter… Fijn dat je nu de reis maakt. Mooi hoe je zo heel veel meer vertelt dan alleen de reis, ik kijk uit naar je volgende blog!

  6. Melanie says:

    I have been out of town and am just now catching up (backwards) on your posts. Take this raw emotion, pain, sorrow and anger, and use it. Channel that through your body and mind and spirit to inspire you to do what you are called to do. XOXO

  7. Thanks, Inez, for reminding us of the loss of these two girls among the tens of thousands who died during the Bersiap, a genocide which the world would rather forget. Thanks, for not letting this important day go unnoticed!

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