Alzheimer, The Tragedy of Incomprehension

The Struggle of a Beautiful Dutch Lady In The East

Rough Episodes

Rough Times

This part recounts the rough times Alida had to experience in Indonesia, be it because of the war and national struggle of Indonesia, or her struggle in life for either increased income needs or withstanding stress due to Boy's juvenile delinquency problems or Bob's "pressures" (his flirtatious escapades and / or his intellectual arrogance or mental cruelty).

The Japanese Invasion

Alida arrived in Indonesia end 1938, and stayed in Bogor with her husband Bob. The first few years was a period of bliss and adjustment to the eastern culture, making friends here and there, especially with Bob's relatives and his pupils. In Bogor she gave birth to her first child, Boy.

In 1942 - she moved, or has moved, to Surabaya. She was pregnant of Indri.

The idyll soon changed into a tense situation, as Indonesia was invaded by the Japanese in May 1942. In this "war" situation, Alida gave birth on June 9 to Indriati (Indri) in St Melania Hospital. Therefore, Bob and Alida could not take pictures of Indri during her infancy for about 3 years.

The picture showed an official note of her status as a refugee, from Surabaya to Modjokerto

Fortunately, things were less rough for Alida due to her good looks. But Bob, being a teacher, was "forced" to teach the Japanese language which he of course did not master. So what clever Bob did, he studied a chapter first - and taught that chapter the next day, and in the evenings he learned chapter 2, for the day after, etc. This way he probably could remain "acceptable" to the Japanese (no obligation to become a Romusha - forced labour) and could still earn some decent money.

It is not clear whether at the end of the Japanese occupation and the declaration of the Indonesian independence Alida and Bob were in Sarangan or still in Surabaya.

Semarang - Concentration Camp

This part of Alida's life was not very clear as to when, why and how. This was during the Japanese occupation, where Dutch people were persecuted by the Japanese. Indri remembers driving in a truck with many other Dutch families to Semarang. There Alida, Boy and Indri were placed in a concentration camp, together with many other Dutch families. This fortunately did not last too long. But one could imagine the suffering that Alida had to go through. Where Bob was, was never told or known by the children.

The Communist Rebels - Sarangan

Sarangan, a pleasant place.
By 1946, Alida and Bob lived in Sarangan, in a cool mountaneous climate, pleasant and with a lot of German friends living there. Sarangan is located on a mountain slope of Mount Lawu. It also had a small lake with a hotel near the lake. Sarangan was quite popular, and many trainings were given there with mostly German teachers. So the schools for children were in German. Bob presumably went to live there to give sport training to Naval and Military cadets. In his capacity teaching sport to the Naval cadets was probably a reason why Bob later on moved to join the Navy (where he could excercise his passion for filming and teaching).

Sarangan became a very unique place as it was a small village in a cold(er) climate, which suited Alida. She made friends with the German community there, like Oma Petch (popular cook in the hotel), Frau Tietsche, Frau Smidt, Herr Heinz and Herr Brule (sport teacher).
The hotel near the lake in Sarangan was often frequented by the community of Sarangan, and it had an automatic piano. A place to gather and have fun.

Other, Indonesian, friends were the late Admiral Martadinata and his wife Tati (Martadinata became chief of staff of the Navy later on), Soebono (later on also chief of staff of the Indonesian Navy), Mr and Mrs Haroen, Bambang and Marjuna Soetedjo, etc.

Because Alida and Bob were renowned for their hospitality and charm, their home (De Steen in Sarangan) became some sort of a centre of gatherings of all in Sarangan, or a place to seek consolation for one's grief. Again one can see that Bob and Alida, with their jovial nature, were quite a popular and sought for couple.

When an Indonesian Air Force plane was shot down in the Malakka region (now Malaysia), Alida got word that the pilot, Iswahjoedi, Soewarti's husband, was the pilot of that unfortunate incident. Whereas the navigator was Halim Perdanakusuma, Koesadalina's husband (both friends of Alida and Bob). Both widows, Koes(adalina) and Warti, came to Alida and Bob in Sarangan to seek consolation and rest.
(Note: Indri, Alida's daughter. later married Makki Perdanakusuma, Halim's youngest living brother).

The Communist Terror

The first traumatic experience was the Communist clash - hitting Madiun - a nearby city (known as "the Madiun PKI Affaire"). The National Army (TNI) knew us, and went to Sarangan to hunt down / persecute communist people. In this search they captured Marjuna's husband, Bambang Soetedjo, (already with a son, Teddy), a prominent communist figure. Bambang Soetedjo was brought to an open field in Sarangan, where he was executed by the TNI. This was, sadly, witnessed by Boy, Alida's son, and Boy could recount the fact that Bambang Soetedjo, tied to a pole,  was shot to death and only died after the 7th bullet. Many others could view this tragic scene from their houses on the hills overlooking the field, among which Tati Martadinata. Marjuna as well as Tati Marta came to Alida to share their grief and shock. Indri still remembered Tati coming whilst crying, to Alida who comforted her.

Later on, as the "fight" between the TNI and PKI (Communist Party) increased, many people left Sarangan, and many communists started to terrorise the village. Alida's house was no exception. By that time (1947) Alida was pregnant again with Alice.
She often was "visited" by the communists who came with knives and sickle as their weapons. Here was a tough Alida (Bob was in Yogya then), with a big pregnant belly, facing threats of the communists who demanded rice from here. Although she had rice, she bluntly said: "No, I have no more rice". They threatened to kill her with their knives, aimed at her big belly, but Alida staunchly said: "No, just look around yourself" (she hid it in her cupboard). That was a dangerous, yet brave, act, since Alida was fighting for her family.
This scene repeated several times. Furthermore, one of her friends, Mr Sumali, who was then also a communist, and his wife, took refuge at her house. Alida got scared, but could not deny them.

All this "visiting" by the communists, resulted in the perception that De Steen (Alida's House), was full of communists. The TNI thought that the Iskak's have moved out already as the area has slowly become a communist area.

Then, suddenly, Alida heard shots, while she had some visitors. The visitors were Toos and Heinz. They then quickly moved to her sleeping bedroom and everybody sat on the floor. Alida with her big belly, Heinz and Toos, Boy and Indri. The noise of bullets was frightening. Alida told her children to pray, and so they did. All were lying flat on the floor except Heinz, who sat. The shooting cointinued for a while until it stopped.

Slowly all got out and noticed hundreds of bullet holes at the walls, near ceiling. Later on, Alida knew that the TNI shot deliberately at her house because they thought it was occupied by the communists. Fortunately nobody got hurt, but the terror remained. Finally Sarangan was taken over by the TNI again.

Alice's birth
Alice was born in Sarangan in November 1947. Alida, due to the tense situations of the communists, could not breast feed Alice properly. Fortunately Bob had a cow and some goats. So Alice was also fed using the cow's milk and the goat's.

President Soekarno
It was during her stay in Sarangan (before the communist terror) that many Indonesian political figures visited Sarangan, and had a gathering with the Indonesian community there. Alida (and Marjuna) were also introduced to Soekarno, known for his "eye" for beautiful women. So both Alida and Marjuna were asked to sit next to Soekarno during a meal. Alida was thrilled to be able to sit next to the President of Indonesia.

Kaliurang - Westerling Terror

Poverty in Kaliurang

It is not clear to Alida's children, whether the Kaliurang episode was before or after Sarangan. Probably "after" Sarangan.
Bob seemed to have a house in Kaliurang and one of her neighbours was the CPM family, Aryati and  XXXXX, and their 2 children (Henny and Widyawati, later on a top film star in Indonesia).

It was clear that food was scarce, and Kaliurang was occupied by the Dutch (Westerling and team). So once in a while, on a lucky day, Alida would get Kraft cheddar cheese in a tin, and it was truly a precious food item, eaten only bit by bit so as to  make it last long. Being Dutch, cheese meant a lot to Alida.
Pangs of hunger forced Bob to catch and skin snails, not quit escargot, as nobody ate snails.  But in war times, it did not matter. So Bob cleansed and cut snails to be cooked. Snails could be found everywhere, in the garden, in the trees, etc. Indri remembers this period with a shudder.

The Westerling Terror

Suddenly there was a rough knock and banging at the front door, and soldiers shouting "open the door!". Bob ran to hide under the bed, and told Alida to see them. Alida got angry and frustrated, not to mention scared. Why couldn't Bob just face them, why shoud she go to see them while he comfortably hid under the bed? But being Alida, she opened the door and bravely addressed them. They seemed to be Westerling's (Ambonese) "Dutch" soldiers demanding to see Bob. She said he is not around. They did not believe her and started to investigate in the house including bedrooms. They finally found Bob and barked at him to stand up - hitting him with the back of their guns. Bob said: "ok, ok, please stop (sudah, sudah, sudah)", and followed them out of the house. They took him away. Alida was shocked. scared and devastated. She could not understand why.

The Kaliurang area became noisy with shots, But Alida. determined to know what happened to Bob, bravely walked out, and came with Indri and Boy to the so called quarters of Westerling. While walking there, shots were again heard and she quickly dropped flat to the ground with Indri and Boy, crying and clutching her children close to her.  They lay flat in the smelly gutter. Suddenly she heard a soothing voice (in Dutch): "It's ok Mevrouw, don't worry, you are safe here". The voice was from a soldier / officer of the Westerling group. She then learned that Bob was accused of killing the Dutch and will be executed tomorrow. Alida, shocked, cried and defended Bob saying: "He did not kill anyone, He is just a teacher. Please tell Westerling". She continued to plead, but got no satisfactory response. There, she and the kids managed to see so many Indonesians squatting or sitting on the floor, awaiting their turn to be executed.

Failing a satisfactory response, Alida had to go back home with the kids. Suddenly, around dusk, the door opened, and Bob walked in, only with a sarong, chest bare. Alida and children were overjoyed to see Bob unharmed. Alida's effort must have saved Bob's life as he was spared. In this case, Alida being Dutch seemed to be a plus.
The terror of not seeing Bob again forever must have been very scary,  deep and painful. Alida had no means of income. What would she do if Bob were executed? How would she live to feed Boy and Indri?

Wirogunan - Jail of Yogya

Somehow Alida and children (Boy and Indri) ended up living in Yogya, in the pavillion of Mr Hoegeng (Later on Chief of Staff of the Police) and his wife Meri. Hoegeng is Bob's cousin (same Grandfather). They lived in Jl Jetis 22, together with the Soedarsono's (pak Dar).

At that time, somehow, Alice was being looked after by Warti, Bob's half sister and widow of Iswahjoedi, who was grieving after her husband crashed in Malakka, and not having a child of her own with Iswahjoedi. This was agreed upon because Alida had a very limited means of income from Bob, and Yogya was at war with the Dutch. But the separation caused Alida much grief. The foto showed Warti and Alice during Alice's stay at Warti's in Madiun.

This was during the second clash of the Indonesians versus the Dutch, very much happening in Yogya. Across Hoegeng's house was the Dutch soldiers' camp, who patrolled daily in the Yogya city. Boy and Indri played at that camp very often, befriending the Dutch soldiers, and could ride with the patrol tank, just for fun.

It was not clear when, but certainly as they were there in Yogya, Bob and Alida and Boy and Indri were seized and put in prison, Wirogunan. Bob was separated from Alida and put in the male part of the prison, together with many political prisoners. Alida, crying and devastated was put, fortunately with Boy and Indri, in another part of the prison. Indri remembered this very well. The jail bars, the small room with a toilet in it. Alida cried most of the time, not understanding why.

The story was that Bob again was accused by the Dutch soldiers of killing Dutch soldiers, and that Alida was a Dutch traitor (cause she married an Indonesian?).
After a month in jail, Boy and Indri were released to return to the Hoegeng family. This was a severe blow to Alida, to be separated from her husband to start with, and now from her children. Alida herself was, after 3 months in jail, finally released an reunited with Boy and Indri at the Hoegeng family. For a while, Alida visited Bob as often as possible with Boy and Indri in the jail. Bob was not allowed to go out, so Alida talked to him facing Bob behind bars. Indri remembers the scene very well, her mom crying and kissing bob with iron bars in between.

At a certain point Bob was transferred to a jail in Surabaya by the Dutch. This shocked Alida, and did not know what to do. She was of course very much indebted to the Hoegeng family for taking her and the children on, all those times.

Somehow, Alida was reunited again with Alice, and after knowing that Bob was released, and that Bob joined the Navy as Captain in Surabaya, she travelled to Surabaya, and got a house from the Navy in Jl Diponegoro 71, Surabaya. That was the start of a more peaceful era after the many tense and horrible times in Central Java. She finally departed with all her children, complete, to join Bob in Surabaya.

Alida's Wealth / economic conditions

Alida's struggle to make ends meet.

Somehow, most of her lifetime as Bob's wife in Indonesia, was marked by poverty, in varying degrees. Only the first 3 years in Bogor, Bob earned well as a teacher (still Dutch era, before Indonesian independence).

Since then Alida had to suffer poverty, eating simple foods, no clothes, no entertainment, only sufferings (fear, terror, no food, devastation, sttruggle - in short, so many uncertainties).
Although not that much richer, she had a reasonably good financial time during Bob's tenure as Captain in the Navy. The era was not so much marked by financial wealth as friendships' wealth with other navy Officers like Martadinata, Maris, Saleh, Thomas, Hoenholtz, Ruggebrecht, Frits, etc. They had a lot of soical gathering between the officers and officers' wives and Alida was reasonably happy and content.

Even though she was seen as "rich", she somehow managed to convince the catholic schools that she could not afford to pay a high school fee for her children. So, in the end, Alida's children could enjoy a good education in top schools in Surabaya and Jakarta, but paying least.

Later on, she decided to continue her piano lessons in YPM, so as to be able to teach piano. PLaying the piano, although always from the book, has been pne of her consolations as it gave her self confidence.  She bought a piano (how she could afford one is not known), a treasured piece for her. Teaching piano she did very well, including arranging performances for her pupils. This has allowed her to earn extra income for the household. She also sowed clothes and doll rattan cribs, which she adorned with cute stuffs and trimmings, to make it a nice looking crib for children. This she sold and earned money with it.

Whilst in Surabaya, as a Naval officer's wife, Alida gave the officers' wives swimming lesson in Pasiran, the Navy's swimming pool base in Surabaya. Bob probably taught her how to teach. So Alida became a very popular figure amongst the Navy officers' wives.

When Bob worked at the PFN, things got even harder financially. The salary, as a civil servant, was meagre, even less than when Bob was a naval officer. As a Naval officer, Bob would still get raw staple food from the navy. But in PFN, things were different.

One day, Indri came home from school, and was aghast to see Alida lying on the floor, crying so badly. Indri asked why. Alida cried saying "we have no money to buy rice". This was a very shocking experience also for Indri, who could not stand seeing her mother cry. Indri cannot remember how the problem was solved, except that during that period, the family were given corn rice (a popular mixture to replace plain rice, as it was cheaper).
The Devaluation during Soekarno's era

In this period, Bob was already retired from the PFN. Bob tried to make documentary films. And in those days, Alida had the good sense to invest Bob's money in a few reels / tin of raw 35 mm films. Bob scolded Alida about it, saying she wasted money without his consent. Alida cried bitterly. The next day came the government announcement that Rp 10.000 bills were devalued to become Rp 1000,-. Because of her investment in the raw film material, it could now be sold with the "new money" which made them comfortable. And Bob certainly praised Alida afterwards for her good sense, and all was well again.

Indri's wedding - constraint of money for the party

When Indri got married, where it is traditional that the bridegroom's party had to pay for the celebrations, Alida mentioned that she could not afford to pay for a celebration. So the only thing was that she could offer a limited quantity of food, basically nasi rawon (a popular, yet simple, Surabayan dish), and even that was mostly contributed by Bob's relative Mrs Moersito. That's how poor Alida and Bob were. So finally, Makki sold his car to pay for the reception and traditional ceremony, and Alida prepared for the house celebration after Indri's Church ceremony, with only nasi rawon (which by the way, ran out, much to Indri's embarrasment, because more guests than food were available).

Eating waste rice / Snails

As an illustration, the difficult years financially during the Japanese war , Dutch second clash in Yogya and the Communists terror, Alida learned to live even more frugally. Indri remembers, at one occasion in Surabaya, she asked to be given the remnant rice meals of the Naval soldiers (nearby naval barracks), which she washed and recooked for the family to eat.
Another illustration, was eating snails (that were available by the dozens in trees / fence. etc) as prepared by Bob.

Conflicts with Bob

Alida obviously loved Bob very much. But she had a difficult time getting a constant loving response from Bob, even though she worked hard to secure her family. Being a charming person and fun to be with, Bob was often exposed to situations where women "fell" for him.

One day, Indri came home from Junior high school, at the age of around 12 yrs, and saw Alida crying inconsolably, flat on the floor in the dining room. Indri was shocked, and asked why. Alida cried saying "You were right, you were right, papi is now in Sukabumi with "X", staying with her". Indri knew immediately who it was, cause she had somehow signalled to Alida about a romantic or flirtatioous relations of Bob and "X", as Indri sensed and observed this flirtatious behaviour of Bob. But at that time, when Indri cried and cried about it, Alida shrugged it off as Indri's childish behaviour.

This period was a very painful period of Alida, who did many things to confront Bob about it, including showing her anger by throwing a pot of plants to Bob. And at this time, she decided to travel to Holland to see her parents for the first time after she arrived in Indonesia, and to get a brief space from Bob. Bob probably agreed to assuage his guilt.

So Alida left for Holland by boat (planes were not too much on in those days and was of course financially prohibitive) and brought with her the 2 youngest - Alice and Irwan.
This had a negative as well as a positive effect on Boy and Indri. The negative thing being that both felt so lonely (Bob was rarely at home), and positively, both reconciled as they were both lonely (Boy and Indri often fought in the past, basically Boy bullying and attacking Indri, his competition in geteting love from Bob).

The other (ongoing) conflict with Bob was the fact that Bob continued to harass Alida about her background, especially her education, or lack of it. He often belittled her, and that hurt her very much, making her feel so humiliated. Maybe the fact that she is Dutch, the nation that occupied Indonesia for 350 yrs, a heart ache for Indonesians, triggered Bob to leash out at Alida, so as to make Bob feel superior over a Dutch person. Alida often confided to Indri about this, crying sadly. Madame "X", Bob's lover, probably gained Bob's favour because she was Indonesian, femme fatale looking, and very intelligent (completed the HBS), so Bob felt he could "communicate intelligently" with her. Bob's affair continued while Alida went to Hollanda with Alice and Irwan. In this period Bob was still in the Navy, and shortly afterwards, moved to work as Director of PFN, again in line with his passion for the fim industry.

Thanks to a certain point to Indri's threats to Bob (remember, Indri was Bob's favourite child), Bob finally ended his affair, but the affair did take a few years, meaning that many years of suffering for Alida.

Boy's Delinquency

If one remembers how Boy was getting all the attention when he was born, until "cute" Indri arrived on the scene, one can imagine the devastation Boy must have felt. All attentions "seem" to go to Indri, especially from Bob. This was despite the fact that Boy was the best looking son in the family.

Since that time, Boy would do many things, wrong things, to regain attention. But no amount of effort from Alida would satisfy his hunger for attention from Bob, who only seemed to have eyes for Indri.

Boy became a problematic scholar, not being able to learn properly. Alida had to find new schools for him each time as he did not well scholastically. It was always Alida who tried to solve and / or correct things. But it was Bob that Boy was after, to get Bob's attention. He somehow felt, he never got one. Although he loved Indri, his sister, he was also very jealous of her and started to harass and bully Indri, resulting in violent fights between the two. Indri would normally run to Alida to seek protection, and thus Boy got scolded. This became routine and the scolding to Boy was interpreted wrongly as him being not loved, even by Alida.

Alida had to cope with Boy's jealousy of Indri for so many years. Boy would always try to get attention by running away from school or from home. Indri remembers how Alida often would wait up for Boy on the porch in Jl Irian where most trouble started. She would cry, or sleep on the floor out of tiredness, but wanting to be there should Boy come home.

Boy, irwan, Indri and Alice in Jl Irian, the peak of the tension.

The most painful moments for Alida was when Boy had accidents, of which the biggest oine being where he almost died as he was run down by a car (probably Boy's mistake as his he made a turn on his bike without seeing traffic). The direction sign tool of the car (protruding in those days) got stuck in his lower head-part behind his ears. His main vein was affected and blood oozed forth uncontrolably. Alida ran to the site as soon as she got word about it, as it happened near her house, and she was still clad in her housecoat. Fortunately a Dutch registered nurse passed by and came to Boy's aid. She held his vein to stop the bleeding. The car then transported Alida and Boy and the nurse to Cikini hospital, and he had to have surgery, local anasthesia only. Boy cried and Alida thus cried too. This particular accident was the worse one Alida (and Boy) encountered in Boy's accident prone life. One would have thought that Boy would change after this. But no, he continued this attention seeking behaviour to run away from home, to steal Bob's car now and then (teaching Irwan to do the same), to steal Bob's pistol to brag with it with his friends.

One can imagine the heartache and difficulties Alida faced each time, to assure Boy of her love for him, to find schools (or dorms) for him, so that he could get on with his education, etc. But Boy wanted Bob's attention, and that seemed to be not forthcoming in the way Boy wanted. Until she was past 80 years, Alida always thought of Boy's welfare, and supported him financially all the time, as Boy had Diabetes type2 and foot wounds (both feet) that never seemed to get well to date. This was because Boy became handicapped to earn money.

Boy's erratic behaviour continued till he was about over 20.
Boy then started to earn money as a truck driver during the Ganefo stadium build up, as he had no proper formal education. He later on then decided to emigrate to Australia - where his skills (driving trucks / forklift) paid very well. Boy thus stayed in Australia for about 20 years, got married again to a Scottisch woman and got 3 children, the last being twins. until he was laid off by the company he worked for, because the company closed down. He proved to be a loyal and good worker, and was highly appreciated by his boss. Being laid off made Boy decide to return to Jakarta.