Kroes owes his name to his Kroes head of hair: he is called Kroes Top or just Kroes. This doesn't worry him; a nickname is very common among Indos. At the outbreak of the war in Southeast Asia in 1942 Kroes is still too young for the army. But he is forced by the Japanese - as are many (Indo) boys of his age - to work for a mere pittance of a wage. There is a forge not far from their home. It is heavy and dirty work. The Japanese guards shout and are quick to hit you if you don't work hard enough. Kroes does his best to keep going. After all, it does bring in some money for the family. One Saturday evening in 1944 there is a loud knock at the door. A stern Japanese voice orders the door to be opened. Four Japanese soldiers stand in the doorway wielding their bayonets. Kroes watches helplessly as Pappie is taken away handcuffed like a criminal, accused of sabotage and espionage. Kroes knows for certain that his father would never do anything so dangerous. He would never endanger his family. Mammie is at a complete loss. How can she look after ten children on her own in wartime? In order to take some of the weight off Mammie's shoulders Kroes travels with his two sisters and his younger Broer Hardy to Auntie Co, his father's elder sister. She lives in a large house in Surabaya, a town in East Java. Kroes has to work in a paper mill there, under Japanese surveillance once again. Later he works on a farm. Thanks to the meagre earnings of the children Mammie can make ends meet. Then comes the news of Pappie's death. He fell ill in prison and died. This means that Kroes becomes the reluctant head of the fatherless family. He misses his father terribly, but has no time to grieve. He has to support Mammie and supervise his brothers and sisters. The responsibility is a heavy burden. There is no one he can turn to for advice. He prays a lot in private.
After the surrender of Japan on 15 August 1945 Pappie's family decide that the fatherless family should set sail for the Netherlands. The children would have a better future there. But in October of that year the bersiap breaks out with great intensity. The ship that was to take the family to the Netherlands cannot set sail. Initially the young rebels (pemudas) direct their aggression at the Japanese soldiers still in Semarang. Later, the widespread anger of the Javanese is also directed at everything that is Dutch. The Indos, who - unlike most of the Dutch - are held in Japanese civilian camps - suffer great hardship. Protection and support comes from an unexpected quarter: from their former Japanese oppressors! All boys aged 16 or older are put in prison for their own safety, guarded by armed Japanese. Kroes, too, and several of his brothers, except the handicapped Ab. Kroes feels relatively safe under the protection of the armed Japanese. Kroes is unaware that, not far from their home, there is heavy fighting between the pemudas and the Japanese, with heavy losses on both sides. Nor is he aware that some of his friends have been murdered by the pemudas.
Copyright © 2009 Lody Pieters