Sunday, August 19, 2012

The first clue to a missing past - An address

I received an email from my brother, Andrew, with a scanned image of the below sketch.  It is of my Opa (Grandfather), looking very gaunt, and it was done by a fellow prisoner, one A.J.W.Scheffer, in Changi Prison, Singapore in 1942.  On the back is written in Dutch: “ Mrs. M.  Van Bael” with two addresses in Bandung!

Everyone in the family is trying to figure out the 1st address which is badly faded, apparently written originally with a less than confident hand.  Deciphering this is made more difficult by the old fashioned swirling handwriting.  A question mark indicates that of the two addresses, this was a longer shot.   

They had previously been living in Belitung, a beautiful island between Sumatra and Borneo famous for tin mining.  But once it was clear that the war had not escaped the East Indies, all Dutch people had been evacuated from there and taken to Batavia for safety.  After Hans had been captured, Tikus decided to take her two girls further away to Bandung where her good Indonesian friend Moesje, a mother herself and previously married to a Dutchman, might be able to help them.
Was the Nylandweg address Moesje’ s home?  (Weg =  road  in Dutch).  What could the other address be?
Ideas are currently ranging from Lahus de Huistafries Laan to Bekent de Montague Laan, so I’m not overly confident that a definitive answer is going to jump out at us any time soon!
In the meantime, I have found the modern name for Nylandweg via a website which has a full list of old Dutch Bandung street names and their corresponding new ones.   It is Jalan Cipaganti (Jalan = road in Bahasa) -  a 15 minute walk from my building!  It’s the road that always makes me wonder “what do these people do to be able to afford such gorgeous houses?!”.    There are old Colonial houses that have been renovated, new houses pretending (unconvincingly) to be Colonial, and modern constructions of monumental proportions.
I found number 123, behind a large new fence.   These are the best photos I could get, but it seems that it is a new build, albeit in the old style.

#123 in foreground is dwarfed by a modern structure next door

At the end of Jalan Cipaganti, the road curves round to a small street with a newish sign: JALAN NYLAND. There are only 12 houses on this street before it continues on to Number 13 Jalan Cipaganti.  Had I not walked the length and breadth of this road and all of the roads around it, trying to get a feel for this place, I might have missed this tiny remnant of a past not quite forgotten.

I want to try to speak to the people now living at number 123.  I asked the gardener next door where the owners were and he said that they are Jakartans and that they “haven’t yet come down to Bandung for the holiday”.   I don’t think I can knock on the door during Idul Fitri holiday, so I will wait a few days but hope to catch them before they return.
Did Hans manage to send this sketch to his wife? (If so, this means that one of these addresses was correct at some point in time) or did he hold on to it for all those years?............................

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