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Jenifer Leidelmeijer

Hello! Hallo! Hola! 

I’m Jenifer Leidelmeijer and I am a first-generation Dutch-Indonesian (Indo Dutch or Dutch Indo) Mexican American also referred to as a “Latindo”. I grew up establishing multiple identities to maneuver through my diversified world as a child of immigrants, my father, Robert Leidelmeijer, is from the Netherlands and Mother, Maria Padilla-Leidelmeijer is from Mexico. For my parents and relatives, assimilating into the American culture was highly sought, however, preserving our cultural traditions was also important. So, I was raised in a melting pot culture full of flavorful food, vibrant music, and several celebrations including the Holland Festival, Maluku Picnics, New Years/Ano Nuevo, Navidad, and Posadas, family reunions, and joyful birthdays. 

My late Opa, Hans Leidelmeijer, was passionate about decoding our family lineage. He left us with a family tree that included 8 generations of the Leidelmeijer lineage. Thanks to my Opa’s efforts, I had a strong foundation to help create my own family tree on FamilySearch.org. After many dedicated hours of research, I now have a robust family history that extends back to the first “Leidelmeijer”: Hans Leidelmeijer who was from Austria. My Leidelmeijer lineage arrived in the Dutch East Indies in 1803 with Josephus Leidelmayer who came from Germany to serve as a soldier for the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army and had a relationship with a native Indonesian woman named Cherina. My Alting-Siberg Lineage arrived in the Dutch East Indies before 1776 with Johannes Siberg who was from the Netherlands and married Petronella Alting from Batavia. My Rösener Manz lineage arrived in the Dutch East Indies in the late 1800s (~1890s) with Johan Christiaan Elisa Rösener Manz who married Salia Antoinetta Tielman from Djember. Lastly, my Rehatta lineage were native Indonesians from Ambon, Maluku Province, of which I can only trace back to my great grandfather, Matthijs Marcus Rehatta born in 1903.

My Oma, Anna Constanca Rehatta, and Opa, Hans Leidelmeijer, were both born in the Dutch East Indies (Sawahlunto and Batavia). Oma Annie lived on a plantation with servants, her family was able to live a nice middle-class lifestyle because her father, Opa Matthijs, was a traffic supervisor and built roads and bridges to unite the villages around West Sumatra. Oma Annie’s mother, Wilhelmina Adriana Rösener Manz (Oma Min) was a stay-at-home mother who raised 6 children. In their spare time, the family would listen to the radio and hunt tigers. Oma Annie describes herself as being a tomboy, fighting with the boys, and defending her sisters. Opa Hans and his family also lived a nice middle-class lifestyle with servants. Life for my ancestors was simple and easy-going until the war came. 

Like many Dutch and Dutch-Indo families in the Dutch East Indies during the Second World War, my ancestors fell victim to horrendous treatment by the Imperial Japanese Army. Though many of my family’s war experiences remained in the past, small details about their experiences were revealed to us over time. My Oma’s family endured severe hardship during the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies. My Oma’s father, Mattijs Marcus Rehatta, was arrested by Japanese soldiers in the middle of the night. Oma Min tried to fight them off, but she was pushed down as her young children anxiously watched and cried in fear. Soon after, Oma Min and her children were transported via truck and train to Moara prison camp where they were interned from April 1943 to August 1945. They were housed in a loft where they slept on the bare cement floor and did not receive any meals from the Japanese. They were, however, allowed to leave the loft for 1-hr every day to scavenge for food in trash cans of the Japanese soldiers. My Oma was a young girl, 6 years of age when she was interned. She described catching and eating bugs, digging through the trash for any food scraps, walking on shrapnel barefooted, and fighting for food. On October 31st, 1943, Opa Matthijs was brutally murdered by decapitation. It is said that the Japanese Soldiers sent his severed finger to Oma Min to announce his passing. This left my Oma Min widowed with 5 children to care for and 6 months pregnant with her youngest, Ivonne Rehatta.  There were no sanitary conditions, and they fell ill without proper medicine and poor nutrition. They suffered from starvation, edema, beriberi, dysentery with blood discharge, ulcerated eyes, and tropical ulcers. Later in the camp, My Oma (9 yr) and her older sister, Christine Wilhelmina Rehatta (10 yr), took care of their younger siblings who all fell very ill due to the poor conditions of the camp. Sonja (7 yr), Pauline (5 yr), Willem (4 yr), and Ivonne (1 yr) all laid motionless on the floor of their loft for months with only a small hole in the ceiling to peek outside and watch a coconut tree grow. My Oma recalled Willem’s cold, pale body thinking he was sleeping but only to realize he succumbed to his sicknesses. Two months later, baby Ivonne Rehatta passed away at only 1 year 6 months of age. Pauline and Sonja, fortunately, regained their strength thanks to the heroism of their family. For my Opa Hans and his family, their imprisonment was much less severe, although they too lost everything to the Japanese and Indonesians. They were imprisoned in a house with several families. They, fortunately, received food from the Imperial Japanese Army, however, they would stand in line for 2 hours just for a little ration of soup, and to buy sugar or rice if they could afford it. Bersiap ultimately took the lives of my Dutch ancestors who were able to survive Internment by the Japanese but who fell victim to the murders by the Indonesian Rebels.

After the Second World War and Bersiap, both of my grandparent’s families eventually settled in Surabaya, Indonesia. Life after the war wasn’t easy for the Dutch-Indos in Indonesia, they lost everything and had to rebuild their lives ground up. The Dutch and Dutch-Indos had to keep their backgrounds hidden from the native Indonesians in fear of being murdered for being Dutch. Nonetheless, they were able to live somewhat normal lives, received an education, played sports, attended dances, made life-long friendships, and loving relationships. Opa Hans and Oma Annie started dating in Indonesia where they enjoyed pedicab rides and dancing. 

Oma Annie and her family repatriated to the Netherlands in the late 1950s via cargo plane. Oma Annie and Opa Hans would write to each other longing for the day they would be together again. Opa Hans and his family’s application for repatriation to the Netherlands was rejected 7 times. Families in the Netherlands continued to support and sponsor their repatriation and fortunately, they were accepted to repatriate to the Netherlands in 1960 via ship. My Opa and Oma married on July 5th, 1961. They then had their first son, my father, Robert Edwin Leidelmeijer in the Netherlands. The cool temperate climate of the Netherlands was extremely different from the warm, tropical climate they were accustomed to in Indonesia. Additionally, they also had some bad experiences from the Dutch who weren’t happy with all Dutch-Indos repatriating back to the Netherlands. In search of a place that reminded them of home and opportunity for future generations, they sought to immigrate to the United States of America.

In 1962, Opa Hans and Oma Annie were granted permission to immigrate to the United States of America and were sponsored by a Baptist Church in Oklahoma, USA. My Oma, Opa, and father came to the United States of America in 1962, on the S.S. Waterman arriving in the Port of New York (5th Street, New Jersey). Accompanying them on this trip was my Oma Min and my Oom Benny Rosnermanz. They first moved to Oklahoma and then moved to Los Angeles where they settled in La Mirada. Oma and Opa had their second son, Oom Richard Leidelmeijer, in the United States and they raised their sons to play soccer and develop an appreciation for music. In the 1970s and 1980s, my dad, Robert Leidelmeijer, and Opa Hans played in a Dutch-Indo band called Lone Stars with other band members including Ron, Dotty, and Robbie Jacobs. They played Kroncong, rock and roll, and country music at house parties, underground shows, and local lodges. Southern California became a micro-ethnic enclave for the Dutch-Indonesian community. Friends and family members also moved to southern California where they organized Maluku picnics, volleyball tournaments, bowling leagues, New Year’s Eve Parties, and Holland festivals. These activities and celebrations helped bring the Indo community together for generations. 

Oma Annie and Opa Hans then moved to Whittier, California in the 1980s where they welcomed my parents to live with them as they started their own family. I remember my Opa and Oma growing colorful tulips and roses, and exotic fruits including cherimoya, banana, pomegranate, loquat, kaffir lime, calamansi lime, mangoes that still provide bountiful fruits annually. They were so passionate about gardening and allowed us to get muddy in the garden with them making mud pies, breaking rocks, and digging holes. Opa Hans would often play his keyboard in the living room and all of us would dance and sing to the songs he played. These frequent evenings influenced our interest in music and instrument learning. Oma and Opa would always celebrate our Indo culture by bringing treats from Holland like our favorite chocolate cigarettes, speculaas cookies, and Sinterklaas chocolate letters! For Dutch Christmas, they would take us to meet Sinterklaas and Zwart Piet and we would get chocolate and toys. 

Opa Hans passed away on August 19th, 1999. His legacy is an appreciation for music, photography, dancing, and gardening. Oma Annie recently passed away on December 28th, 2018. Her legacy is a passion for cooking and making sure everyone was fed; and a story of perseverance. Oma always told my father, “Be like a weed in the garden and always continue to grow even when you are constantly being chopped down.” This serves as a reminder that life will always have its challenges but it is important to persevere and grow stronger through adversity. Oma was a true matriarch to the Leidelmeijer Family, and to celebrate her legacy we continue our cultural traditions of cooking Indonesian/Dutch food, celebrating birthdays gleefully singing “Lang zal ze leven”, and venturing through life fearlessly. 

We always have and will continue to attend Maluku picnics, Holland Festivals in Long Beach, and other gatherings accompanied by fellow Indos, traditional music, and home-cooked Indo dishes and desserts (especially spekkoek!). Although I did not know many people at these festivals in my childhood, I remember my Oma had many friends and acquaintances at these gatherings – she was popular! Like my Oma, I now have a community of Indo friends I have met through school and work. My family and I enjoy embracing our culture by sharing my ancestors’ stories, eating at local Indo restaurants, and cooking our favorite Indo dishes such as sate, nasi goreng, lumpia, gado-gado, bolletjes soep, babi kecap, kroketten, frikandel, and bruine bonensoep (we make this on New Year’s day for good health and prosperity). Fortunately, my mother learned many family recipes from my Oma Annie and Oma Min for which she has been teaching me and my sisters. 

As a shrinking micro-minority, I think it is important to connect the 3rd and 4th generation Indo community to help them embrace their roots that help form the American cultural mosaic. This connection with our ancestral ties builds community and fosters the respect and understanding needed in present-day multicultural America. Thank you for reading my Indo family story! Feel free to reach out to me if you’d like to chat about Dutch-Indonesian history, multicultural cuisine, and traditions. 

In Honor of the Fallen 1940 – 1945: The list of my family members who were war victims (Japanese Occupation and Bersiap) (still in progress):

  • Matthijs Marcus Rehatta (1903 – 1943), An officially recognized war victim who was murdered by the Japanese Imperial Army Soldiers. 
  • Willem Rehatta, (1941-1945), An officially recognized war victim who passed away in a Japanese-operated internment camp in Padang.
  • Ivonne Rehatta, (1944 – 1945), An officially recognized war victim who passed away in a Japanese-operated internment camp in Padang.
  • Atie Maria Ibrahim (1877 – 1945), Murdered by Indonesian Nationalists during Bersiap which began in August 1945 (Immediately after Japan surrendered WW2)
  • Rudolf Willem Alting Siberg (1917-1942), Sergeant, Military Aviation of the Royal Dutch East Indies Army 1917-1942, A officially recognized war victim who passed away in a Hospital in Ambon, Possibly murdered by Japanese invasion known as Battle of Ambon.
  • Johan Cornelis Alting Siberg (1903 – 1945), An officially murdered by Indonesian Nationalists during Bersiap which began in August 1945 (Immediately after Japan surrendered WW2)
  • Cornelis Eduard Alting Siberg (1906 – 1945), Murdered by Indonesian Nationalists during Bersiap which began in August 1945 (Immediately after Japan surrendered WW2)
Dedicated to my Oma and Opa, ik hou van jou!
Wedding of Philip Richard Leidelmeijer and Rosaline Nancy Maphar, June 20th 1908, Batavia, Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). These are my great great grandparents. Parents of my great grandfather, Philip Hendrik Lodewijk Leidelmeijer.
Wedding of Philip Hendrik Lodewijk Leidelmeijer and Louise Margaretha Adeleida Alting-Siberg, December 11th, 1935, Batavia, Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). The wedding of my great grandparents.
Back left to right: Cornelis Eduard Alting Siberg, Johan Cornelis Alting Siberg, Johannes Piet Cornelius Arnold Alting-Siberg, Philip Hendrik Lodewijk Leidelmeijer, Louise Margaretha Adeleida Alting-Siberg, Rudolf Willem Alting Siberg, Rosaline Nancy Marphar, Arnold?, Philip Richard Leidelmeijer, Willem André Leidelmeijer, 
Front: unidentified nieces and nephews, Bea? Rene? Eveline?

Family portrait, post WW2. Left tot right: Sonja (Wattimena), Christine (Usmany), Wilhelmena Adriana Rosnermanz Rehatta, Anna Constanca Rehatta (Leidelmeijer), Pauline Rehatta (Latumeten).
Memorial for Ivonne Rehatta, Matthijs Marcus Rehatta, and Willem Rehatta, Dutch field of honor, Leuwigajah at Cimahi, Indonesia. 

Wedding of Hans and Anna Leidelmeijer, July 5th, 1961, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Left to right: Wilhelmena Adriana Rosnermanz Rehatta, Louise Margaretha Adeleida Alting-Siberg Leidelmeijer, Philip Richard Leidelmeijer, Hans Richard Johannes Leidelmeijer, Anna Constaca Rehatta Leidelmeijer, Philip Hendrik Lodewijk Leidelmeijer, unidentified woman. 

My dad, Robert Leidelmeijer, and my Oma, Anna Leidelmeijer immigrating to the United States on the S.S. Waterman 1962.
Lone Star Band (1970s-1980s): Top: Ron Jacobs, Robert Leidelmeijer, Hans Leidelmeijer
Bottom: Robbie and Dotty Jacobs

Wedding of my parents, Robert Leidelmeijer and Maria Padilla-Leidelmeijer, August 1st, 1987, Norwalk, California, USA. 

80th Birthday Party for Anna Constanca Rehatta Leidelmeijer, 2016, Whittier, California, USA.
Back: Hans Leidelmeijer, Robert Leidelmeijer, Ryan Watkins, Brodee Watkins, Allyson, Astrid Walker, Yvonne Usmany, Anna Latumeten, Jessica Latumeten, Jenifer Leidelmeijer, Linda Leidelmeijer-Lagmay, Devin Lagmay.
Middle: Sarah Leidelmeijer, Andrea Leidelmeijer, Lina Leidelmeijer-Watkins, Anna Leidelmeijer, Maria Padilla-Leidelmeijer, Robert Leidelmeijer, Anna Rehatta-Leidelmeijer, Paulina Rehatta-Latumeten, Richard Leidelmeijer
Front: Bobby Lagmay, Marley Watkins, Leilani Watkins, Ashley Leidelmeijer, Raquel Lagmay, Kaden Watkins.

Rehatta Family Reunion hosted by the Leidelmeijer Family, attended by the Latumeten Family, Usmany Family, and Wattimena Family, 2017, Whittier, California
Wedding of Mike Sauceda and Sarah Leidelmeijer, July 21st,  2018, Sante Fe Springs, California.Back Left to right: Jenifer Leidelmeijer, Maria Dolores Padilla-Leidelmeijer, Mike Sauceda, Sarah Christine Leidelmeijer, Robert Edwin Leidelmeijer, Robert John Leidelmeijer. Front: Ashley Marie Leidelmeijer (Anna’s daughter), Anna Marie Leidelmeijer, Anna Constanca Rehatta-Leidelmeijer.

In memory of my Moluccan Oma
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PINDAH*, The sequel

By popular demand.  The second edition of “the glossy with an Indo Dutch touch”.  Immediately after the release of the first issue, there was a high demand for a sequel.  Once-only stood in the way of completeness.  The hunger for our Dutch East Indies heritage turned out to be very much alive.  An online survey confirmed this picture.  There was no other way, they had to continue.
Not only the second, third and fourth generations of the Indo Dutch Community had been awakened, the rest of the Netherlands and even here in SOCAL was also interested in this “largest and quietest minority”.  It has been understood from readers that the magazine has often been given as a gift to parents and grandparents.  The magazine was read or even read together.  Many questions from children and grandchildren were finally answered by the articles.  Especially by the proud grandparents who unfortunately are tested again in this difficult time for their resilience and adaptability.

The umpteenth adjustment.  Our (grand) parents moved to the Netherlands years ago.  Not because it was possible, but because they had to.  The new title of the glossy is therefore PINDAH * which means “To Move” in Bahasa Indonesia, pronounce “PEEN-DAH”...

This new PINDAH * reflects the diversity and inclusiveness of the Indo Dutch Community: stories about the Bersiap, seventy years of RMS, Decolonization, Backpay claims, the grief of the Papuans.  A mix in which no ingredient should dominate, as Kirsten Goote-Vos states in her interview: “If you want to make a good Soto, you have to be able to smell all the ingredients, nothing should dominate.  They must all come into their own. ”

The role of youth is essential to preserve our heritage.  Essential for the transfer of knowledge and information.  Hence a lot of attention in this PINDAH * for the third generation.  Young people who, as NRC journalist (NRC is one of The Netherlands major newspapers) Yaël Vinckx remarks in her contribution, can play an important role in passing on the stories because of their open-minded question to the elderly.  Because that’s what it’s about.  PINDAH * is very happy with the interviews with DJ Don Diablo, poet Ellen Deckwitz, the writing couple Auke Kok and Dido Michielsen and a number of SOCAL INDOS. They are very open about their own background and sources of inspiration.  Columnist and publicist Theodor Holman,  journalists Marc Chavannes and Hans Moll refer to their youth, what they have heard and seen and how those experiences have shaped them.

Read how deeply the Dutch East Indies is anchored in Yvonne Keuls, about the time Xaviera Hollander spent in a Japanese camp.  And how Louise Doorman writes about her grandfather Karel Doorman.

Of course also attention for entertainment: the Indo Dutch kitchen, an update of the latest Indo and Moluccan books, lifestyle according to Miss Sunny, art with Frans Leidelmeijer and much more.

In 2020, 75 years of freedom will be celebrated – some will celebrate on May 5, others on August 15, and for a third group there will be nothing to celebrate.  However, during the current Corona crisis, we all realize that being “free” doesn’t exist without security.  And that safety comes first, especially now.  Because otherwise there is nothing to commemorate.

PINDAH* deserves a place next to MOESSON “Het Indisch Maandblad” and the more than famous yellow booklet DE INDO created by our one and only SOCAI INDO Oom Rene Creutzburg.
CLICK HERE  to order your online PINDAH* Magazine : 
https://www.pindah-magazine.nl/winkelmand/
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Sunday, March 8th 2020 Demonstration at Dam Square, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The Indo Community declared a “Symbolic war” on The State of The Netherlands.
 
On Sunday, March 8, the “Day of the Revolt” took place on Dam Square in Amsterdam, The Netherlands on which the Indo Community symbolically declared war on the Dutch State. The manifestation drew attention to the lack of legal restoration for the thousands of war victims from the former Dutch East Indies.
 
The date refers to 8 March 1942, the day on which the Royal Dutch East Indies Army (KNIL) surrendered to the Japanese occupiers. During the Japanese occupation of the colony, thousands of Dutch and Indo soldiers and civilians were killed and died of hunger, exhaustion and abuse. After the Japanese capitulation and subsequently the violent Bersiap period and colonial war, there was hardly any restoration of rights for the war victims.
 
For example, the Dutch State invariably claimed that the payment obligation of the salaries of KNIL soldiers and civil servants over 3.5 years of Japanese occupation (the so-called backpay) has been transferred to the Indonesian Government. Making payment impossible. Archival research proves that this transfer never took place, the debt obligation remains with the Dutch State to this day.
 
In addition, the lack of legal restoration concerns never paid bank and savings balances, insurance policies and foreign compensation. Marga Klompé, Minister of Social Work, admitted during a private maintenance in 1958 that “The Indo people are sacrificed for greater interests”. The current value of the series of financial files is at least € 36.5 billion. This was during the Roundtable Conference of 30
September 2019 presented to Parliament Members by investigative journalist Griselda Molemans.
 
Initiators Peggy Stein and Anton te Meij of the Indo Platform 2.0 / Meldpunt Indische Kwestie/Indo Issue emphasize that this so-called Indo Issue has now dragged on for 75 years. ”Thirty post-war cabinets have largely ignored the outstanding debt to the Indo Community. Every once in a while some money has been sprinkled to calm the minds, but the first generation of war victims have been treated in a downright outrageous way. ”
 
“We stand up for them now. To finally give our grandparents and parents a voice. They themselves were unable to do this because, after arriving in the Netherlands, they were saddled with a large debt for their temporary stay in contract houses and silenced. It is impossible to celebrate 75 years of freedom if you do not recognize and settle the outstanding moral and legal debt to these war victims. ”
 
The Day of the Uprising took place between 12.30H and 18.00H on Dam Square in Amsterdam. Speakers included Marion Bloem (writer and documentary maker), Frans Leidelmeijer (Art Collector), Sylvia Pessireron (Chairman of the Task Force Indo Legal Restoration), Michael Passage (Founder SOuthern CALifornia INDO), Griselda Molemans (Investigative Journalist) and some children and grandchildren of war victims.
 
The closing performance was provided by the Moluccan band Massada. The band members hereby emphasize that their own KNIL fathers, loyal to the Dutch flag, struggled in vain for years to get their backpay paid out.

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Sjoekje Sasbone

Long pause…“Give it a try.”

“No. It’s ok…(awkward chuckle) I don’t want to say this wrong.”

“You’ll say it wrong but try. I won’t die or explode… c’mon… just try it.”

“Ok….Saah joke ka gee?”

“See! I’m fine. (Smiling) Also that’s wrong. It’s pronounced ‘shoek’ya’”

This has been the beginning of every single conversation I’ve had with people since the moment I had to introduce myself.

There have been a few modifications to this dialogue over the years. I have spared teachers the agony by saying my name first… unless I didn’t like the teacher… then they can power through it. When people look at my name tag, I tell them “it’s useless… just call me Suki” a nickname I acquired after the 500th failed attempt ending with “Suki?” “Yeah ok… it’s Suki.” I was 6 at that time.

I learned early on that if someone can’t pronounce your name nor tries, you are either completely avoided or completely focused upon as the point of unwarranted attention.

But you know what? My name is very special as it holds a wealth of history that has allowed me to educate everyone in my path about Friesland, the Moluccan Islands, Dutch Indonesian people, the history of World War II (WWII) fought in Southeast Asia and about my ancestors who live through me.

My name is Sjoekje Frederika Sasbone.

“Shoek’ya? Oh! That’s not that hard when you say it. Shoek’ya… That’s pretty! What is that?”

“Sjoekje is actually a Friesian name. Friesland is a province in Holland. My mom is Dutch and my dad is Indonesian.”

“It’s Dutch.”

“Oh…” (I know this look… the look of “you don’t look Dutch”). . Specifically, from the Moluccan Islands, known to you as the ‘Spice Islands’ where all your spices come from.”

My maternal Oma, named Sjoekje, lived to be 105 years old. She was born and lived in a town called Heerenveen, located in Friesland. On her 100th birthday, I asked her how long she lived there. Matter of factly, she said, “A hundred years.” I laughed and then realized it wasn’t an exaggeration, which made me chuckle even more. She was on the maiden flight of the first airplane flown in the city and she and my Opa Lucas owned and operated a restaurant. She was funny, personable and had friends of all ages until the day she died. Her last words to me were, “Sjoekje, don’t let anyone forget our name.” Oma and Opa had four children (one was still born). The middle child was my mother, Klaasje Anna, born in Leeuwarden, on her mother’s birthday, August 11, 1934.

One side of my family had their tragic experiences in Europe. My mother was 6 years old when WWII occurred, trekking between Holland and Germany with her family for survival and safety. My other side of my family was in combat clear across the other side of the globe. My father was a 19 year old prisoner of war (POW) in Indonesia proudly fighting for the Dutch army; captured by the Japanese right at the onset of their invasion in 1942 until the day the war ended in 1945. The war ended and so did the Dutch ruling over Indonesia.

My paternal Oma, Frederika died young but was known to be a very kind and loving mother. My Opa Joshua was a master of all weapons (including bayonet, rifle, pistol and sword), he fenced, he played the violin, he was a leader in his community, worked as a nurse in a prison and “everyone knew where he was in the village just by hearing his laugh”. They had six children (one was still born). The oldest son was my father, Alexander, born on The Moluccan Islands, on November 15, 1924.

Friesians have fought against the Vikings, negotiated with the Romans and have demonstrated ingenuity as evidenced by creating terps to prevent flooding due to the rising sea level. They are farmers from the North who are known for their stubbornness and strength. My great grandfather is on the books as previous owner of the windmill in Heerenveen. This side of the family has owned local businesses and restaurants dating back decades.

The Moluccan Islands are notorious for their warriors; fighting to the death for their families, justice and the honor of the queen. As aforesaid, it is also known as the “Spice Islands”, the origin of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, etc. This side of the family are not only warriors but they are explorers. My father’s true last name, Sasabone has been derived from my ancestors who traveled (hasa hasa: Sasa) along the Gulf of Bone, located within the island of Sulawesi (Celebes).

“Oh that’s a weird combo. Holland and Indonesia are so far away from each other. I’d never put those countries together. How unique!”

The “World War” part of WWII includes the battle fought in Southeast Asia. Not many people know that Indonesia was a Dutch colony, which meant Indonesians fighting for the Dutch against the Japanese, who fought with Germany.

One side of my family had their tragic experiences in Europe. My mother was 6 years old when WWII occurred, trekking between Holland and Germany with her family for survival and safety. My father was a 19 year old prisoner of war (POW) in Indonesia proudly fighting for The Dutch Army, captured by The Japanese right all the onset of their invasion in 1942 until the day the war ended in 1945. The war ended and so did the Dutch ruling over Indonesia.

Following the war, my mother worked in an office and lived in the Hague. At age 21, she flew to New York in 1956 with a friend, destination: California. She and her Norwegian girlfriend were having coffee in Beverly Hills and were approached by a wealthy woman who asked them to work for her. My mother was a nanny in Beverly Hills where she met different actors and other well known people. She eventually moved to Long Beach, as well as Belmont Shores and worked at both Memorial and St. Mary Hospital as a nurse. She decided to join the convent under the cloistered Carmelite order in Long Beach for a few years. When her sister came to the United States, my mother left the convent and they both moved to Buena Park. 

My father was in New Guinea for a little while during the war and eventually ended up in Haarlem, NL where he’d laugh and tell me, “It was cold, yo! We packed the snow to throw snowballs but didn’t know how so we hit each other hard with snow rocks!” In 1958, he played the stand up bass in two bands, “The Royal Hawaiians” and “The Silver Stars”; traveling through Holland, Belgium and Germany by bike. After working for KLM as a mechanic, at age 36 my father decided to sail to New York from France in 1960, “as an adventure”. In its final voyage, the USS United States was welcomed by fireworks as it sat idle next to the Statue of Liberty on the 4th of July. It subsequently docked on July 5th where Alexander Sasabone set foot into this country. My father first lived in Claremont, Calif. and worked as a gardener for the Claremont Manor. His sponsor was unkind, he hated his job and was in a country that made him ride in the back of a bus due to his skin color. He later moved to Pasadena and negotiated his rent via his knack for intricacies. He had a Master in Watch Making, so he fixed clocks for his landlady. For the next 42 years, he worked in Anaheim, Calif., as a parts engineer for Circle Seal; an aerospace plant that also specialized in helicopters and airplanes. He never once complained about this job during his entire tenure.

“Oh wow! So your mom is Dutch and your dad is Indonesian!? How did they meet? Over there in Holland? Must’ve been so romantic!”

My parents met at a Dutch club in Anaheim, Calif, called AVIO. My mother was 34 and my father was 44. She said that he was the only Indonesian person there, laughing, joking and socializing with everyone. Yeah.. she was crushing on him. “Zus! Why don’t you go for Al?” said my Tante (aunt). “He’s so fun and so nice. Al would be great for you!” On one occasion, my mother passed by him on her way to the restroom, he stopped her (knowing she was on a date) and said, “Why are you with that guy? Get rid of him and let’s go out.” Thanks to my Tante Annie, and his suave charm, my parents dated and married in 1971.

Klaasje was 37 and Alexander was 47 when their only child, Sjoekje Frederika, was born on July 15, 1972.

“Wow… I didn’t know all that history with those two countries. Were you born here or over there? Do you speak Dutch? Have you been there before?”

In Artesia, California born and raised in the playground is where I spent most of my days. Okay okay… it’s not as smooth as the Fresh Prince but it was worth a shot. I am “first generation American”, born in Pioneer Hospital, which is now an Asian food strip mall in the city of Artesia, Calif. I took my first steps on a Dutch soccer field in Friesland. I picked up the language when I was 7 years old, after living there for the summer prior to my 3rd grade year. I remember not understanding a single thing my parents were talking about before that trip and returning home understanding every single thing they said. Mostly talking about me. By the way, I never told them I understood Dutch until I was about 10 so… joke’s on them.

Admittedly, it was not easy growing up biracial in America from two unfamiliar cultures and looking nothing like either. Furthermore, I had older parents, which was very uncommon for that time. I was without siblings or cousins nor local family members outside of my parents and my maternal aunt and uncle who lived in Orange County. My family was spread out all over the world: Holland, New Zealand, Australia and Indonesia. My father changed his last name from Sasabone to Sasbone right before he got married. I was unfamiliar with that side of the family until 1997 when my cousin located me, taking a chance on a “Sasbone” listed in the phonebook. I was listed hoping someone would be looking for me too.

I was raised Dutch in America. My father would tell me that he’s an American first, then Dutch and referred to the Indonesians as “natives”.

Most Americans weren’t familiar with Indonesia, so I would geographically explain its relation to the Philippines for others to understand. The Dutch I’d interact with would tell me that I wasn’t really Dutch because I was half. Growing up in elementary school was a fun time, sarcastically speaking. I was terribly ridiculed for my name, the way I worded things (inheriting the way my parents would phrase sentences when translating it into English), the way I looked, how loud my laugh was… you name it, it was all on tap for being teased, outcasted and put down. I told my parents a few times when it was happening but stopped after a while because I saw that it was hurtful for them to hear this. I didn’t want them to feel bad.

Imagine the challenge for two people relentlessly balancing home life while healing from significant Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from WWII.

There was a lot of hurt from that era. That hurt would manifest into anger, sometimes appearing to be unprovoked in my eyes since I was just a little kid at the time being the spectator. There was a lot of anxiety due to so many factors, including not growing up in this country. Subsequently, this meant a lot of restrictions from things other kids were doing because it was unfamiliar, which meant unsafe. Ultimately, they were being protective. There was also an instilled philosophy of fighting for what is fair and honorable, never being put down by anyone and the expectation to demonstrate the fight was to be at a high intensity level in order to be heard.

Nevertheless, the basics must be honored and remembered by my mother’s poignant words:

“I came to the states with a trunk… a fun, happy girl looking for an adventure… helping a friend and looking deeper into what the United States had to offer a girl like me… my motto was ‘come what may, I came to stay.’ This is what it came down to: faith, hope and love. A husband from a country that spoke the same language as I did and a daughter sent from above.”

I know my parents loved me and they did the absolute best they could for me despite having to manage their own trauma and memories from the world’s unnecessary tragic events.

“You are so exotic looking. I totally Thought you were Mexican when I first met you ! And an only child, how lucky” !

Understand, I’m no victim.

I certainly was though. Years of daily bullying from other kids at school, then coming home to residual conflict stemming from PTSD, felt unyielding to navigate through. I don’t know what my peers’ domestic narratives were for them to choose to interact with me in the way they did, nor is it any of my business. I honestly blame no one. I was simply just a kid trying to be a kid, do my homework and experience life the way it was portrayed on TV. I had to move forward.

Even though I was an only child, we were in no financial state to spoil me. My parents worked extremely hard and lived an honorable, selfless life to ensure I had a good education, which meant sacrificing most popular toys and the trendy clothes my classmates had. In that sense, I can say I was spoiled with the love and opportunity to have a strong educational pathway.

What’s it like specifically growing up as a “SoCal Indo”?

As a child, I experienced feeling ignored, outcasted and isolated with children and other non related adults telling me what I was and what I wasn’t. For example, census time in the classroom… There was no way I could just pick one ethnicity because I was exactly two. What a relief when the “other” category manifested. At age 11, my mother took me for my social security card. I was instructed to pick one ethnicity on my application. I wasn’t doing it. I am exactly two. With my mother’s patience and support, (and my inherent stubbornness) we were there for 2 hours until the employee finally got their supervisor’s approval to put “Dutch Indonesian” on my card.

That day I learned two things after being completely done with the debate, argument, explanation and fight: (1) there is always a way and (2) I am no longer ignored and my voice of conviction finally mattered.

I went from victim to warrior.

Although there were a handful of peers who were unkind, I was very fortunate to have peers who weren’t cruel and were also “first generation American” from Portuguese and Filipino descent. We had our own unspoken understanding should any of our parents act or react a certain way. My mother was very much connected to the surrounding Dutch community so the traditions were very much intact. I had significant mentors in the form of teachers who helped me more than they would ever know. I had very close childhood friends who became my family, my siblings and my foundation which helped me foster more meaningful friendships later in life. I also had other cultures who unconsciously adopted me.

I am a chameleon. A cultural illusion.

Cultural diversity is very indicative of Southern California. First of all, I am mostly asked in Español, if I speak Spanish from someone in need of help. Thus, I took Spanish for 8 years (4 in high school and 4 in undergrad) so I could try to be of some help; actually becoming a bilingual tutor at a middle school for a few years after undergrad. Here’s my personal census integration tally: in Long Beach I’m mistaken for Samoan, in Hawaii I’m mistaken for a local, in the South I’m mistaken for half black, in Mexico I’m Mexican, I’m Italian in Italy, in some settings I’m Arab and during the World Cup events, I’m Brazillian. What an honor to be associated with such an array of beautiful cultures.

My mantra is to live a meaningful life and help as many people along the way. I did not want the recounts of my parents’ ambition to survive, ultimately result in vain… their only child becoming an unproductive member in society. There is absolutely no way I am going to leave the earth the same way I was introduced to it. Not with the tenacity of my Dutch and Indonesian predecessors running through my veins.

Every experience I have had has shaped me into the woman who stands here before you.

I have fostered compassion and empathy due to world circumstances that predates my birth. By being nonaffluent, coupled with the challenges I faced during my formative years, I am a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), a healer and a protector. I became culturally and historically insightful in order to taper down my volatile responses in the name of advocacy. I must still practice transitioning from, “Hey that’s just me. It’s how I ethnically respond to these things. We are passionate people!” to my thought bubble of “Not everyone deserves me at this high intensity level. My family’s trauma response is not mine and I need to dial it back a bit within the context of my own surroundings so I can be heard.” Finally, I bask in reflection of initially feeling as if I belonged to nothing, now accepting that I genuinely belong to everything. Due to the welcomed embrace from those around me, I’ve grown to be relatable, sensitive and awoken. Without reservations, I am invited into various cultures to learn more and more about my fellow brothers and sisters from other mothers and other misters.

At 91 years old, my father told me, “Life is too short Sjoekje.” “Even after 91 years, daddy?” “Yes. After 91 years, life is too short.”

My father passed away just shy of his 92nd birthday on October 23, 2016. He literally had a peaceful smile on his face, “no kidding” (as he would say). He was in the comfort of his own home, cared for by his wife of 45 years and was buried in the Artesia Cemetery.

I am fortunate to have the last surviving members of that generation with me in California, my mother and her sister whose husband of 42 years passed away last year. I am also fortunate to have established a connection with my family throughout the world for this legacy to carry on.

I will end with this:

I am my father’s daughter in that I love intricately detailed projects, I follow the urge to teach myself several different musical instruments, and love to joke with a loud hearty laugh.

I am my mother’s daughter in that I am spontaneous, generous and considerate of others while taking every opportunity that comes my way no matter how radical they seem.

I am the product of my parents and ancestors in that I am artistic, creative, unafraid, unstoppable when broken, unintimidated, adventurous, a knowledge seeker, a protector, a warrior and I command a presence even when I am unseen.

I am SJOEKJE FREDERIKA SASBONE.