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‘So what…’ Mimi said, ‘I’m only 20. Mama was 19 when she had me. It’s not as if you are too young. Have you really never held a little baby in your arms and wished it was yours?’ 

‘God, no…! Why would I want to have a little baby? I want to be a singer.’ 

‘And that’s where the world comes to an end for Ilse Dijkstra, doesn’t it?’ 

‘Yes, to be honest …’ 

Singing was for a long time the very core of Ilse’s existence. Even as a toddler and her first years at school, Ilse liked listening to music and to sing along. Right from the start, it took charge of her emotional life and channelled it through the very highest and very lowest episodes for almost all of her life… 

Ilse was only eight years old in 1942 when she and her Mama were put into a women’s Japanese Concentration camp in Indonesia. As was Ilse’s Papa in a men’s camp… Transported back to Holland with her family after the war, without any schooling after more than four years in a concentration camp, and coming to the end of her endurance, trying to keep up with her peers in her Fourth Year High, it was singing that saw Ilse through a massive nervous breakdown. Then, wishing to go to Louisville in America to try and become a professional singer when she was 20 years old, Ilse was told it would take at least a year to get a visa for America. So, while waiting, Ilse spent a joyful year singing and working as a nanny in France. Where, to her delight, for the first time in her life she sang with a professional band. However, it was also in France that Ilse learned to her sorrow that life wasn’t always what it appears to be. In America, singing her favourite country music and jazz, life was good, very good. Leading her gradually to the place she’d hoped for and wanted to be. Until once more, Ilse was propelled into the heartbreaking and ugly side of living, which drove Ilse back to Holland, fighting through the mud and slush of a mind-destroying depression. Then onto South Africa, and back to Holland, once more to America – Las Vegas… 

Four years later, back to singing and slowly making a name for herself as a professional singer in Holland, Ilse was offered a position in Johannesburg, South Africa that she could not resist.  

It was there that she met a man called Sergio Fagioli …

In Store Price: $32.95 
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Ebook version - $AUD9.00 upload.

Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 402
Genre: Non Fiction

Other titles by this author 

The Fourteenth Day

And Then Came the Rain

Matters of Choice

Nulla and the Purple Poison Plant

The Hand of Fate

Cover: Clive Dalkins

Joyce Berendes
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published:  2017
Language: English


     Read a sample:

Joyce Berendes and Ilse… A life 

Former Actress, Dancer and Playwright and one time winner of Brisbane’s Twelve Night Theatre’s best actress award for her performance as a concentration camp survivor in the Australian play … A Game of Numbers … Joyce Berendes turned her back to theatre in the year 2000 to start writing romantic thrillers.

Set in Cairns her first published novel The Fourteenth Day came out in 2007. Since then, up to 2012 Joyce had three more novels published by Zeus Publications … And Then Came the Rain, Matters of Choice, The Hand of Fate and one children’s story Nulla and the Purple Poison Plant. Then in the year 2011, Joyce’s husband of sixty two years was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given two more years to live. He died in May 2013, which left Joyce unable to write and without a single creative thought in her mind, until three years later in 2016 – finally tidying her files – she re-found the six-page letter, sent to her in 2008 by Ilse Dijkstra.

It was her sister in Holland who told her at the time about her new friend Ilse Dijkstra, whom she thought had the most amazing and interesting life and suggested that Joyce should make it into a novel. Ilse Dijkstra then did send Joyce a letter. And Joyce did think it was a very interesting story. However, as she was at that time still working on her second novel and had an idea for a third one, she informed Ilse that her story would need a lot of fiction to make it into a novel and perhaps they should forget about it. And that she did. Until 2016, and she read it again, and suddenly to her delight, she found out that there was after all still the creative urge in her mind to write…

An email was send to Ilse. With the proposal that Ilse would permit Joyce to write Ilse’s story as a Creative Non Fiction which would allow three-quarters of the story to be fiction and the other part to be based totally on Ilse Dijkstra’s real life. Ilse Dijkstra of course was more than willing to agree to that proposal with the result…

ILSE… A Life was born.


First and foremost, a special big thank you to Ilse Dijkstra, whose story finally brought me back to writing after my husband’s death. Although maybe more than seventy percent of this novel is fiction, the rest of the twenty-five or so percent of the story is based on fact and derived from Ilse Dijkstra’s – now aged 82 – real-life experiences. Thank you so much Ilse, for giving me back A Life … I hope I’ve done you proud.

My sincere appreciation and heartfelt thanks to all of the following:

Editor Julie Winzar of Zeus Publications and Editor/Proof-reader Sue McArthur, whose assistance with my writing, has again been invaluable.

Also Beverley Adamson, for her encouragement in the first instance and unreserved belief that I could do it… It turned out you were right, Beverley!

Leo Vandersar, for all the important information about Indonesia’s Japanese Concentration Camps and his real-life experiences in Indonesia during World War Two…

Hènri Hunsinger, for his knowledge about restaurants and general lifestyle in France during the late 1950s.

Brisbane’s Rivercity Steel Band for all their interesting information about Steel Guitars.

To Camie McMahon for keeping an eye on my Italian translations.

Not to forget my sister Adri van Dijk, who was the instigator of all of this by suggesting all those years ago that her friend’s life story might be worth making into a novel… Well done, Adri B!  

And last, but not least, my heartfelt thank you to all at Zeus Publications, especially Marilyn Higgins and Clive Dalkins, for once again giving me the pleasure of seeing my work in print.  

Some of the information about the Concentration Camps in Indonesia immediately after World War Two and Sukarno’s push for independence came from the book called The Missing Years written by Stuart Lloyd.

Also from an article published in a special 2008 issue of Bambu called 15 August 1945 which was taken from the book called World War Two.

As were As Seen through Kids’ Eyes by Ralph and Cathy Brink and Onze laatste oorlog written by A Verhoog.  



It all started with Ilse’s grandparents, this need to move on after having lived a completely normal and contented life for some time. This search for a change. Find somewhere different, more satisfying and exciting.

They met in Rumania, her grandparents, although both of them were born somewhere else: Henk Doolaard in the Netherlands and Greta Sturm in Germany. However, when Greta was eleven years old, her parents had moved the family from Germany to the Transylvanian Alps in Rumania, which was a quite famous seaside resort at the time.

Both Henk and Greta’s father were working for the famous Dutch oil company Shell at the time, and that’s how Henk came to meet Greta. The two of them fell in love, got married in 1908 when Greta was twenty-four years old, and one year later, in 1909, celebrated the birth of a daughter. They named the little girl Kavya, a name Greta had come across in a book about India. Kavya, their beautiful little daughter who was to become Ilse’s Mama.

Eventually the whole extended family would end up in the Netherlands but a lot of water would flow under numerous bridges for many years to come before that became so.

Dutch Henk was a man who believed in a change every now and then to make life a little more interesting. Keen to do something totally different once more, he applied for a transfer to South America but that request was refused, so when he then got an offer to work for Shell in Russia he accepted the offer and the family ended up in a place called Bakoe which is the capital city of the Soviet republic Azerbaijan and is well known for its oil.

Greta and Kavya happened to be in the Netherlands on holiday at the start of the First World War and Greta, desperate to get back to her husband, was having trouble getting approval to return to Russia, with the result that it was Henk who finally got permission to fetch the two of them back in 1915. The family was at last reunited in Bakoe where Greta, ten months later, gave birth to their son, Bram.

However, as time progressed, Bakoe descended into a terrible state of chaos as a result of, amongst other things, the Ottoman revolution. So it wasn’t a surprise in 1918 when the family was warned – no, were instructed in no uncertain terms – to leave Azerbaijan now, this instant, within a minute’s notice, with barely enough time to pack the possessions they valued or the things they would need for their journey back to the Netherlands. With some luck on their side on that terrifying occasion they actually managed to catch a boat that was leaving Russia that very same day. In fact, the captain of that boat offered to take them, via the Caspian Sea and the River Wolga, to Moscow.

Having arrived in Moscow, they made their way slowly and with great difficulty overland to the city of Leningrad, where the captain of another ship belonging to a Dutch paper factory – which was also on its way back to the Netherlands – agreed to take them along for the trip. Once again, luck was well and truly on their side that day, because that ship also happened to be the very last vessel to leave Leningrad. Be that as it may, happy and thankful as they all were to have escaped the atrocious situation in Azerbaijan, the voyage to the Netherlands – with the Baltic Sea packed full of mines – turned out to be a long and treacherous journey and it was with great relief when the four of them, finally, in 1919, set eyes on the coast of Holland.

Yet, in spite of all that, the family, especially Henk, could not settle in Holland. The lifestyle was all so very different to what they’d been used to. In 1920 when the Bataafsche Petroleum Maatschapij – all part of the Shell Company – offered Henk a job back in Rumania, Henk accepted with alacrity. Having moved his family once again to Rumania, at long last they all settled contentedly for quite a number of years. In those relaxed happy years, Kavya, Ilse’s Mama-to-be, at age twenty-one fell in love with and got engaged to Ilse’s Papa-to-be.

Born in Indonesia from Dutch parents, Jan Dijkstra was also working for the Shell Company. Jan was a somewhat shy but fun-loving young man, who had lost his father when he was ten years old, so as the darling and only child of his widowed mother, there was no masculine influence to help Jan survive the female side of things. Until finally at age thirteen, he and his mother went back to Holland, where he was sent to school, and where his Dutch schoolmates very quickly stepped into the breach to show him the other side of the coin.

Jan and Kavya had only been engaged for a few months, when the Shell Company transferred Jan rather urgently back to Indonesia, leaving Kavya behind. Kavya, however, felt unhappy without her man and followed Jan to Indonesia, where eleven months later, in Medan, the two of them had a big, white, happy wedding feast; a wedding feast to which the whole extended family managed to come over to Indonesia to see the two of them get married.

Then, to everyone’s delight, in 1934, Jan and Kavya Dijkstra’s little Ilse came on to the scene. 




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