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