Saturday, 21 January 2012

Inspiring History- Helen Colijn

One of my aims in starting this blog was to highlight some of the people and events that really inspire me.  While speaking to a woman who was studying history at Uni I was surprised she had never heard of the SOE.  It got me thinking what other gems of history are being missed, especially history about women which seems to have completely missed by the Education system today.  We have so much great history that should inspire us, instead of what the chatter mags give us.  So as a start to re-address this omission in our society I give you Helen Colijn and the women interned by the Japanese during the 2nd World War.

I have just recently finished reading Helen Colijns account Song of Survival - Women Interned , so it seemed like a good place to begin.  Helen's was one of the many women and children taken prisoner in South East Asia during the Second World War by the Japanese.  They were held for several years in camps not fit for human occupation often on starvation rations.  Japanese culture at the time looked down upon women and on enemy that had been captured.  So to be both made these women the lowest of the low in their culture. 

A number of the women in the group of prisoners Helen was with gave themselves strength through forming a vocal orchestra, in practising and performing music they were able to escape for a brief time from their capture, if only in their minds.  They made this story into a film called  Paradise Road  which tried to tell this amazing story. 

I regularly read books on this subject and never tire of it.  For me, I just can't get my head around how you can go from having everything that the colonial life gave people to having absolutely nothing.  For those that survived, how can you go back to life, knowing that it can just all go.  I wonder how I would cope with that loss, how would the people around me cope.  In reading these accounts it is important to remember not all coped, we should not look back at it with rose tinted spectacles and consider it the 'Best of British' (or Dutch for that matter)However we should learn, learn that the human spirit can endure many things and know what is important in our life's.

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