Hannie Blaauw – Conclusion
It was hot on the road back to Camp Tjimahi. Hannie walked at a steady pace, his feet starting to ache underneath the hard rubber strap of his klètèks. After an hour, knowing that he was not even half way, he was so thirsty that he decided to get something to drink at a warung (small open air café selling cold bottled drinks) in the next kampong (small village). He walked into the kampong, wondering if they would have anything to drink so soon after the war. Even a cup of water would be good though, and the thought of cool water made him smile.
Suddenly, a man blocked his path. “Go back to your camp,” the man said urgently. “Go quickly, hurry! Lekas, lekas, because terrible things are about to happen.” When Hannie looked up, the man was gone. “That must have been my guardian angel,” Hannie thought, and without another look at the warung in the distance he turned around, back to the road, and as fast as his legs could carry him he hurried, his klètèks making a nervous sound, faster and faster, back to Tjimahi.
The next day, the Bersiap (Indonesian term meaning ‘get ready’) started: the violent and chaotic fight for independence of the Indonesian extremists right after World War Two. Young freedom fighters roamed the countryside, brutally killing all people in sight. Hannie was safe behind the closed gates of Camp Tjimahi.
Fast forward: Hannie went to the Netherlands by way of Singapore. Several years later, he found his sweetheart, Nellie; they got married in 1958 and emigrated to the USA in 1961. They were blessed with a son and two daughters and made a good life for themselves in California, after the initial difficult years as penniless immigrants.
In 1997 they moved to Prescott. Hannie competed in the Prescott Senior Olympics for years, winning gold and silver; for many years he volunteered at Meals on Wheals together with Nellie. When Nellie passed away, Hannie, supported by his many friends, carried on, cooking his own meals, volunteering, playing tennis, and taking care of his little puppy Scotty, his new companion. When Hannie was 86, his daughter decided he lived too far away from her, and in June of 2013, Hannie moved with Scotty to a town in the California desert.
After a week, he called enthusiastically: “Ronny! There are eight tennis courts close by, and two swimming pools!” Two weeks later: “Ronny, I have nobody to play with. I guess I have to wait for the snowbirds”. He never complained, but set out to make new friends. He offered to volunteer at the local hospital, but they had no use for him. In October, he called and said, “Ronny! I joined the church choir, a very large choir!”
“You did?” I said, “I did not know you could sing.”
“I can’t,” Hannie said, “I cannot even read notes, but they accepted me and I am singing along. Pretty soon we will start rehearsing for Christmas.”
And make new friends he did! He discovered pickle ball and is now an enthusiastic player with many other seniors in his town. The latest thing he told me was that he had purchased a ukulele and is taking classes. But learning to read notes is one thing, learning to read chords and then produce sounds with your eighty-six-year-old fingers is something else. “You are my Sunshine” is difficult for him to learn, but I bet that one day he will play it beautifully.
On April 1st of this year Hannie will celebrate his 87th birthday. Life threw him many curve balls, but Hannie knew how to swing to get far; he never gave up hope, he reached out to others even when he had to start over in a strange new environment, far away from his old friends. He lives his life one day at a time, grateful for what he has today, thankful to live in this beautiful country, knowing that God has a plan for him, a plan to prosper and not for harm, a plan to give him hope, a plan for his future.
If you want to congratulate Hannie on his 87th birthday, please leave a comment below. Hannie has no computer, but I will forward all comments to him by mail.
I hope you enjoyed Hannie’s uplifting stories about his time in captivity and his positive outlook on life: the secret to live to a ripe old age.
Until next time,