Sunday, July 15, 2007

Growing up in Borneo

Today I will start a series on growing up in Borneo. It is probably better tittled, 'growing up poor in Borneo'. North Borneo, to be exact. To know more about the history and culture of North Borneo, read Agnes Keith's trilogy (all out of print, but can be found on Internet used books sites like,
1. Land below the wind
2. Three came home (was made into a Hollywood movie, movie is available on
3. White man returns
The first book was written before WWII, before the Japanese occupation of an idyllic place in the tropics. The second book documents the author's 3-4 years as a prisoner of war in a camp with her then 3 year old son, her struggles to keep them both alive while still retaining her sanity. It's told with a lot of humor which adds to the poignancy of her story. The third is about them returning to North Borneo after the war even before they fully recovered from the ravages of WWII and POW camp.
I have stories of my father's struggles during WWII and the Japanese occupation. I am compiling stories on the captured allied forces , mostly Australians; very few survived those death marches and that was the whole idea, a kind of 'take no prisoners'. Those who survived and who are still alive today returns to North Borneo regularly to relive those horrendous times and they are feted by the locals who continue to be grateful for the eventual liberation of North Borneo after the surrender of the Japanese forces.
My parents has never seen an airplane in their lives till the first one appeared in the sky over where they lived on a bombing run. This was the start of the invasion by the Japanese forces and the subsequent occupation by the same force.
I am interested in war stories for the stories of heroism and survival. My family suffered greatly together with a hosts of others in this place called Borneo which today is not much known. My father's memory is fast fading. Mine will fade too, so before I forget, I'm going to document those hard times growing up in North Borneo. Love for life and love for each other got us through.

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