Tanjung Priok, Kept The Promise To Return

One hot afternoon in March 1942, Anna's heart was torn. Her body was limp, as if half of her soul was carried by a steamboat that seemed to move away from the Sunda Kelapa port in Batavia. On the deck of the ship, crammed with other prisoners of war, was her husband, Gerard Pohl, a Sergeant Major KNIL. Anna's eyes glazed at the line of ships away from the pier, which later changed its name to Tanjung Priok.

When Japanese troops occupied Java in early 1942, all Europeans were detained in concentration camps. Young and old, male and female, even infants and children are not excluded. Healthy men were then mobilized in various employment projects for the benefit of the Japanese army. Anna's husband has a bad luck because he has to be sent to Burma to work on the railroad network there.

Actually, as a local Betawi native, Anna did not need to enter a concentration camp. But because of her status as the wife of a Dutch man, inevitably Anna had to be taken by the Japanese to a concentration camp. Her heart is upset. Not because of fear of her fate, but nervous about the fate of her four year old son. Also the second child who is currently still in the womb, Anna was worried.

Daydreams and Prayers,
Anna was pensive at the end of the pier, imagining her first meeting with Gerard at a bakery.  Anna did not expect that Gerard, who was a man of the rank of Sergeant Major KNIL, could fall in love with her. Yes, even though her name is Anna Stuffers, actually she was born in a poor Betawi family. His father Muhammad Said and his mother Nawiyah. In that village Anna was usually called "Cang".

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Anna crammed with her six siblings in a small hut, in tense gripping poverty. Luckily there was an Indo European family who later adopted Cang. That's where she got the name Anna Stuffers.  There, she is was well cared for and even attended school up to the level of MULO. Armed with that diploma, Anna worked in a bakery and finally met Gerard Pohl, the idol of the heart.

The seagull suddenly broke into Anna's daydream. Stuttering her thought about where to go with her two children, one in her arms, and one still in her womb. Anxiety brought her into the church, shed all the sadness in prayer.

Migrate to Gombong,
And the answer to her prayer came in Father Kockelkoren, MSC.  He took Anna to Gombong, a small GARNISUN town in Central Java (military area). There was the Poepaart family who generously accepted Anna and her children. They are even willing to take care of Anna if they give birth later.

At Gombong Anna was received so warmly. Suze Poepaart the owner of the house is so friendly and sincere. Anna was amazed by their magnanimity, considering that the extended family had just lost its mother, Karsinah, who died in a robbery. They lived in a large house not far from the Catholic Church (which was later built Palang Biru Hospital).

The birth of the second child named Gerry,
It is not clear why the Poepaart family was not sent to a concentration camp in Fort Cochius not far from their home.  But in Gombong Anna got such a warm consolation from the Poepaart family. Finally it's time for Anna to give birth. A little baby girl was born at the Gombong military hospital. It's called Gerry.

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For three years, despite living amid threats from the Japanese army, Anna and the Poepart family were able to live peacefully in Gombong. Little Gerry was the favorite of Father Kockelkoren who always carried him on his shoulders at church.

Good news,
In early 1945 Anna's heart cheered to hear that her husband would return home following the Japanese defeat. Together with their two childs, they went to Jakarta to pick up their husband in Tanjung Priok. There is a sense of heaviness in Anna's heart to leave Gombong, a small city that is so imprinted in the heart with all the memories and warmth in the most difficult times of her life.

In Tanjung Priok, Gerard kept the promise to return. Lovingly hugged Anna and the two children.

"I am a Gombonger. And I am proud of it”.
At the end of January 2020, Gerry Pohl returned to Gombong. This little baby born in Gombong has become a happy grandmother in the Netherlands. Gerry traces the places that welcomed her when her was born in the world. Even though it's been 76 years, Gerry still feels the same love, the same warmth. When going back to Holland, with a happy smile, Gerry said, "I am a Gombonger. And I am proud of it”.

 

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By : Sigit Asmodiwongso "Tanjung Priok Ninggal Janji"

Editor : Edu www.javaprivatetour.com

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