The children in the ‘Empire of the Sun’

 

Van fictie naar de historische werkelijkheid

In 1984 publiceerde J.G. Ballard zijn prachtige verhaal over een jongen, Jamie Graham , die na de Japanse aanval op Pearl Harbor in de daarop volgende chaos in Shanghai  zijn ouders uit het zicht verliest en vervolgens gevonden wordt door de Japanners, die hem in een interneringskamp onderbrengen. Hij wordt pas na de bevrijding, vier jaar later, met zijn ouders herenigd. Het boek was zo overtuigend geschreven dat het een autobiografie leek. Ballards initialen staan voor James Graham, en ook deze naam suggereert dat het de schrijver zelf is overkomen. Bij het schrijven van mijn boek over tante Anneke kwam ik er achter dat het verhaal een waar gebeurde werkelijkheid weergeeft. In het jappenkamp Weihsien, Shantung, waar zij geïnterneerd was van 1943 tot 1945 verbleven enkele tientallen Jamies, die jarenlang gescheiden waren van hun ouders.

The Chefoo School of the China Inland Mission

Raymond Moore, David Allen, John, Mary, Jamie en Kathleen Taylor

Weihsien, het is 10 september 1945: Zes Chefoo kinderen staan klaar om aan boord te gaan van een Amerikaans vrachtvliegtuig voor een vlucht naar Xi’an, waar zich een  OSS basis  (Office for Strategic Services) bevond. Na Pearl Harbor waren de Britse leerlingen van de Inland Mission School uit Chefoo, aan de noordkust van Shantung, met hun docenten (zendelingen) door de Japanners ondergebracht op een tijdelijke locatie: Temple Hill ook in Shantung . In augustus 1943 werden ze naar Weihsien gebracht waar ze uitgeput aankwamen. Het was een zware reis, eerst met de boot naar Tsingtao en vervolgens met de  langzame boemeltrein.  De ongeveer honderd kinderen tussen de 6 en 18 jaar leefden toen al een aantal jaren gescheiden van hun ouders. Al voor de oorlog uitbrak was wederzijds bezoek bijna niet meer mogelijk, vanwege de toenemend chaos en onrust.

De internaten van de Inland Mission Schools waren opgericht door organisaties van Britse, Amerikaanse en Canadese zendelingen voor de kinderen van zendelingen op missieposten ver in de binnenlanden van China. De ouders van de kinderen op de foto woonden in Kunming en in de buurt van Xi’an. De Taylors waren naar een gebied in de buurt naar Xi’an gevlucht vanuit Honan. De regio’s rond Xi’an en Kunming waren onbezet tijdens de oorlog.

In Weihsien werden de Chefusian kinderen angstvallig beschermd tegen invloeden van buitenaf. Hun leraren voelden zich natuurlijk uitermate verantwoordelijk voor hen. Ze kregen degelijk en vroom onderwijs en gingen nauwelijks om met de andere kinderen in Weihsien.

De thuisvlucht naar West-China

B 29, bommenwerper en vrachtvliegtuig ontwikkeld in de Tweede Wereldoorlog

Ray Moore ( de jongen op de foto met de gebroken pols) vertelt:

We six were bundled  onto an American Transport Plane carrying used parachutes back to Xi’an. There were no seats so we sat on them. In Xi’an we were taken to the American barracks, where we stayed for a couple of days. I had more new experiences that stayed with me for the rest of my life. I was given toothpaste! Up to this time I had been using soap. I was given Coca-Cola and  had an immediate liking for it. In the evening I was taken to the outdoor picture theatre, where we sat on director’s chairs and watched cartoons like Mickey Mouse. The four Taylor children were taken to Xi’an to the mission station.  David Allen and I were put on an American Air force plane and taken to Kunming in the south, where David’s parents were stationed, but a long way from Hanzhong in South Shaanxi where my parents were. Hanzhong is about 220 kilometres south of Xi’an while Kunming is almost 2,000 kilometres further south again. Why was I mistakenly taken so far out of the way when my family was waiting impatiently to hear that they could pick me up from Xi’an? The mistake seems to have originated from someone in Weihsien having an inaccurate knowledge of our parents’ locations. At this stage, my parents heard from another missionary friend who wrote to them saying,There was great excitement last night when the four Taylor children walked in. Your Raymond would have been with them, but he has been taken on to Kunming with a fractured wrist.”  

I was flown from Xi’an to Kunming in a bomber called “The Homesick Angel”.  I became airsick on the trip, because I had eaten a bar of chocolate and because I was sitting on a pull down seat just behind the pilots and opposite the navigator, he ended up with that chocolate and more, decorating his uniform. He took it very well, and seemed to hold no grudges. At Kunming I was taken to the local CIM mission home. Here I stayed the night with David Allen and his family (picture) and slept in a seemingly deserted wing of the building.

Finally  my parents  received a telegram from the missionary in charge at Kunming saying, “Raymond here safe and well. Will send on to Hanzhong or Xi’an as soon as transport is available.” Transport became available almost immediately,once more per kind favour of the American air force, and I was returned to Xi’an on another bomber, minus my cabin trunk of precious belongings, which I never saw again. Back in Xi’an I was left at the airport and there seemed to be no one there to pick me up. Fortunately there happened to be a friend of my parents from another mission at the airport who saw me wandering around and asked me who I was. When he discovered that I was the son of his missionary friends, he took me to his home to stay until Percy could come and pick me up. A couple of days later, Percy, my dad, was able to make his way to Xi’an and catch up with the son whom he had not seen for five years. The reunion with Percy was far from worldshattering. I was in bed when he arrived and he came in to the room to meet me. My instinctive reaction was to duck under the bedclothes and hide from him. With the help of a British army convoy, and in spite of landslides across the road, we eventually arrived in Hanzhong. I walked up the path to the mission home and was greeted with great rejoicing by Amy, my mother, and youngest brother and a little sister whom I had never seen. My other brother came home from a boarding school in Kalimpong, India some weeks later. So I was home and we were a family again. Or were we?

Mary Taylor vertelt:

We four Taylor Children were on the second plane. We were flown to Sian, 110 miles from home. A Chinese friend of my Father’s took us by train to within 15 miles of Fenshiang, then hired a cart and began driving us in the rain down the rutted road. It was dusk. But the mule was too slow for us, and we jumped off the cart and raced ahead, sloshing barefoot through the mud until we met one of our parents’ students, who led us through a moon gate, across the Bible school compound. We saw our parents through the window. Daddy and Mother were sitting in a faculty meeting. I began to scream and I saw Father look up. The student pushed through the bamboo screen. “Mrs Taylor,”he said ” the children have arrived.” and we ran stumbling and shouting “Mommy! Daddy!” through the doorway and into their arms.

 

Family Reunion

The Taylor family, the day after the reunion in Fenghsiang, Shgensi

Voor de ouders die ver in de binnenlanden verbleven was het een heel zwaar gelag. Ze hoorden vrijwel niets meer van hun kinderen en ook de kinderen konden hen niet bereiken. De Taylor kinderen zagen hun ouders  vijf en een half jaar niet. Op de foto staande v.l.n.r.: Mary, Jamie, Kathleen en John. Zittend: Alice met Bertie, bijna 5 jaar oud, die de andere kinderen nog nooit gezien hadden en James sr.

Mary’s moeder Alice: We thought the children were safe, there on the coast of China, safe from anything. Until the Japanese invaders came. James and I were Free Methodist missionaries, a husband-and-wife team, deep in the Chinese province of Honan. Our four children were in the Chefoo School in Shantung Province, 1000 miles away. My husband had attended that school. His grandfather, James Hudson Taylor I, had started it. The school had known four generations of Taylors, and the teachers were more family than not. My father-in-law Herbert Taylor was there in Chefoo, too. I felt as if the children were in their own home, safe and snug. I was an American, my husband was British. We’d long been missionaries. So it seemed to me that the children would be safe anywhere in the world. Then suddenly the Japanese swept into China. Bombs plunged to the earth, maiming and killing people.We were cut off! It was impossible to get back to Chefoo. Pushing farther inland from the east, the Japanese overran Honan in 1939, and James and I ran for our lives. I was six months pregnant at the time. We escaped to the town of Fenghsiang, far, far inland, on the western border of Shensi. But my thoughts were constantly in Chefoo. How could I have known when I married into the Taylor family, missionaries to the Chinese since the 1800s that this was how life would turn out? I had melded into their ways: of teaching and loving and sharing with the Chinese, of riding bicycles or walking or hiring the jolting horse-drawn carts, of eating with chopsticks and sleeping on a mat atop a large brick bed. China was home, and when the war came, disrupting the lives of the Chinese, splitting apart families, it did the same to the Taylors. I sent frequent letters to Chefoo, telling the children where we were and somehow, miraculously, a few letters came to us from the children: I would take out the children’s letters and reread them until they became frayed at the edges. I agonized over the lack of news. “James,” I would say, “do you think the children are all right? It’s been so long since we’ve heard anything.” With his quiet faith, James reassured me. But I saw the worry in his eyes…..

Hoe ging het verder?

De Chefoo kinderen waren door de langdurige scheiding met hun ouders veranderd.  De ouders èn de kinderen voelden na de hereniging een soort vervreemding van elkaar. Sommige kinderen konden nooit meer aarden in het gezin, omdat ze de belangrijke jaren van hun ontwikkeling niet met hun ouders doorgemaakt hadden. Er waren tijdens hun afwezigheid vaak nieuwe broertjes en zusjes geboren, die hun plaats leken te hebben ingenomen. Bijvoorbeeld Bertie Taylor en een jonger broertje en zusje voor Ray Moore.

Amy, de Australische moeder van Ray Moore, beschrijft het als volgt in een brief aan haar ouders, kort na de bevrijding:

There was Raymond, a big eleven year old, walking up the path. What a reunion after five long years! But where was my little six year old whom I knew so well? I felt as if I had two boys, one I knew and understood and  one whom I knew not at all.

bronnen:

Ray Moore Moondani Kyema  (herinneringen aan zijn jeugd in China) www.kyema-publishing.com

Mary Previte née Taylor:  http://weihsien-paintings.org/ Weihsien Excerpts

foto’s uit Weihsien Excerpts en wikipedia

 

Mieke Melief

Klik hier om een reactie achter te laten

Laat een reactie achter: