Why did we create this Website?

"The pre-history of my life is the history of my heart" © 

Inspired by the wonderful book "Istori Kita" by Simone Berger, Guus Rozendaal had written down the story in 2020 of his paternal family who lived in the Dutch East Indies.

That story begins in 1920 when his grandfather and his still small family went to the Dutch East Indies to work there as a teacher, as part of the so-called "Ethical Policy".

He did so until 1940. It came to abrupt end in early 1958 with the forced repatriation of his father and family back to the Netherlands.

Subsequently, his wife Tilly van Coevorden thought of a plan to collect more East Indies family stories and bring them together in one neutral place, a so-called Indische Verhalentafel (Dutch East Indies Storytelling Table), where everyone can tell his or her East Indies story, from Tempo Doeloe to whether or not they were forced to leave.

Together with the "storyteller", Tilly has now written down over 45 stories and posted them on this website. We have also collected a large number of personal stories published previously and elsewhere.

These stories are not told because the narrators find themselves so interesting. The stories do take place against the background of very dramatic periods, which changed many lives forever, including those of later generations.

Unfortunately, it has become apparent that many in Dutch society know very little about these backgrounds (the so-called "blind spot"), so that the first, second and third generations of those involved are often in the dark about what happened to the first generation and what still continues to affect those following generations.

It is by passing on and making people understand both the stories and the general background that this understanding will come.

In many cases, having told or written down such story  contributes to processing trauma and grief.

The general backgrounds are described on our website www.nederlands-indie.info

In 2023, these two websites were incorporated into the Stichting Nederlands-Indie (The Dutch East Indies Foundation) to ensure continuity.

So that this platform can continue to grow and improve, we cordially invite visitors to tell their stories here too. Suggestions for improvement are of course welcome by sending an e-mail to:


Forward by Simone Berger:

After you are born, your own family history begins. You are not yet aware of it, but the stories you grow up with will partly shape you. We inherit more than just external features and character traits from our parents and ancestors. History also leaves its mark and is intertwined with the history of your (for) parents.

Unconsciously, you smelled the spicy odours that wafted around your parental home or heard the Malay sounds that coloured the language. Perhaps you were fascinated by the objects that had once come from that distant land on the boat or you sometimes felt that certain topics were left unsaid.

As a child of  parents from the Dutch East Indies, one day you experience the different baggage you were given.

I grew up with my family's stories about life in Medan in Sumatra. Fun and exciting stories on the one hand, but on the other, I felt the impact the forced departure had on my father, who had to leave his homeland behind for good when he was 13 in 1953. His  childhood, which consisted of freedom and barefoot mischief, he involuntarily traded for a chilly reception, squishy shoes and grey skies. Even as he passed 80, I felt his nostalgia for the people who surrounded him, the nature that fascinated him from childhood and his native soil.

This motivated me to compile Istori kita. Your Family History put together, as a guideline and guide to share and record personal stories. Among the many encounters, I became fascinated by the stories behind the objects from the East Indies, which were tangible memories of the past. Together with Armando Ello, I recorded over 30 stories in The long journey of the poesaka. Indies tangible memories.

This website wants to invite anyone who wants to share their story to post it. The diversity of stories and backgrounds is inexhaustible. They give us a snapshot of a past that is distant in time and distance. They offer us a glimpse into the complicated, multi-layered colonial society and show us the diverse faces of the Japanese occupation and the years during and after the struggle for independence. And ultimately, they are about how people with roots in the East Indies or Indonesia managed to connect the best of both worlds and showed resilience.

In 2020, we commemorated the end of World War II, 75 years ago. That was also the start of years of migration of over 300,000 people to the Netherlands. Now more than ever, we realise the importance of our roots and family history.

By sharing these stories, you help ensure they are not lost. You sometimes give others the opportunity to put a new piece of the puzzle together. Your family history can be very close to someone's own and provide new information.

They are 'little' stories that connect us. For many of us, knowing where we came from is essential to understanding ourselves and being able to put stories into context.

And that is exactly what this website 'A Circle of Stories' aims to do as a platform. Sharing stories of the past - our own history.

Simone Berger