A former Indonesian diplomatic's lady shares memory of life during the Vietnam War

Ms.Sri Wilis Djati Soeroso, the spouse of a diplomatic officer working at the Indonesian Embassy in Hanoi during the Vietnam war, used to live as an eye- witness to Vietnam that difficult time, has recorded all her memories in a book titled "Unforgettable Memories".
December 26, 2020 | 10:10
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Mr. and Mrs. Wilis' family during the 25th anniversary of Indonessia National Day in 1970 in Hanoi. Photo VOV

Vietnam and Indonesia won their independence 75 years ago (1945), of which 65 years have the two countries established diplomatic relations. During the time, generations of diplomats have played their indispensable roles for nurturing the two coutries' close friendship. As the eye-witness living during the war in Vietnam and the spouse of a diplomatic officer working at the Indonesian Embassy in Hanoi from 1967-1972, Mrs. Sri Wilis Djati Soeroso took notes every day of her memory in a book titled "Unforgettable Memories".

A former Indonesian diplomatic's lady shares memory of life during the Vietnam War
Ms. Wilis introduced the book "Unforgettable Memories" in Indonesian with 22 pages of her memories. Photo VOV

Mrs. Wilis Djati was visited at a weekend in the rainy season of the thousand-island country, the weather was as cool as Hanoi's in autumn. In an about-80-square-meter house in the south of Jakarta capital, the sound of the piano echoing the melody of the Vietnamese song "Last night I dreamed of meeting Uncle Ho" touched our reporter's heart.

Mrs. Sri Wilis Djati Soeroso, 82 years old, with slow legs, glasse-wearing eyes, gliding her fingers skillfully on an old piano, immersed deeply in the memories of her years in Vietnam. 48 years have gone by, the lady has been still keeping all "unforgettable memories" in her book of the same name, and can clearly recount the past memories like the skillful way she plays the piano.

"I was scared to tears when I first heard the Vietnamese loudspeaker "Fellow-citizen, please be noticed the enemy aircraft only 70 kilometers far from Hanoi" (Ms. Wilis repeated the sentence in Vietnamese)- at 60 kilometers to 30 kilometers, we all had to run down to the shelter behind the house. There were also shelters for 1 person on the streets. It was extremely cold in the cellar. Once it was safe, the sirens signaled, then we got out of the tunnel. Every day at least 4 alarms, starting at 2am, we heard the sound of American planes coming to bomb the streets. Indeed, the Vietnamese people were the bravest people in the world when they have conquered a super-powered force without being equipped with modern weapons ”- said Ms. Sri Wilis Djati Soeroso.

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Ms. Sri Wilis Djati Soeroso. Photo VOV

In 1967, Ms. Wilis followed her husband to accept the position of Information Counselor of the Indonesian Embassy in Hanoi to Vietnam. After five years living in Vietnam, her family received enthusiastic help from the local people. The names that she has still spoken clearly in Vietnamese until now, such as Ms. Binh, Ms. Nghiem, Ms. Cao, Ms. Nga (the names of the housekeepers in her family) or Doctor Toan, the sponsor to her first son. Then even the first days of living in the cold Hanoi's winter, mixed with Vietnamese customs such as going to pagodas at the beginning of the new year, wrapping Vietnamese traditional Chung cake, witnessing in line to buy goods from the subsidy period or out-of-season clothes ... were fully experienced and recorded by her ....

But for her, memories were bold in her heart and make her always choked with emotion that the day President Ho Chi Minh passed away (September 2,1969). Mrs. Wilis recalled: “The trumpet echoed everywhere, everyone cried Uncle Ho like their own parents. Everyone and my maids, dressed in white t-shirts with a black mourning bandage, they all sobbed. On both sides of the road, people stood in long lines to bid farewell to the leader. I also cried with emotion.”

“During the early days of September 1969, the Voice of Vietnam broadcasted sad songs and poems about" President Ho Chi Minh, on the streets only did hear the sound of shoes and cars and people crying".

For the first time, she eye-witnessed the great affection and grief of Vietnam people and international friends paid for the beloved national leader when she was accompanied by the Indonesian diplomatic delegation led by the Indonesian President Soeharto that time paid tribute to President Ho Chi Minh in the mausoleum.

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Mrs. Willis's family. Photo VOV

The memories she wrote down on the pages were treasured by her children, published in books and given to friends and relatives.

Mr. Djadi Rekso Wibowo, the eldest son of Mrs. Wilis, shared: “In the beginning, this was just my mother's diary. But we realize that this is a bridge connecting Vietnam-Indonesia, through my parents who used to represent Indonesia to work in Vietnam, witnessing the resilience of the Vietnamese people over the years of war, bombs and ammunition, witnessing and being able to pay tribute to great President Ho Chi Minh. "

Mrs. Sri Retno Wijanti - the youngest child of Mrs. Wilis shared: “Not born in Hanoi like my two brothers, but I have read carefully and edited the memories into a book. In the process of working, I have also searched for historical information, especially names of places of Vietnam on the internet and added to the illustrations my parents took that time. This book is both a family memory and a gift we give to relatives, friends and Vietnamese friends.”

Nearly half a century ago, this former Indonesian diplomatic lady still wanted to return to Vietnam, the country today has developed, becoming a country with a high appreciation in the region, meeting Vietnamese had always helped, cherished her family like their relatives.

In her thinking, Vietnam is a heroic country, a nation of compassionate people. She always wished Vietnamese nation and Indonesian nation to grow stronger, and the strong relationship between Vietnam and Indonesia developed and nurtured by generations of leaders and two peoples becomes more and more fruitful.

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Tarah Nguyen
Vietnamese source by VOV, translated and edited by VNT


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