by Saskia Rossi-van den Broek
Marsini’s Gift – the Story of An Indo Family
When Saskia Rossi left California in 2018 to return to Holland where she was born, she did not know that her life – she was already in her sixties – would take a staggering turn. First of all, her new home, a brand new complex for Dutch-Indonesian and Moluccan seniors in Arnhem, proved to be a huge success. This comfortable, warm, and inspirational community was just the first of a series of blessings.
It is never too late
A child’s ring of Indonesian gold, soft as butter, with a shiny gemstone.
My mother’s best friend, a Javanese lady of high birth, Raden Ayu Marsini,
had given the ring to my sister when the Dutch-Indonesians were forced to leave the country.
“So you will always remember me.”
De Ring van Marsini
The book Saskia had been working on for two years, De Ring van Marsini, written in Dutch, was published in May 2019. Interviews in several newspapers and the well-known magazine Moesson followed. Thanks to this book, she was invited to deliver a speech in Arnhem on August 15, the commemoration of the surrender of Japan, a great and unexpected honor. Saskia thought of her parents when she delivered the speech, and she felt tremendously proud of her heritage.
In August 2019, at the age of 62, she found a job as a guide/hostess at the Nederlands Openluchtmuseum in Arnhem. At the Indisch Achtererf, she had the opportunity to tell Dutch families and tourists from all over the world about the history of her parents and of all Indo families. It all seemed to fit together miraculously.
Found in Translation
In the meantime, Saskia was translating her book into English (and learning how to speak Indonesian.) The English edition of her book was published in February, 2021. It received much attention in the Spring issue of the Moesson International.
Marsini’s Gift is a small book, but it tells the story of Saskia’s family and of Indo families in general. It describes their hardships, sacrifices, and sorrow, but most of all it celebrates their perseverance and guts. Despite all the violence, it is a loving tribute to the first generation. What they experienced in the 1940’s and 1950’s should be acknowledged and taught in Dutch schools as an inherent part of national Dutch history. That is what Saskia Rossi fights for.
Saskia wrote this book not only for her family, but also as a simple historical overview for the younger generation, like the young Indos in the US who cannot speak or read Dutch but who are curious about their roots. She tried to write in a way so Dutch people would understand too, so that they would understand the reasons WHY Dutch-Indonesian people moved to Holland. Saskia’s neighbors, for instance, who are college-educated and in their fifties, stated they never heard the term ‘Bersiap’. That should change, and this change should start in elementary school.
Making a Difference
Saskia Rossi did not write this book to become famous or rich. All her royalties will go to Stichting Anak Mas, a charity foundation recently created by some friends of her and herself. Stichting Anak Mas will fund small scale, social projects in Indonesia and aims at improving living conditions of those who receive no help from the Indonesian government (like Christian orphanages). You can check out the FB page of Stichting Anak Mas or the website www.stichtinganakmas.nl.
The Indo Project Interview
The Indo Project caught up with Ms. Rossi, and she answered some of TIP’s questions.
What is your book about?
It is about my family (but they represent most Indo families) and their experiences in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
Why did you write the book?
First and foremost, for my family. But also for other Indo families and for interested Dutch readers. I translated the book into English for my nieces and nephews living in the US and for all other young Indos who cannot read Dutch.
Why should people read it?
The stories of my family describe the horrors of the Japanese occupation and of the Bersiap period. In general, Dutch people don’t know much about the Bersiap. I hope my book will give them more information and insight.
Why would it especially appeal to Indos?
It is a tribute to the first generation. It describes their hardships, but also their courage and exceptional resilience.
Saskia Rossi, born in Apeldoorn, Holland, in 1957, has lived for many years in California. There she held a job in special education and did the research, which resulted in the Dutch publication of ‘De Ring van Marsini’. She has written nonfiction books before, but this one is special to her, a long cherished wish finally fulfilled. She wrote this book as a tribute to her family, but also as a simple historical overview for the younger generation, like the young Indos in California who cannot speak or read Dutch, but who are curious about their roots. For them she translated her family’s story into English.