Tuesday, July 05, 2005


My name is Bianca. I am of Dutch-Indonesian background, living in the USA since 1962. My parents were born in Indonesia under the former colonial system known as The Dutch East Indies or "Nederlands-Indie" as they say in the old country. Mom's (family name Straver) birthplace is Pimatangsiantar, Sumatra (1918) and Papa's (family name Dias) birthplace is Klaten, Java (1913). [The name "Dias" by the way is Portuguese and comes from the former colonial power of the Portuguese before the Dutch took over]. They were repatriated to The Netherlands after WWII and the revolution which gave birth to the new Republic of Indonesia (basically kicking out the Dutch after 300 years) I was born in Rotterdam, The Netherlands in 1955. After 11 years in The Netherlands our family emigrated to the USA. They had been on a waiting list to get a house and got tired of waiting.

Since we left The Netherlands when I was 7 years old, I'm basically American for all practical purposes. However, juggling hamburgers and fried rice and Dutch at home and English outside the home and my tan skin color set me a bit apart from my peers. In the throes of growing up I was never that interested in my heritage. We were too busy trying to fit in.

In a 7th grade history class (many moons ago) the teacher happened to mention to the class that my background was from the Dutch East Indies. Afterwards, a girl came up to me and mentioned that her grandmother grew up in the Dutch East Indies. I was kind of shocked as no one ever seemed to know this part of history. Another time, at work (years later!) a coworker learned of my background and told me when he lived in Egypt as a young boy (he was actually Italian), he remembered seeing the "immigrant ships" come through the Suez Canal in the late 1940's early 1950's and they carried Dutch and Dutch-Indonesian (Eurasian) families. Wow, that one blew me away. So I started wondering how many others are somehow connected to this part of history and where are they ? It wasn't until my early 30's that I started to become more interested in my heritage. Curiosity peaked my interest which led to a journey to Indonesia. I just had to trace my roots and see what this fabled land is about.

In 1989 after graduation from college, I trekked to Indonesia via Japan. This trip changed my life. With a backpack I covered Java, Sumatra and Bali. By foot, by bechek (bicycle/taxi thingy), by bus, by train, by boat and by plane I tried to see all that I could in 7 weeks. There were remnants of Dutch colonial buildings and forts and churches scattered here and there, but clearly this country has its own national identity. The stories I grew up with about plantation life were in the back of my mind as I wandered through this land. Since then, I realize The Dutch East Indies is a bygone era and I've been on a mission to get to know my heritage.

I know there are others out there like me. There are also descendents who never set foot in The Netherlands or in Indonesia, but they know sambal and kroepoek, Oma and Opa, and pannakoeken and other symbols of our heritage.

This blog is a collection of things I've found on my quest. I hope you find it interesting and enjoy reading it!


Anonymous said...

I love your stories. Keep in touch with Javanesse culture. :)


calvin said...

hi bianca, thank for sharing your story. it's very interesting indeed, there has been raise of awareness of indo culture all around the world. There are many third generations of indische here too, but many are afraid to admit them as indo.

I'm looking forward to hear more of your quest of family history. :)

Oka said...

This blog is very interesting. Honestly. as an Indonesian myself your blog just made me aware that there are many people with Indonesian heritage living in may countries around the world.

I hope you could publish more stories.

gus landung sundjata said...

Go head Bianca! I like the history of my Country. And your story is the part of that history so I am supposed to listen, to read and to appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bianca

How can I get in touch with you via email? I checked your blog but no email address is given. Just discovered your blog as I was looking for photos depicting Dutch Costume in Ceylon in the 17th/18th century.

I have somewhat of a similar cultural heritage within the context of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and I think your blog is super.