[i] Okay, let’s get started.

[r] Yeah.

[i] You’ve, you’ve been looking for something that’s valuable to you.

[r] Yes

[i] Could you start with that?

[r] Yes I have chosen this bag. It’s an old bag. Then I have a… in the last minute than I left Chile with my two kids. Thought, I, I should bring something because my house was closed. We had to run away from our house. So the only thing I could get that was that bag Dan I had bought me, a wedding. We didn’t have any, not that much money at the time. So all I could buy was this bag and a pair of gloves. And it’s a symbol to me, of, then I must never forget, how I started as a married woman. Um… So I started from scratch. There was no savings. There was no, uh… we had nothing. We had as a gift from our wedding, somebody paid for us a room, the rent of a room. For three months. Because we didn’t have a house either, no, nothing. But this to me is one, a symbol of the beginning of life. With my husband. Expecting a child. And I never thought that after two and a half years, three years, I would leave again and start again with a suitcase and in that time with two children. That’s for me… That’s why this bag is important.

[i] Okay. Why did you choose to take it with you? Do you remember…

[r] That was my feeling of, I have to take something with me. I just said, we need to get away from our house. And I came in and I couldn’t take a chair, I couldn’t take my bed. What we had built in, in, in two years Everything a little too big. But that one for me was the only thing I found a nice memory and something positive, that could take. Because in those days were only pure misery. Just insecurity, just er… yeah, fear.

[i] Yeah, and we’re talking about September 1973.

[r] Yeah.

[i] Okay. Santiago, Chile.

Santiago, Chile.

Your family lived in Santiago.


Can you tell us anything about your family? Until you got married?

Yes, there were four of us. Father and mother and brother And in our home lived a woman who has… Yeah, my mom helped raise us, my mom was a teacher. So she worked all day and my dad was a civil servant. And she was our mother at home, so to speak. And, so there were five of us at home. We live trien, ten blocks from downtown Santiago. In one, a neighborhood of and then, middle class. Can’t compare to the middle class now. And, we were very, how should I say, sticky. For like dinner time, the time we were talking was a little… Yeah, was at school or at my mom’s work. It was a whole catholic family, too. For the month of Mary, then we pray. For Mary, every day for one month. And, uh… Yeah, what else can I tell you is. We lived very simply. But with great value of justice. Yeah.

when you think about the years before ’73, what else can you tell me about that? You finished your studies. And you went to work, too. But it was the moment of the Unidad Popular [Popular Front] in Chile.

[r] Yeah.

What, what else can you tell me about that?

[r] Well, then I have to, uh… What I remember about politics, then being at my home from, more of the Christian Democrats. And I’ve had a lot of out-of-home activities since I was 17. In the church and with the church. and we were busy with a group of Canadians and Holland, Hollanders who had gone there as missionaries [missionary]. And we were busy offering children of the middle class, but also lower class, a house they could learn folklore, folklore, theatre, painting. And I found a very nice work with them, because was the attention for the people who had fewer opportunities. And I began to discover then my world was not just the home of my family, but that outside my home was poverty, was misery. The condition of, of living and health was different than with us. And the difference was so big. Then to the extent that I became conscious, with the groups of priests, more went my thoughts to a link party. And then I joined MAPU. That was also a wing of the Christian Democrat.

[i] This is the context of the Unidad Popular. Now, how would you look at the years, how would you describe those three years of Unidad Popular?

[r] There was one and there were three years full of hope, full of happiness. In the sense that you could build something with the people, full of hope. Especially full of hope, then together we can build a better world with more opportunities for the people. I think the worst thing that happened with the coup d’état, other than the people were detained and tortured and the people disappeared. Missing. That was also that for a lot of people have robbed the illusion, I must say?

[i] Yes.

[r] Of a better world with more opportunities. I thought that was the worst. When I saw the bombing of the Moneda palace, we can see it from our house. Right now, not only was the Moneda palace burned down, not only was Allende taken out of the scenario, but all the illusion the people had. Then the children had.

[i] And you, you had also chosen to participate in the dream of, of then. But it was also a beautiful time for you because you met José. And you got married in 1971. So at that time you not only lived the, the powerful period of Allende to change everything in Chile, but also love had come into your life. What can you tell us about that?

[r] Yes, that was a period where, by the work we did together, without being, without wanting to be, because Joop was a priest. Was, yeah, something beautiful grew, grew special. It was not only based on passion, but also on solidarity. Was a whole, a love with many facets. Um, then we were together, our paths went together to a future, a better future. We never thought that we would go back to the Netherlands, whether he would go back to the Netherlands and I would go with him. Well, we never thought about it. Our life was in Chile. Er… Our first and second child were born in Chile. But in the beginning, it was very beautiful. And a difficult decision for him. To choose for me. And for a change in Chile.

[i] Why was it so difficult for him?

Was difficult because in church, in that, in those, in those days. You had the traditional church that occupied the private schools. Priest who only gave communion and baptisms. And then they’d go to Mass in the morning and Mass in the evening, and all day with the Bible. “Breviario” [ brevie

[r] then called them, reading. And that’s where Joop lived for the first few weeks. And he thought, well here in Chile are ten years behind than in the Netherlands, because in the Netherlands were much more modern. Was, were here also many changes in the church. But after that, when he went to work, in the house for the young people, with the Canadians, discovered that was different church. Who kept busy with the poor people.

[i] What, what was Joop’s role in the church?

[r] The role was, he went as a missionary [missionary] . But he did not know that in Chile there were two very different streams within the Catholic Church. Those people who, “compromiso, como se dice” [involved, how do you say?] Who were

[i] Involved

[r] Involved with the arms. And those people who were just shut up and live like a king. And, in the parish, so to speak. In the neighborhoods where there was a lot of money.

[i] So, so José the priest actually discovered the reality. In Chile.

And the difference.

Yes. Um… September 11th, 1973. What else can you tell me?

[r] We knew it was coming. We, but we didn’t know how bad it would be. In our party we had agreed Then we should listen to a certain radio station. And it was a little funny because they said Well Joop, if you’re a paso doble, listen. It’s kind of, yeah, a dance, like the tango. Paso doble. That’s, that’s where the coup started. Then there’s, uh, and, uh, that the military was on the move. Well, Joop, Joop came home and said, “Well, what’s a paso doble? And how am I supposed to know when to do something, something about it. We have, we have explained with other comrades of the party. And yes, but the paso doble didn’t come. Because the next morning, one day, we hear… My mother called and said: do not send Nicole to school, to the crèche, because she was in a crèche. Because there are a lot of tanks that go to Moneda Palace. I say, what? And, uh… Nicole already left, because she always came to get a taxi to pick up kids, with an assistant from the nursery. All the kids couldn’t just go with their mothers. I was on maternity leave. So she’d already left. Well, we were really starting to get restless because the kids are staying, yeah. It would’ve been maybe 15 miles from us. And then we wouldn’t be allowed to walk on the street. So we called, well, when can we get the child? They’ll say no, we don’t have permission. So they stay here until we, we get a message, then, then you can come and get it. Well, that’s a fear. A personal fear. Then you’re immediately confronted in the morning. And, and, indeed, then the tanks went, near our house was a barracks. Then we often walked there at night to see if there was any movement or… Well, we never really noticed anything like that. But then the, the, the tanks went to Moneda Palace. That was about 12 cuadras, 12 blocks from our house. And, well, the radio on and that was terrible. Was terrible, was… Yeah, it’s like death, huh? You’d expect somebody to die. But it’s only when that happens that you realize how serious, how sad you are, how restless. Yes, how anxious. Because she, she, she, like, now? And now? You know, at least. Now experience it. Now that I’ve witnessed the death of Joop, and of José, I have, I had the same feeling of the coup d’état, of September 11th. We were in Chile, and now?

[i] Yes.

I don’t know, if it’s a little clear what…

Yeah, sure, no, but, how did your life change in that moment?

[r] Is, for us it was totally different. First I have to give birth. I was expecting my second child in the last month. Joop really couldn’t open his mouth because, you see, he was a foreigner. Joop’s name came in, in the, in the, on the radio. Do they have a “comunicado”, “como se dice comunicado”? [communiqué, how do you say communiqué]

[i] A message.

[r] A message from the Junta [military dictatorship

[r] , then some people, foreigners, have to report them. And, and the name of Joop. But Joop said: my father fought against the fascists in World War II, and always told me: Never trust, after fascism. So he didn’t. Not reported, and then they went, they brought two comrades from the party. I haven’t seen him for five days. So you can imagine what that means. With a two-and-a-half year-old child, and with, yes, expecting the second. And then suddenly your husband’s gone. And they don’t know where, and from this moment on, we tell each other very little, because if they catch someone, they’ll be tortured until they endanger others. Until you say your names. So, that’s one, one peri… started a period of uncertainty of infidelity to all people, and… distrust. Distrust. Then you couldn’t trust the neighbor and the neighbor and that you didn’t know what… And he became, by the, by the groups of “Patria y Libertad” Fatherland and Freedom. They were ultra, extra, extreme right, so to speak. That were called that they would murder. Because he was active in, also in the neighborhood.

so he was known for his political work.

[r] Yeah.

How did Joop escape?

[r] We went to the embassy twice. The first time, there were a lot of military police around the embassy so they didn’t open the door. And the second time, they did open the door. And they couldn’t, they wouldn’t let us in, the first time, because they were releasing Dutch people who were stuck in the stadiums. And they were all Joop’s colleagues. They didn’t take Joop because they were faithful. They didn’t know his new address. Of our house. Er… And after the second time, that was September 26th. And I do remember that being, that day, our wedding day. Um… He was allowed, we’re allowed in. And when Joop came in, he looked at the consul’s books and thought, well, I can talk to him. Tell him what my situation is like. So there we had a conversation, and said: well you really must stay now. Yeah, she said, but I’m not leaving. She’s pregnant, look, and, no. I’ll go. I’ll come back tonight. And yeah, she said, at four o’clock I want you back and you’ll get a letter. Then you’re an honorable person, Dutchman. We were supposed to laugh. Because first they shot you, and then they looked in your pockets to see who you were. You know what? Well, that’s how we left. He said, make sure you’re in public, where people are, you know, in the streets with people, like if you’re caught that’s not, nobody can testify then, is caught. So we’re back home, got a little suitcase with a few things. Because he didn’t know how long he was gonna be in the embassy. And… said good-bye to our little girl. And we went to a restaurant for dinner. And to the movies to talk. And, uh, after that, my brother came with a car. That’s where we deployed and then drove past the embassy. And then went inside. And we left. But that’s such a difficult moment for me, then, I was terribly sad. Was for me the, saying goodbye, watching him walk. And I didn’t know if we’d see again?

How long, has it taken for you to run away from Chile, too?

Er… I was working in a family ministry at the time. A little bit to… I tell you to show you that, then, how was my compromise with politics in Chile. I was responsible for first of all working with young people. From the poor neighborhoods. And after that, because I’d gotten my title of, or my degree from, uh, nutrition teacher. Then I could work in the nursery of the ministry. And, but I was, you know, for the MAPU you get so many people per communist party, so many people in the ministry you could work. So, I’d come to work, because of politics, so to speak, in. And I had, I was active in a GAP [Grupo de Amigos Personales]. Um… that is. It was the GAP, wasn’t it? The… Of food distribution and… “Junta de vecinos” [Neighborhood Committee]


[r] GAP, yeah.

Yeah. I, I know what you mean. They were just volunteers trying to, uh, help distribute food.

Of food and, and, yeah…

Per neighborhood, so to speak.

Yeah. And I was active in the MAPU. [Movimiento de Acción Popular Unitari]


[i] In such a group.


[i] Okay.

So my job, I was on, on maternity leave. And my job was a lot of people disappeared. Being a colleague of mine, I never saw them again. Tortured. That was terrible. And, we got in, I went to my mom’s house early because I had to give birth. And my dad works in the south of Chile. We also protect people there who are hiding, who are free… Because it was a colleague of mine, of, of my work. He came running, she said, “Yeah, they took me to jail. And I was on a bus, and there was a military friend of mine. And opened the door and he said run. And she, yeah, the only place I know around here is your house, so we kept that boy. Had five girls, five kids. And was real, but pure happiness. So with the days, from the coup, until I left, November 3rd. Was just trying to, yeah, find out about, uh, comrades from us from, uh, colleagues from work, if they’re still alive. Was a very sad time. Plus I had to give birth. Luckily, all went well. But when I was at the clinic, that soldier came in and I thought now they’d come for me. They took someone else with them. But some twelve of them came, was a small clinic. So they walked past me, my room. And I was alone. With the pain and everything. But that happens a lot more often than people just got taken from, from the O.R., from the operating room. Doctors or patients. Nursing. They just came in and took them away. So it’s, like, very tense. And then they got Joop’s family here, paying for our tickets.

[i] So you’ve got one, a child born in Allende’s time. Also the time of the beginning of your love with, with Joop. And you have a child born on the tragic days of September, so to speak. Did the children have anything to do with that?

[r] Yes. Especially my eldest daughter… Is my opinion. I guess she never processed that. And, I-I couldn’t believe a two-and-a-half year-old kid like that could receive so much. Like a sponge. We walked, she was three years old, we walked here in the Kralingse forest in Rotterdam. And in a corner were to burn leaves. This must be in, December? November, December. And she said in Spanish, look. Or she said in Spanish but in Dutch, she said: look daddy, mummy, that’s Allende murdered. Because she saw the smoke. And she saw September 11th the smoke from the Moneda Palace. And we were standing behind a window crying and, oh that’s Allende. And she said, all at once, a child of two and a half years old.

[i] Is an association of images.

[r] Association of images, of images.

[i] Yeah, impressive, yeah.

[r] And, she herself studied psychology in Leiden. And had chosen as, theme for the, for the graduation assignment. The development of children of refugees. But was so bad for her, to delve into this theme. That stopped her studies and she never went back to university. So, that’s why I think, personally then, that she was very badly damaged.

[i] Yeah.

[r] Plus, that one day to the other daddy wasn’t. And then picked up the phone, “daddy come back, daddy come back. Yeah.

[i] Is a, a moment that wasn’t, not properly completed.

[r] No.

[i] Holland.

[r] Netherlands.

[i] Schiphol. Come in. Do you have any more footage of such a moment?

Yes. Very clear images, you can… You were in, on the paper, not fugitives. But we had fled. So it was Joop’s family, there. But first, I came from a twenty-day-old baby and, and, and, and another child. Had to go to the police. And the police said, yes, where are you going? I said Angeren. Angeren. Well, it’s not Angeren that they’re discussing, it’s Ángeren. Huh? Says the police. What are you saying? Angers. I only knew the name of the village where Joop came from, where the family came from. But I can’t, I couldn’t pronounce. But I didn’t know as the north, the south. So they showed us a map. And they said, “Would you show me where Angèren is? Well, we couldn’t find it. Because that wasn’t in the map at the time.

Such a small village.

Little village. And, uh… Yeah, that was panic. Yeah, what am I supposed to do? And all of a sudden, I was with a group of refugees, someone who could speak English. I said: well, say that my husband works with the refugees, with reception of refugees. So they told the police and said: oh yeah, all right, follow that group. And as soon as I follow the group I came into… some kind of hall with a stage. And that’s Joop. And that’s the photo that you have published yourself of Joop jumped off the stage, said: sorry she said, but I want to see me, my son, I want to see my son, that I have not seen yet. And was a very emotional [emotional] moment, that we came together.

Yeah, there’s about three pictures of a moment like that, yeah. Of you guys. Nice to have those pictures, too. What else?

[r] And then I came out and it just said ‘gigantes’. Giant people waiting for me, that was my father-in-law. And there were two of Joop’s brothers who are both almost two feet tall. And the seven sisters who are all taller than Joop, meter seventy, eighty. There were all in Schiphol Airport to receive me. And I thought that was such a warm thing. Because he had left as a priest. And I was terrified, how would she accept or not accept me. A foreign woman. For them was a pride, because they were very proud that Joop was a priest. But were so warm, so, so, yes, sweet. And was such a, yes, very, very positive thing. And I’ve always said, how awful for the people that came here and no one was waiting. Is very different strange country. But no one who received you, as became, I was received. I know then the refugees were well received. Well cared for at the time, very well. Not, you can’t even compare what, how it happens now.

[i] Were you welcome then?

[r] By Joop’s family. Welcome, yes. But the rest of the people. The rest of the refugees who came from Chile. The feeling of coming to a country where no one’s waiting for you is terrible.

And yet there’s the idea that the Chileans were well disposed of then… …well taken care of, huh?

Yeah. Yeah, but with care.

Careful, yes.

A lot of solidarity even back then. There were a lot of people from the political party here in the Netherlands then they came to the houses where the refugees were to make contact and help with, with the language and… So a receiving was a concern, with concerns, but also, was also a receiving of people who very, very long follow the process in Chile with Allende. And very also, were defeated with the coup. Defeated? No. What’s it called? How do you say the word? Um… were broke.

[i] Yeah, exactly

[r] Were broken, were broken.

[i] People who had followed and appreciated Allende’s ideas.

[r] Yes.

[i] It was a, yes, a defeat for many people.

[r] Defeat, yes, exactly.

You, you’ve been in Holland for 41 years now, but what were the first years of, of you and your family here?

We lived in an apartment. Well, for the first six months, in a house that accommodates the refugees. That Joop worked there, so we get one, a room, a room. Um… Until then, you’re still among the Chileans. And you’ll be in Chile anyway. Because, yes, you have, you don’t, you, your language is the same. You, you eat, you ate together in a, in a dining room. You had more or less contacts with one. Friendship. So you don’t feel that yet, that your life in Holland. But after six months we got an apartment. I feel, yes, very happy. Because that way, you’ll have more privacy. Was a very small apartment that was built in the time of, after the war. As an emergency apartment house. And then now, yeah, doesn’t exist anymore, for, like, years. But then you feel so happy. And, and you had, we only had a stove in the room. And a shower in the kitchen. But that, for us was not important, was, we were together. And I live every week waiting for every Friday to come from my parents such a la revista Hoy. Got that, the, uh, a magazine, a political magazine, Hoy. Came in every Friday with a letter from my parents. And then from my dad… from my mom. And, uh, that was every Friday and that was so happy. Because I could kind of follow what’s going on in there. Because through the television yes, understand nothing. And Joop was very, Joop was also processing, of very much grief, so. He was very closed. And didn’t feel like translating everything every time. And I was busy with the children. And erm… I call myself Golden Cage. Because I was real, golden, because I had everything I needed. But it was a cage.

[i] You hadn’t started learning the language yet?

No. Because I had, yeah, the baby was so small. And then neither was after that. Thinking that’s very important. Because then you’re not dependent. I think if they had obliged me to, learn the language.

[i] Put the language course on

[r] Language course? I’d have really gotten a lot further. Also in, in my, in my work.

[i] You were in Chile until you had to leave. Were you active, were you at work, were you also active in volunteer work. Then the military came to Chile and everything changed. And you come to the Netherlands and you sit at home. Just taking care of the family. Is a big difference between one and the other. Have you looked at the difference between those two moments later? What, what would you, what would you come in as, as a memory, or?

[r] Was, how should I say, I was very, yeah, very busy. Was winter, first year, first months, was winter. Sitting inside isn’t a problem. Then you’re not cold, you know. But after four years. No, yes after four years. That, oh can’t be. Locked up, my golden cage, got smaller every time, my world got smaller. I don’t feel happy at all. Plus the frustration of, you don’t feel, you don’t, despite you doing everything in the house, you don’t feel useful. Then, uh… Yeah, I said, how can I get a job if I don’t speak the language, don’t speak it. That was almost impossible. And I got pregnant with my third child. But when my third child turned two, I said now, now I’m going… I can’t take it anymore. And, uh… That’s what I applied for, and, uh, Van Dam Hospital. That was a medium-sized hospital. And that was in Westersingel. Now it doesn’t exist anymore. Now Rijn Da…, no, Rijn Dam? Rehabilitation centre I think it is now, isn’t it?

[i] Yeah, yeah.

[r] And I applied. And I got lucky. That was to accompany a group of cleaning lady. And a lot of the cleaning lady were Spanish ladies. And, the guy who did an interview. He thought it was more important than I could speak Spanish. To show people how to clean. The techniques and the products and you name it. Like, because those people couldn’t speak very much Spanish, um, Dutch. And I started yes, in practice I learned Dutch very quickly. In practice.

[i] In what year did you start working?

Um, let’s see, I quit, eight years ago. That’s 206, huh? 206 And that was 25 years.

[i] 2006?

[r] ’81, yeah. 1981, I thought. If I’m right…


Counted, calculated.

But you went to Chile in 1979.

In ’79?


Yeah, yeah.

[i] After six years away from here, in Holland, you went back to Chile, how was that?

Scary. I went because I wanted to show my mom and dad my third child. And, I had heard the experience of other women who have they let the husband and child in and the woman, the Chilean woman, had to go back to Argentina. So you can imagine how nervous I was. We paid for a very inexpensive trip. You had to go from Brussels to Uruguay or Paraguay. And then to Chile. But were really very ugly broken chairs. Well, that was really the cheapest we could get. We didn’t have that wide with three kids either. And I, I got to Chile. And what, was the same as time was quiet, not changed. Still felt that people were so anxious, they didn’t dare talk, not say too much, distrust the neighbors, even worse than in the beginning. And that had to do with everything that had happened then slowly began to surface. In the beginning nobody knew about it. Nobody knew what, you know, happened when I left in ’73. But six years later, or five years later, people knew what… not all of it. But in my neighborhood, where my parents lived, they did. And they were really scared, and so was I. When I was inside, it was terrible, soldiers everywhere, machine guns, with… No, it wasn’t pleasant.

Back to you, to your work at the hospital. You did that for 25 years.


[i] If we ask, could you kind of, yeah, report on what it was like? How did you experience that?

[r] In the beginning. In the beginning was for me, how can I lead. What is my way, my inspiration to lead. Given the oppression. So without oppressing the people. Good results, though. So for me it was quite a discovery process. Until I am, because I started a course in cleaning. I said, if I’m going to give instructions, I want people to know what I’m talking about. And that helped a lot with the language. And, uh… And was very, very, very difficult. Because I really have to be 100% busy. But it was a lot of fun. Finally feel useful, finally feel appreciated. From another way. And I began to discover me what kind of way of leading and I came to the conclusion that my way of leading would take care than people have rights but also have duties. Those were, me, the two legs of my leadership. I take care of you, that your rights… I guard you over your rights. But you have the duties. And that’s what you’re paid for. And I have one, one, a very rapid development. I have Course Effects, high command of cleaning hospitals and large buildings. I specialize in hospital disinfection. But the course with the practice, then made that I’ve grabbed very quickly. And then within three years was head of department. So with the evening shift, the morning shift, operating room, transport, internal transport, external transport, linen room. And, and then we moved to a new hospital. But that experience. I had a new… an old hospital that was still running and a new hospital. That’s where they asked the management: dare you and your staff clean the new hospital? Said: yes, why not. Are people who, that 100% trust and indeed, I had, was a kind of army. But based in love and trust, that’s, went so great. So in the morning, I went to make my schedule at the hospital. The assistants turned, and then went to Spijkenisse where the other hospital was built. And that had to be cleaned. Four, four floors. Three floors. And then a team of guys, guys with maps, you know, with, with maps. Everything planned and then I came back. Was a very busy time. But developing for me, for me… You know, which for me, very grateful than I am Chilean. That we in Chile, that’s what they say here, that’s what we say with certain girlfriends, with a piece of string, a nail and a saliva and then you get everywhere. “con un clavito, un elastiquito y un escupito solucionas todo” [with a nail, a rubber band and spit is to save everything] “Yes.” And that’s true, isn’t it? With so few elements you could do a lot because we have such a huge lack in Chile. Or in those days in techniques, in materials, that we have to be very creative. How many times. You, you’re much younger than me, but we had a, a car in Chile that rattles all over, from 1890. We bought it with friends. But indeed we went with a rubber band, with a string, with a nail and with chewing gum. And then we continued we had breakdown, we had bad luck. With those elements, just stuck, ge …, and, and then we can continue. That experience in Chile, that we have few elements, little technique. That was a richness here in Holland. A wealth of creativity, because you have so much here. And, and so am, the management asked me to be coordinator at the new hospital. And I’m getting to know: office furnishing, materials of chairs and furniture in the see…, throughout the hospital, ergonomic places of computers. So each time my tasks were very extensive. But most of all, solving problems that were brought up all day long. You know what I have… Got you in the warehouse and I had a big warehouse. Do you have anything in the warehouse that I can use? Come on, let’s go. And I always had, I kept a lot of things because we’re in Chile not used to throwing everything away. So for me, my job was really important. I’ve really, yeah, grown. Enriched. And so I can tell you in a nutshell. Briefly.

[i] Yeah, and what was your work, your development as, as a working woman. What did it mean for home, your relationship with your husband and the children.

Yeah. Well, Joop’s first reaction was, “Oh, what a pity what you’re going to work,” despite the fact that he was very modern and very emancipated, an emancipated, emancipated man. Because, yeah… Now I can’t find another job and I wanted to find something else. So my work that was er… “So you’ve had eight years to find another job. It’s my turn now. And, uh… And I just started. And after that, if you skip it 25 years at once, I come to that day when I said, “well, I’m retiring next year. He said, “well, why don’t you want to work until it’s 65. He said, “Yeah, that was retired earlier, liked home alone.

[i] Okay.

[r] But we’ve been able to arrange things at home. Because Joop works nights. So when I came home from work, I worked part-time at first. After three years, I started working full time. And the kids were just big. And all Joop had to do in the morning was say, “guys, time! And, he’d do anything. And when I got home, I did it from the socks, combs and everything. But the kids were independent too. They also became independent.

[i] Did you have any contact with the Chilean community during that time?

[r] Yes. Especially the first ten, fifteen years, I think, yes. That’s what I… First was purely political work. In political work, I mean solidarity with Chile and what happened in Chile. I have… I’ve been to Groningen to, for once, tell you what’s going on. In Spijkenisse. I was, I had received a lot of invitations. And then went with a friend who could translate me. Then we had the political meeting of our party still here. But what really bothered me was that the men did the ‘political work’. And we the women where the support was. Making empanadas, eh… typical sweets, from Chilean sweets to sell and collecting money for solidarity. And I was thinking, I’m really not, not happy with, with, with such tasks. But the important tasks of party that were discussed and carried out by the men. Was very, very much in the beginning. And we had a meeting with the Chilean women. Separately we began to form one, a group. And we began to talk other themes. We had weekends and we started talking for example, what’s going to happen to us? If we stay. Because at first you thought, well, that would take two years, three years. We were, we, our suitcase were always ready to go back. But then you started to notice that you were, uh, the, uh, the period got longer. And what’s gonna happen to us? The men had their jobs. That’s what they’ve got here, it was perfectly normal for the men to work and the women to stay at home. And when we go back. Do you really want to go back to Chile or do you want to stay here? I said in one of the interviews we’re far… we’ve come from Chile like the man’s suitcase. A lot of Chilean women. Because the man was involved in, in politics. Follow me. In exile. But that wasn’t our choice. For many women it wasn’t their own choice. But what do we want if we can choose to go back, do we want to go back? So those were the themes of our weekends, of our meeting. Do we want solidarity? What for, how can we support solidarity? We also want to say what’s happening in Chile. And then we have one of those, an organizing meeting for women who were far… who went missing in Chile. And that was also an experience of we have read a cougar [poem] , a poetry, one, a poem. It was written by a woman who had fled or had been released, I don’t know, not exactly anymore. She wrote a poetry, a cougar or a poetry about Muriel. And Muriel Dorfman [Muriel Dockendorf] had disappeared into Colonia Dignidad. There’s a German colony in the south of Chile. And then we read that poem and translated it into, into Spanish. And we were done, all of a sudden a woman raised her hand. And was the mother of Van de ver… Um…

Of the missing one.

Missing girl. So that, that, that, that we organized a lot of solidarity but in our way as women. And, and, and, and we feel much more useful than we do within our political party.

[i] If you look at you, at your, memories, remember when you felt: I’m not my husband’s suitcase anymore.

[r] I guess when I started working. In my case the suitcase, um, was love. But it’s a nice suitcase, but it’s a suitcase. Because I wanted to go after him, I wanted to stay with him. I couldn’t live without him.

Being together, yeah.

Be together. But is a suitcase. Hasn’t been my decision.

And another question about suitcase. Do you feel, could you find that in your memories to the moment the idea of, we go back to Chile soon. Have you let go?

I think that was, um, when I started looking for work. Because that came from a friend of ours who was very supportive of Chile. He was Canadian and he lived in Costa Rica. And then we had the opportunity to work with him there in projects. And was very attractive to do, back to Latin America. But it didn’t work out. And in hindsight, well, er, that’s the way it has to be. Had to be like that. Because I’ve also changed my mentality. I’ve also developed a bit, a bit of me, a bit esoteric, a bit… Not just what happened here applies, but there’s always a why. It’s not always a coincidence. I believe that, too. I believe in meditation, I believe in, in healing the mind. So this has been part of my development, too.

When you think of the period of the 70’s, Chile, your political involvement, the work of your husband back then. Have you found room in the Netherlands to hold on to political ideals? And on, perhaps in a different way?

[r] I think I’ve integrated into my work. I never left my ideals behind, that doesn’t count anymore, no. My ideals were always central, man. When I talk to people with, with, we, we clean in the hospital. I’ve always said: we should be proud. We care then we are discriminated [discriminated against] or not. If you accept then someone from the nurses say: female the trash is empty. You guys just keep walking. Because if you’re gonna do it, next time is more and more. To be respected is the beginning of not discriminating. You’re madam. [name] madam, uh… It’s possible of any nationality. So you always work in a permanent department. Don’t mention any of your wives. And leave you, let me call you. And has been created a respect, a tremendous respect for my service. That was really, uh… That was also the basis of my motivation, my political motivation. Respect for the people, appreciation of the people. That’s what I thought, that’s what I’ve always found important. I don’t know if it’s an answer to your question, but eh so I can tell what politics and my experience in Chile have brought to my work. Or found in the Netherlands.

[i] In, in your work you have also had to deal with various cultures. People from different countries. That’s the situation in Rotterdam anyway.

[r] Yes.

[i] What does cultural diversity mean to you?

[r] Um. I come back to respecting each other and, and the difference is, for me it’s an enrichment. For me, it’s fantastic to discover what each person with their background can transfer to the Nederlese… Dutch society. And vice versa. Because is a trade-off. And an enrichment. I always have, not as a difference, but is an enrichment. So I can’t say many words, like it, something cultural. That come, or I can remember than I had someone, a boy in, in the hospital. A boy who works in transport and was er… Turkish boy. And could write beautiful poetry. Then they always come to me to read. And read in Turkey and I read in

[i] In Dutch.

[r] In Dutch. I said you have to do something about it, you have to, and wrote a letter in, in booklets. And I also transferred that to my boss. That he appreciates. You know, that’s, like, giving him a chance. And there were a lot of people from the cleaning, then they went to the reception. Or a nutritionist. Too bad the were always the best. But I thought it was great that people could develop them and with them own culture…

[i] Go on.

[r] Move on.

[i] How long have you lived in Rotterdam?

[r] 41 years.

[i] And if you realize: [name] live in Holland and Rotterdam. What would that mean for you?

Um… Mean a lot and mean little. Because I live in, where I am. I really enjoy Rotterdam. But I also enjoy Santiago when I’m there. And when I’m in the village where my husband came from. I enjoy too. Life for me is, um, not tied to a place. But is where you feel good and I feel good here in Rotterdam. And that’s why I’m staying here.

[i] Why do you feel good in Rotterdam? What could you call the one that plays a role in that?

[r] I then find the different culture, especially. When you go to Chile, all Chileans are Chileans, most of them. But in my neighborhood are Peruvians. And I also see discrimination against the Peruvians there. And I think that’s terrible.

[i] In Chile?

In Chile. But here there’s all the culture. I think it’s beautiful. And I have in here, in the street. A little close to nature here, I can walk and then I’m in the, in nature. And I have neighbors who are all Dutch in that, in that, in the street. But very sweet. Then they have, yes, come to me like, when Joop died and drink coffee. And come and have coffee with us, no matter what time, if you have any problems call. That solidarity. And I, and I think that if I call you, you’ll hear them coming. And that’s what I like about Rotterdam and my neighborhood. I feel safe. I feel good.

Are you at home in Rotterdam?

Yeah. But in Chile too. I don’t know if you, like yourself, feel the same way. That if you’re in Chile then you feel too, yes, I’ve been more often the last few years.

[i] I haven’t retired yet.

[r] No, that’s the difference yeah.

[i] So you’re retired now. Your kids are, like, big, started their own families. When I ask, do you feel like you’ve contributed to the development of, uh, the city? What could, what could you, what could your answer be?

I think that’s a big word what you, what you’re asking is one, is, you’re asking me in global, in, in big. I think I have made a contribution with my culture, with me luggage than I, then I brought from Chile of knowledge and I have made a contribution in my work so in small. But I think, that was an important contribution. And that was well appreciated. For example, I organize my work, that’s a short example, but Christmas, a breakfast. Management agreed, so we took, we buy. But with, I also had a budget because I was very frugal with, with the work. A breakfast. A breakfast came often, even the headmistress. But the head of me. It was between the management and me. And I asked, was in the time of war of, er… of, Yugoslavia. And we employed many Yugoslavs. So I asked: We give to our hand. And because Christmas means peace We want to ask for peace in Yugoslavia. Well, me, me, the head of my department didn’t know what was happening. Yeah. Such a warm sign of solidarity, and I thought that was quite normal. It was the secretary and all, and all hand in hand with the people cleaning. And there were all the colours. And it’s beautiful. And now we’re going to eat together and… So, that’s a new vision, in work too. I was teaching the first year of nursing. They asked me to come. And talk about these things. Because that’s what they thought was very important, then, the humanistic vision of care. That we’re a team. The cleaner’s as important as, like, the surgeon. If they do a sloppy job, the patient could die…

[i] Yeah.

[r] So I guess I do have a contribution there, but it would be too kapsones to say to town. But that did work.

[i] Yeah. Are you anywhere proud when you look at the course of your life? Chile, fleeing, 41 years in Holland?

[r] Yeah, I’m proud. I think you can tell. A whole, a whole interview. I did my best. I’ve been able to build a nice family. Despite, not always being there. Because of my work. But the time I had free was completely for, for the kids, completely. I had little time to do social life. Because, yeah, you’re, you’re a human being. And now is my time to go everywhere with girlfriends and girlfriends who stay here and… Yeah, I’m proud. I’m proud then,how I’m now processing the death of,uh,joop.


That was me, me fifty percent.

I know that the family of Joop, your husband, is a big family.


[i] Are you in the family?


Have you, could you name the moment of… from that moment you were part of the family?

The moment? Its different moments.


[r] Because that’s going to be gradual [gradually]

[i] Because at the beginning, you were at home. You mentioned in your story one, one, a cage.

[r] Yeah.

[i] Wonderful. But you couldn’t feel more until you started working in the city, so to speak. In, in such a moment the family also counts, so to speak, in discovering the country, accepting that you’re here, that you’re here and that you’re going to stay here actually.

With the, with the relationship with the family. Well, the first day would never forget. I came from Schiphol. Three hours. Dinner was over. I was starving. And me, my mother-in-law, you can tell that’s a, was a farmer’s wife. So a peasant’s wife doing hard work. With a family of ten children. They walked back and forth with, I’d never forget, tea towel on the shoulder and doing the dishes. We couldn’t talk. I couldn’t talk to anyone. So there, the integration went hard too. But was one sister-in-law who took the time to join me in the kitchen at the table of, from the kitchen, with the pen and pencil we try to communicate. Three days there I was alone, without Joop I stayed there with two children. But I don’t dare say to Joop, well I’m hungry. I didn’t know the habit. So at three o’clock a cup of tea and a biscuit came. I thought, well, luckily tonight we’re having a hot dinner. That came bread and coffee and that was it. But I have to say, there were me so strange, so strange. I didn’t feel anything. Nothing from, from… There was nothing that, that, that, that we, how should I say, that we could share. Because first language and they still speak dialect. In what moment. I think that was when they were very much in solidarity. And paid a trip for my mom and dad with all of them. I found um… Yeah, because they could always come to. But I had, when I came to them there was a guest room with embroidered sheets, everything perfect, everything clean. But I said, yeah, you guys come, but I’ve got mattresses under the mattresses. And, and, yeah, like, if we’re the Chileans, you know. And we could be very happy and, and, and they got to know my kids, my friends and so began. What, but it’s very slow. Goes very slowly. There’s not a moment, but you find out… If my father-in-law grabbed me, it was a big man, and he said, yes, a treasure from another he said to me. I said, dad, yes, I’m another man’s treasure because you were married when I came here and had ten children. You know, when I could say something.

[i] Communication.

Communication is very important. And they’re, like, two out of ten haven’t been to Chile. All went to Chile. And that’s a sign of acceptance for me too, and I thought Chile was great. The most beautiful experience of their lives. There are some who have been three, four times. And acceptance like me, I’m happier than I live far away. Not because they, but in a village where they all know everything, that do not like. So we have been able to carry out our own lives in our own way, or how should you say.

[i] Build it up.

[r] Yeah.

[i] Holland, Chile, how are you?

[r] Both of you. Both with the same love. Don’t worry, I couldn’t live without Chile and Holland.

[i] Are you broke?

[r] Hmm?

Are you getting broke?


But your story is the story of, of moving on. Of growing. Of staying strong, of continuing to believe. How can you be broken?

I thought I’d be broke if Joop wasn’t Joop anymore. I couldn’t imagine my life without him. And I can live.


[r] Now think, if any of my children or my grandchildren lose. I couldn’t survive that. But my life is so full of surprises. But I hope I don’t lose it. And I’m in my principle, that, that thinking that my principle of believing in man and believing in righteousness and believing eh, that’s for me… I would hold on to my death, I think. Because that’s the basis of my existence. I believe and occasionally think now the world with so much war and Monica not in the negative thinking because itself the crisis now bring good things. People need to be more supportive. Do they have to leave the beautiful houses and start over. And start over. Look, if we’ve lived with a minimum it’s no big deal. But people who have an awful lot of wealth and all of a sudden have to go down. Then learn something. Life is a way from where you have a lot of experiences to grow or to break down. But I think in growing.

You choose to grow.

I choose to grow. If you keep your eyes open. And knowing what’s happening in the world.

Are you afraid of the world?

No. I’m more afraid of the… I can’t stand aggression. Rude. Violencia?


Violence. Little respect. I can’t stand it. Those are things. And that’s what I’m a little afraid of. A little, then get a little scared.

[i] We’ve talked a lot about your life. Did we forget to mention anything?

[r] Have a lot, huh? Well, that’s, uh, the big question mark of the future, huh? And yes, personally and, and, and… How am I gonna confront me, my old time coming. I don’t feel that old and I’m very close to seventy. So two more years and then I’m 70, I don’t want to believe that. But then I get a little scared, I don’t want to be dependent. One of the things that gives me a lot of peace and quiet is that Joop hasn’t suffered from dependency or a long illness either, but yes, you have nothing to choose from. But, I can see that. I can feel anxious now, but then you’re, yeah, accomplishing nothing. You just get sick and depressed. I can see that. But sitting, yes, feeling at the beginning of me, of a new stage in my life. That’s why I kept my gray hair.

[i] But you’re strong and it’s gonna be okay, right?

[r] Yeah. I love, I love the sad moments. Moment I left Chile. Learned an awful lot. But on the upside, I thought maybe I should be here. I, my, my role, my job, my future was here. Why isn’t it lucky to go to the Dominican Republic or to, where were we going? So, my, no, is not task, my way. Was here.

[i] I have no more questions.

I hope I’ll, then, make a contribution for, for understanding, of the refugees. And the chance that they should have to develop. Because we push the human beings into society and then we complain a lot is delinquency, and that a lot then they do nothing and… But then maybe if they give them a chance, they force the people to look for a bad way out. And I think it’s very important that people should receive. The experience of war. The experience of a coup in that case of ours. You see, for He… leave scars for life. But you also have one, one side that’s still good and that needs to evolve.

[i] Thank you.

[r] You’re welcome.