Helen Colijn’s account of her wartime experiences is a window into a largely overlooked dimension of World War II: the imprisonment of women and children in Southeast Asia by the Japanese and how these prisoners of war responded to their dire circumstances. The conditions were harsh, terrible. Food was scarce, medicine unavailable. Held in captivity for three and a half years, more than a third of the women in Helen’s camp died of disease or starvation. Yet their courage, faith, resiliency, ingenuity, and camaraderie provide us with enduring lessons on living.
Though the prisoners had no musical instruments, they had their voices, and from memory scored classical works for symphony and piano. The music that helped sustain them while in captivity is a lasting and precious gift of these women to a world that has witnessed far too much war.
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