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Aussie hopes to reunite dad with long lost sister separated during war

Jessie’s father (aged 15) and her grandmother in a photo taken in 1955.

14th September, 2018


SANDAKAN: An Australian lady residing in Melbourne is hoping to reunite his father with his sister in Sandakan after being separated during the World War Two.

Catherin Chua, a friend of New Sabah Times East Coast Region office head, James Leong, was requested by her relatives in Australia to assist Jessie Wys in her attempt to trace the whereabouts of her aunty.

Chua relayed the information to James, seeking the help of New Sabah Times to locate Jessie’s aunty who is now between 75 to 76 years old.

Jessie’s story goes like this: “In the earlier days of World War II, when the Japanese soldiers invaded Sandakan in 1942, which was ruled by the British at the time – it was a terrifying day for Amah (my grandmother) and her family. She was my grandfather’s second wife and was caring for five young children under the age of eight – three of her own and two from the first wife who was very unwell.

“Both mothers had baby girls under the age of one who were healthier than the rest as they were still breastfeeding. Amah and the rest of the children were severely malnourished, weak, desperate and hanging on for dear life – affected by the horrors of war, starvation and poverty. They were overcome with desperation, fear and panic as the Japanese soldiers bore down on defending British Forces and civilians alike, with gunfire and bombs, causing everyone to flee deeper into the jungle of Borneo.

“The mothers saw a sliver of potential hope to save their two baby girls by leaving them on the side of the road where most of the refugees were fleeing deeper into the countryside jungle. Desperation we could never fathom, to tear apart the bond between a mother and child, especially her youngest and only baby girl.

“The mothers prayed and hoped the two baby girls would be picked up by a family more able to care for them, or even soldiers from either side, in hope that they would have a better life because in that moment of fear, they believed that they would surely perish.

“Once the dust settled, Amah was overcome with grief and went back to the spot they had left them, but they had been taken. She searched earnestly for the babies – but they were gone and never to be seen since.

“My father was three years old at the time and had buried this loss in his life deep in his past as part of the inevitable traumas of war. However, it was always in his heart and he even named his eldest and youngest daughters after his loss, but never forgotten, younger sister, Ying. It wasn’t until about 20 years ago when he attempted his search again, but it was much too painful for Amah, an incredibly strong woman and survivor of the war, to re-live the pain of tearing her soul apart and losing the pieces that never allowed her to feel quite as whole again.

“She was inconsolable when it was brought up and back then, my father didn’t quite have the resources we have today, so decided to leave it be.

“Not long ago, my father agreed to let me try and find her and our long lost side of the family. He has asked me to keep from naming him as of yet, although most who know me, know who he is. There’s a possibility she’s no longer around and I have told him to not get his hopes up. We are of course looking into other avenues but if there was a way in which we somehow do manage to connect to our long lost Aunt/sister and loved one, then perhaps this would be a chance for social media to redeem itself in some sense.

“I pray that whoever picked up the two babies treated them well and she was eventually told where she came from. I pray that she shared her story with her own children and grandchildren, or family. I pray that six degrees of separation allows this story to cross their path and they recognise the possibilities of whom we are searching for. I pray that, if it is meant to be, we can reconnect with a dearly loved one, a victim of the atrocities of war,” Jessie relates.

According to the family, the aunty, has a distinct birthmark by the base of her ear lobe, just like Amah did – an extra piece of cartilage that slightly protruded as an irregular bump.(Position marked on the image, unsure whether left or right ear)

“Both girls were picked up together when the Japanese soldiers invaded Sandakan and moved through the country. Putting the pieces together, we are guessing this is early 1942.

“Amah was told through the grapevine that they were picked up by a Malay family, however, they could have been left at a British-run orphanage or hospital, or even by the Japanese soldiers.

Whilst other avenues are also pursued, I hope Facebook’s nearly two billion users can help weave our stories together.

“All I ask is you merely share my original post as far and wide as you can. Share this story with your older generation, may it spark any memories or provide us any leads.

“I ask you from the bottom of my heart, please help us. I ask you to also, please not send us anything you do not genuinely think is true information that would give us a lead as it would break our hearts.”

Please send any information to this email (not via Facebook): FindMyAunty@gmail.com.

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