January 16, 2020, I received the sad news that Ibu Paini (from our “Comfort Women” book and exhibition) has passed away at the age of 90. She also played a big role in Hilde Janssen‘s book “Schaamte en Onschuld: Het Verdrongen Oorlogsverleden van Troostmeisjes in Indonesie” (in Dutch) as well as in Frank van Osch‘s documentary “Because We Were Beautiful.”
In spite of the sexual abuse on a large scale by Japanese military during WWII, Paini was a disarming and warm-hearted woman. A true darling.
Selamat jalan, ibu Paini.
Hilde Janssen wrote on her Facebook page:
“Selamat jalan simbah Paini, Rest in Peace
( Semarang, Indonesia 1930-2020)
Ibu Paini is no more. The sad news of her death reached me last night by text message, sent by one of her great grand children. Paini was an endearing, smart and strong-willed woman, bravely carrying the burden of the past.
Paini was one of the former comfort woman that was interviewed by me and portrayed by Jan Banning in 2008 for our project on Indonesian victims of Japanese warcrimes during WWII, being raped, forced into prostitution and sexual slavery. Paini was one of the younger victims, just 13 years old, when she had to perform forced labur for the the Japanese soldiers in her village in Cental JavaIn. Some evenings after work she ws regularly called to the baracks and raped repeatedly. Once the war was over, her husband-to-be would have nothing to do with her. Paini was branded as a ‘Japanese-hand-me-down’, a ‘bekas Jepang’. She took it in her stride. After a brief second arranged marriage, she left the village to work as a maid before starting a family with her third husband. “I told him I was ‘used’, but he liked me anyway. We enjoyed each others company a lot. That is why I have a lot of children now.”
Paini didn’t want to burden her children family with her past. She never talked to them about the war time abuse, feeling too ashamed. However, she joined meetings and demonstrations in the 1990s to demand a formal apology for their war crimes against the former comfort women. She broke the silence and told me her story, repeating her ordeal in front a Japanese film crew in 2015, still hoping to have her honour restored. When I saw her the last time in August 2018, she still felt sad and angry that the Japanese government keeps on ignoring their demands.
Paini never lost hope, till the last moment. Although she became very fragile, her mind was still sharp and her eyes sparkling, encouraging her great grand children to study and work hard to have a better life. She will be dearly missed by all.
Rest in peace dear Paini, selamat jalan”