Careers

My mother  Nel van Oppenhad after a career as a ballet danser, trained by Lilly Green in Europe, opened a balletschool in the Dutch Indies. There was then a trend to put the foot completely on the ground. She didn’t dance on toes.

Nel van Oppen

Nel van Oppen

When she let her pupils dance with bare shoulders, this wasn’t accepted by parents and the school was closed. This didn’t stop Nel van Oppen. She went to the Netherlands and gained a diploma as a primary school teacher. She went back to the Dutch Indies, where there was a need for home teachers. She found a job teaching the four children in the Kerbosch family. My father worked on the same Plantation. The Kerbosch marriage wasn’t a happy one but divorce wasn’t possible in those days as a Catholic. Pierre and Marie Kerbosch became intimate. A son of the Kerbosch family revealed the affair at a dinner. This upset the small colonial community. Such things should stay hidden.

Marie Kerbosch went back the Netherlands to Gouda, where she died of cancer. The children also went to the Netherlands to University. Her grandson Matthieu Kerbosch made a movie about the life of his grand-father, which was shown on TV. It was called the Sacred Family.

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Pierre and Nel wedding picture 1927, 5th of April.

Nel van Oppen, then 28 years old and Pierre Schrijnen, 27 years old, left the plantation. Nel probably forgave Pierre’s affair, as they married on the 5th April 1927. Nel became Catholic and Pierre started working for himself. From our memories and from the letters that we still have from the time that they were imprisoned in the Japanese camps it shows that they loved each other strongly.

An education as a dancer demands discipline and character and to pass this on, pedagogical capacities, which Nel’s children experienced. Notwithstanding his amourous youth, Pierre became a strict father with a strong faith. This faith kept them going, in particular during the difficult war years.

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