An Abbotsford woman has translated from Dutch into English a book that tells the story of her husband’s family’s horrific experiences in various Japanese concentration camps in Java, Indonesia during the Second World War.
The translation by Helen Mobach of the book Against All Odds was released late last year.
The original novel Het Geluk te Overleven was written in Dutch by Daan Fousert and Monique Melief and published in Holland in the summer of 2020 – just in time for the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two in the Pacific arena (Aug. 15, 1945).
The book is partially based on the diary of father Jaan Willem Mobach and the memoirs of his son, Jan.
Helen’s husband Gerard, who died in 2015, was one of eight family members who survived the concentration camps and were reunited after the war. He was the second oldest of the six siblings.
Helen said Gerard “suffered dreadfully” as a teenager in the concentration camps.
“He always said that he wished people would understand the frightful consequences of war,” she said.
Helen and Gerard met and married in Berkeley, Calif. after she moved there from Winnipeg to work in biochemical research at the University of California at Berkeley. She learned Dutch so she could communicate with in her in-laws in Holland.
The couple moved in 1976 to Abbotsford, where they raised their two daughters. Until his retirement, Gerard worked at Act I Uniform Rentals as a salesman and a driver.
Helen substitute taught junior and senior high in Abbotsford for 12 years and then taught English as a Second Language to adult immigrants for 15 years.
In the 1980s, Helen translated her father-in-law’s diary of his experiences in the Japanese concentration camps.
After receiving a copy of the Dutch book in 2020, she contacted Fousert, to ask if she could translate it into English. He happily gave her permission, and the English version was published by Mill Lake Books.
Fousert, born in Zaandam, the Netherlands, is an active writer in different genres: psychological, historical, and spiritual novels, and psychological thrillers.
Previously, he wrote a historical novel about Indonesia, entitled Wandelen in Liefde. As in Against All Odds, he relied on original documents.
Melief was born in the Netherlands in 1955. In 2012 she began publishing books, and in 2018 she wrote her first historical novel, In Het Oog van de Storm, about the life of scientist and twice Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie.
In Against All Odds, she tells the story of mother Johanna, from her perspective and based on facts.
Against All Odds is available at House of James in Abbotsford and on Amazon.ca.