The 85-year-old Ontario resident experienced a riches-to-rags story as a teenager, was banished to an internment camp for more than three years, lost her mother in the internment camp, moved to a country where she knew very few people and didn’t speak much of the language, and almost died giving birth while also coming close to losing her only child.
Overcoming all these hardships – and she’s sure there are others she either can’t remember or blocked out – makes her refer to her long, mostly happy life as – a miracle.
“I am Dutch,” said Ordelman, who still speaks with a distinctive accent. “But my family had immigrated to Indonesia where I was born and
Elsa Ordelman at her home in Ontario on Thursday. Ordelman is a survivor of a Japanese-run internment camp in Indonesia. (Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Staff Photographer)
Ordelman’s father was a banker in Java (this was still when the area was a Dutch colony) and provided well for his wife and three daughters.
“We were rich,” she said. “We had servants and a nanny. We lived in a grand house and wanted for nothing.”
Just after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, they also began an occupation of Indonesia. Ordelman, 16 at the time, said immigrants, including Dutch, English, German and Australian, were first segregated then removed from their homes.