Woman of Okinawan descent living in Holland reunites with her relatives for the first time in three decades

Woman of Okinawan descent living in Holland reunites with her relatives for the first time in three decades

Cecilia Gerkens (second from right, front row) and her aunt Yumeno Miyagi (second from left, front row) shared the delight of reuniting after long years, on March 11, Naha.

March 12, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo
By Hideki Matsudo

On March 11, Cecilia Gerkens, a sixty-two-year-old woman from Singapore living in Holland, reunited with her relatives in Okinawa for the first time in three decades. She visited Okinawa to pay respects at her ancestors’ grave, because she wanted to fulfill the last wishes of her father, Yoshio Nakachi. He was born in Miyako Island and emigrated to Singapore before World War Two. Cecilia said her father’s last words were, “Respect your Okinawan lineage.”

Yumeno Miyagi, 82, a younger sister of Yoshio, read an article about Cecilia wanting to see her father’s relatives, which was published on March 10 in Ryukyu Shimpo, and she visited Cecilia at the hotel where she was staying in Naha. They shared an embrace, saying it was great to finally meet each other.

“My father led me here,” Cecilia said, wiping away her tears. Miyagi said, “I wish I could see my brother.” She gave condolence money to Cecilia to place offerings beside Yoshio’s mortuary tablet.

Kotoku Nakachi, 83, a cousin of Cecilia, could not visit to see her because he is in hospital. But his son Hidenori, 47, and five relatives visited the hotel.

Cecilia said she could not forget her father’s words. “I repent that I spat on the tomb when I visited Okinawa, because I could not forgive my father,” he told her. “He put me out to service for money when I was a young boy.”
At eight years old, Yoshio started to work in Itoman, known as a fishermen’s town. But he fled to Singapore, hiding on a foreign ship, in 1938. He had been living there, pretending to be Chinese, when he was captured as a prisoner by the Japanese Army.

His life was full of ups and downs, and he served as an interpreter between local people and the Japanese Army during World War Two.

However, he could not temper his anger against his father who had abandoned him. But Cecilia persuaded her father that the grandfather had made his hard decision in an extremely poor life at that time.

Just before he passed away, Yoshio left her these last words: “I want you to respect our relatives and Okinawan lineage.”

Cecilia said, “I want to apologize that my father spat out a curse to my grandfather.”

Cecilia visited the ancestors’ grave with relatives on March 12.

She said, “My roots are in Okinawa. I want to pass on my thoughts to my two sons who live in Holland.”

(English translation by T&CT)

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