Angela Arasepa - Oral History interview recorded on 12 May 2016 at Pusahambo, Northern Province, PNG


Mrs Angela Arasepa tells her parents' experiences of the war in the Central Kaiva area, and the traces of the war left behind.



Warning: This site contains stories of war. Some of these interviews may include detailed and graphic descriptions of events and experiences that may be disturbing for some individuals.

[VS] This is an interview with Angela Arasepa. It is the 12th of May 2016, and we are in Pusahambo in Northern Province. When you are ready please introduce yourself.
My name is Angela Arasepa, Pusahambo village. Village history of War, World War Second. Japanese based in Buna. They were coming up inland and to my place into Awala and went up to Kokoda. In my place what happened was, one, they made houses; two, stole food from the gardens; three, stripped young girls' clothes and touched their private body, like their bum and breast, raped three girls. Their names were Georgina, my aunty, the other one Jigari, the other one I forgot her name.
Secondary, that time, my father and my mother, we were in the garden house, and what happened was, a Japanese man was very ill and having diarrhoea came into where we were staying. My mother baked yam and gave it to him to eat, after that my father asked him for his name and he said his name was Kiko. From there we all slept and he disappeared in the night and we don't know where he went. That is all.
[VS] Thank you. Can you tell me about how you came to have this story?
My father and my mother, they told me.
[VS] How old were you when they told you this story?
I was two years old, a baby [when this happened].
[VS] Just a baby, then you grew up hearing this story.
I grew up, they told me.
[VS] What does it mean to you now, to think back to that story?
I remembered, I remember what my father and mother told me, so, I still keep it in my mind.
[VS] Thank you for sharing your story.
Before Japanese, they left Lae, they were coming to Popondetta, and they were based in Buna. So, that time suddenly Americans' army and Australian they flew over. And they got that base here, in my place. And they came here, so Japanese, they tried to come up but they got frightened and they moved across the bush and went up to Kokoda. And Americans, they based here, they dropped everything – medicine bottles, bullets, anything they brought it. So, my place is full of these things in the ground. So, sometimes we make garden, [it's] very dangerous. Sometimes, we picked them up, sometimes we keep them, some are in the bush and we leave them.
[VS] And you had some of those objects that you showed me.
Yes, we got some objects – bullet, some medicine bottles, and some like hook, they climbed up the tree, [used them to] make the ladder and go up the tree, plenty of them, Americans left. We picked them and keep them.
[VS] Can I ask why do you keep those objects?
Because, in future you might come and want to dig out or something like that, so we keep them.
[VS] What do your grand children think when they find these objects?
They see the things, they get frightened. Sometimes we burn the ground, the garden, and they blow [up]. One got injured. A girl got injured. That bullet came and hit her chest.
[VS] So, this place, your family was not living here during the War
No, during the War we were up in the old village. And this one is bush. The main road came up here and went up to Kokoda.
[VS] Can you tell me a little about the place where your family lived during the War?
At Kevana village near Mount Lamington. And my parents usually come down here and make gardens. And men followed, and followed old government station which was at Higaturu. So they followed the main road, came up and went up to Kokoda. They make the road. He got through, came down, went up to Kokoda. So, this is our new village, and old village we left. This place is [where] my parents make garden.
[VS] So this was your family's land?
My family's land.
[VS] And you left your village after 1951, can you tell me a little bit about what happened then?
Mount Lamington, it started 1951 in January. And 21st of January it blow. So, we moved. Too many people killed, four thousands something. So, we moved the old village and came down and this is my parents' ground. We make the village and live.
[VS] And you were just a small child
Yes, I was ten years old, when the Mount Lamington erupted.
[VS] Do you remember?
Yeh, I remember. It is very dangerous when the Mount Lamington erupted, that old government station was at Higaturu, Popondetta is new one. But the lava came down and joined the petrol, diesel, [and] they blow. And my village is eight villages and all the villages are near Mount Lamington. So, everybody died, and some of us, we came down here in the garden and some, we survived. So, my parents they looked after us, we grew big, we married, we get the children, and now population is becoming big.
[VS] But you have not always been here because you were a nurse.
I was a nurse. I school at Popondetta, before they called it Intermediate School. I was schooling at Popondetta. I was in grade six, so they sent me to Taurama General Hospital to join nursing, in Moresby. I was there for three years, I went over to Rabaul for midwifery. I got married to Rabaul man. And I came over and lived in my village with my husband.
[VS] Did you work as a nurse when you came back here?
Yeah, I worked but I had some mistakes with my husband, so he burnt all my certificates, uniforms. So, I left it and I just worked with the SIL.
[ME] Summer Institute of Linguistics, SIL.
Yes, I worked with them near Sasembata. I was living there. I worked with them, with a married couple, Vera and Eric, they are from America. Americans. I worked with them for two years. So, they left me and went, I came home. That is okay?
[VS] Thank you.

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“Angela Arasepa - Oral History interview recorded on 12 May 2016 at Pusahambo, Northern Province, PNG,” Voices from the War, accessed July 17, 2024,