Rosevera Gandari - Oral History interview recorded on 20 May 2017 at Holy Cross Mission Station, Gona, Northern Province, PNG


Mrs Rosevera Gandari tells the story told to her by her mother about the Japanese landing at Gona and her displacement during the war.



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] OK, please begin.
My name is Rosevera Gandari. I am from Basabua. My mum bore me at Basabua. I was not born at that time. But my mum used to tell me how she ran when the war came. My elder siblings, two boys and two girls, she got them and ran with them.
When the war came, the Japanese barges arrived first, in the sea. It was their first time to see such a thing.
While they were wondering what the barge was all about, the war planes, so many of them flew out. The people wondered and said ''What is this? Why is it that so many planes are flying?'' There were so much different kinds of noises coming from inside the barges. From the inside, there were not only Japanese but there were different people, maybe from Buka who were beating/stomping the bamboo on something. As they were wondering what the noise was, the barges came in numbers and filled the place.
While that was going on, we saw the war starting there, so they knew the war had started and they started running away. They were frightened and the other people had already gone. The other people had already gone into the bush, at that time. Those people who were in the village at that time all ran away. When they started running they didn't get any of their belongings, they just ran by themselves. They did not think of taking their belongings with them, not even string bags to put their things in, they just ran. They went into the bush with their children.
While they were in the bush, the plane was dropping huge bombs on the barge. That happened many time, they dropped the bombs on the barge, but nothing happened to the barges.When that was happening, they were already gone into the bush. But they just heard the noise while they were in the bush, they were hiding in the bush beside their gardens. While they were still hiding there, they watched very thick smoke
rising from the sea, it used to come up and we saw that the barge was bombed, so the smoke was rising up like that.
There were a lot of all kinds of noise, from the top and from the ground. They were unable to live there. The place was filled with those who came to fight, so they had to move and go further towards where Ononda mountain is, that is where the mountains are that you see when you stand [at Kikiri] and look towards North Coast, that is where they moved them to.
Nobody told them to move but they couldn't live there where they were, so as the people from the Yega area were moving, mum and dad with their children moved there also. There it was safe and quiet. They moved there until the war ended.
Auntie Rosevera, I want to know this. When they went there, where did granny get the food to feed the children? Can you tell us that?
While they were living there nobody gave them food so they would go into the bush and cut down the village people's sago palm and then they would beat the sago and take it to the camp where they were, and they would eat that with dry coconut. They would go and collect ferns in the bush and they would come and cook them and eat.
In the river there they also found shellfish [imeia ro eh boge] and they also ate that. That is the types of food they ate until the war ended. They did not find any other food, only that. [MT]
Rosevera, did they tell you the story about how they used to sleep? Did they sleep in the house, or under the trees, or next to the tree trunks?
They built small shelters [dobo memeia], you understand what dobo is? They built small shelters and some of the people slept on the shelters and some slept under the shelters, they would sleep there. Other people were frightened and they never slept. The fighting and the noise, all kinds of noise coming from every direction, that stopped them from sleeping. The children and the mothers could not sleep, they had to stay awake, they continued to do that while staying there.
That's my short story, that's all.[VS] Thank you.
Thank you.
[MT] That is her short story.

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“Rosevera Gandari - Oral History interview recorded on 20 May 2017 at Holy Cross Mission Station, Gona, Northern Province, PNG,” Voices from the War, accessed May 30, 2024,