Good night to you my two daughters and greetings to you, what I am going to say now is not what I saw with my eyes but what my grand-mother and father told me.
This thing called war came, people went into the bush, no food but people lived on bush ferns and other bush vegetables called topiodi [tapioca].To make fire or start fire, the war planes comes so they had to put the fire off, they continue doing that. My story is short and that's all I know, thank you.
What is your name, can you let us know?
Where is your village?
When war came where you a big girl or small girl?
I was not born at that time.
Is this story told to you by your grand-mother and father, like you said in the first place?
If you know any story, you tell us.
What the people did was very hard but they managed to do everything. The people used to run away when the aeroplanes were coming and hide under the big trees until the planes go away and they come out from their hiding place. Their time for cooking food is at night, they will cook and feed their children. These are the stories they told me.
When the people got frightened of this war they ran away and were found and taken to Inonda care centre. While they were living there at the care centre, how did their village look like, did they tell you?
When the war was getting worse we went up to Doboduru until we came down to Buna.
[ME] While they were wandering up and down, who was giving them food to eat? They have left their homes, they have left everything. While they were running who was giving them food to eat?
They used to come and give them rations, that's the story they told me. They used to get rations, that's what they told me but I was never told properly so I am finding it hard to tell you the full story.
But they used to give them food to eat?
Yes they used to give them food.
[ME] After the war when you came down from Dobuduru, how did the place look? Was it good or was it spoilt?
Their village was destroyed by this war, when Japanese and Australians came and spoilt the village. The village did not look good when they came back. That was what I was told.
When the village people came back to their village, did they all come together and rebuild a new village, or did they build separate villages?
The village people returned to their old villages and settled but in their separate villages, Siwori people at their village, Buna and Gerua people at their villages. Later my father told them to all come together and all live in one big village so they left all their villages and came and settled at Buna. And that's how they used to live.
OK mother [to Dulcie], tell us your name before you begin your story
My name is Dulcie.
Can you tell us your name before you begin your story?
My name is Dulcie and now I am saying good night to you three girls. I do not know what actually happen during the war, but I am going to say what my father told me.
When we saw the Japanese war ships and planes approaching the beach, we got frightened and ran. Some village people went to their gardens and those who were in the village saw the Japanese planes and ran but people were scattered everywhere.
As they went in search of food to eat, the war started and the children ran all over the place, the parents also ran their own way. When they got back there was nowhere to go so they stopped in the bush and started looking for their children, and brought them all to a place called Gorobada.
When they lived there there was no food to eat. They were scared of the planes, the bombs might hit them so they never started the fire. They were living in the tree trunks. As soon as the plane left they would come out and cook the ferns and tulips. As soon as they heard the plane's noise they would put the fire off, go and hide amongst the bushes. When the plane leaves they would come out and feed their children with what ferns they had cooked, and go to sleep. When the children and the mothers were hungry they would cut the palms or the new shoots of the sago and give them to eat. They were so scared to light the fire and so they lived with hunger.
Where they sleeping on the bed in their houses as they were scared and running away or how were they sleeping?
They used to sleep near the tree trunks and when the plane was coming, people would go and hide in the ground near the bank of the Buna river. That's where they used to sleep until the plane was gone and they would come out in search of ferns. When they heard the plane coming back they would go and hide again. That's what they used to do.
When you started your story, you said this story was told to you by your dad. Did your mum also tell you anything about the war, of what she did?
Mum used to be a very, very sad woman because my older siblings were hungry and she didn't know where to find food to feed them. So she used to be sad. When she was like that my dad used to cut open the palms and give them the soft white parts inside for them to eat, or get the new shoots of the sago palm to give them to eat. When it was going towards the end of the war our fathers started beating sago and bringing them to our mother. She would prepare it and cook for my big brothers and sisters to eat.
We are collecting stories from the women, do you have any stories from your mum about the war? How mum took care of her children during the war, did she ever tell you anything about that?
[Woman]: I don't know anything about that.
There was no food so what they could find was what they survived on, that's what our grandmothers and fathers told us. It was really hard for them, nowhere to find food, anything they find in the bush they lived on that.
Our mothers had to do all these things during the war, they went through the hard way to find food for the children. When they did that, did the children get sick or no.
How long was this, or how long did it take?
How long this was, we were not told.
If you have any stories that you want to tell, please do so.
[Elking Doroda, to Dulcie]
Grandmother, did they tell you of what happened after all this?
When we got scared and ran away, like I said earlier [to feed the children]. When the children were hungry and crying they would get the young leaves of the palm, prepare that and give it to them to stop them from crying.
“Aileenda Mainori and Dulcie Siremi - Oral History interview recorded on 17 May 2017 at New Buna, Northern Province, PNG,” Voices from the War, accessed February 27, 2024, https://pngvoices.deakin.edu.au/items/show/408.