I was born in March 1940 in Rotterdam, Holland. Six weeks later war broke out. The first bombs fell one kilometre from our home and my parents were forced to flee while Rotterdam continued to be bombed.
I was 2 and a half years old when I was diagnosed with polio. I felt guilty and blamed myself. I believed it was my punishment for having been disobedient. Soon the rest of my body became paralysed and when I started having trouble breathing I was placed in a humidity crib alongside 5 other small children. I was the only one to survive. More guilt.
When I was 19 years old I married and three days later we set sail for Australia. We landed in Perth, West Australia. In the following years I moved 35 times and had five children.
I was 48 years old when my husband, who had become a soldier in the Australian Army, left me to look for “peace”. Shortly afterwards my war-time memories returned and I was forced to deal with my past. At the same time I found work as a personal carer in Aged Care.
When I was 59 years old I could no longer continue in my job. Being on my feet for up to 8 hours a day reduced me to tears. I was put on a disability pension and continued as co-ordinator of the local soup kitchen. Recently most of those activities have become too difficult for my physical condition.
I am now part of a singing group, entertaining people in aged care facilities and other functions. I’m also part of a choir. The remainder of my time is spent painting, attending art classes and researching family history.
I was elated when one of my daughters rang me up recently to tell me about a seminar she had attended. The seminar was about people with disabilities and their needs. Apparently it was a revelation to her that I was classified as disabled!
Looking back over my life I realise that I have been more affected by the emotional circumstances of having polio than the actual disease itself. Dealing with my feelings has been more painful than I could ever have believed but I now feel free to enjoy life; a life without guilt or shame.
Please click on the picture below to see more photographs and a video of Elizabeth’s “Touched by Polio” art work