This book was originally destined for family and close friends, but the reaction has been such that it might find a wider readership.
To this end, together with my wife Lin, I decided to print a further number of copies to be sold as a donation to the MDS UK Patient Support Group as my small contribution towards their fundraising.
I am not an author and I have never had any help or guidance in writing this work, so it may seem very unpolished to some.
Stay with it. Enjoy the journey.
Ron Holder, 11th January 2020
Listen to the second excerpt of Ron Holder's "Twice a Refugee"
Ron describes one of the many atrocities that Ron witnessed during his escape from the Belgian Congo on his Lambretta. It also details how he could not save others, and was fearful for his own life.
Ron with his friend Shar in Mombasa
Read the Transcript
I soon reverted to Swahili; this I spoke fluently with the local accent. I asked for free passage through the roadblock and was about to be given it when the sound of an approaching truck brought the rest of the gang onto the road from a makeshift camp in the trees. Now there were around twenty-five men, most having guns of some sort or other and all with machetes. As the 10-tonne lorry approached I could see that it was an Arab trader’s vehicle piled high with all he was trying to save. The cab had three men, besides the driver and a group of seven or so women and a number of children piled on the open back amongst the household effects.
The lorry stopped and the driver got out shouting for the barrier to be removed so they could go on their way. An argument ensued where the rebels asked for an astronomical amount of money so that they could proceed; the Arab was not willing to even discuss payment. Walking back to the truck shouting his intention of forcing his way through the barrier, he did not get very far before he was shot in the back. Another of the men in the cab moved to the driver’s seat and with the engine still running engaged a gear and floored the accelerator. The lorry lurched forward but it was so overloaded it made slow progress and made an easy target for the rebel’s guns. The lorry kept moving forward, smashing into the barrier, but its driver was either dead or very badly injured because the vehicle veered off the road and crashed into the back of one of the other lorries abandoned by the side of the road, it came to a halt.
At this moment all of the rebels ran to the lorry and before the women and children could flee, they were rounded up and a small group held them captive. There was more gun fire as the men in the cab were dragged out onto the ground and executed. There was nothing I could do to help; I had seen how they had shot the men with no mercy and from previous trips through this area I knew the fate of the women. When they had finished with the women, their bodies would be dragged to the lake and left on the beach for the Crocodiles and other animals to erase all traces. I took this diversion to make my escape and proceeded as fast as I could, expecting a bullet at any time, fortunately they were otherwise occupied and I got away. The road from this point on was uneventful until I reached the village of Mboko about halfway to Uvira.
I knew this village well, as I had been working here just over a year previously when I was working for SOPELTA a fishing company. Our campsite was down by the lake some 500m from the road. I had spent many evenings after work in the village talking to the village chief, school teacher and others. I stopped in the centre of the village to give my tired and torched body a rest and take a well-deserved drink of water. Within minutes I had drawn a crowd, and they greeted me like a long-lost friend and I was asked to sit in the shade under the eaves of the chief’s hut. After exchanging greetings, the Chief told me I had a problem about 5km further along the road.
There was a band of rebels who had set up a roadblock and were looting, raping and killing travellers. He and these fellow villagers had been terrorised and were afraid of what they would do to them should they try to intervene. I thanked him for his warning but I was not going back and I told him to pray for my safety. Setting off with this warning ringing in my ears I drove on up the road.
The barrier this time was not a tree but abandoned vehicles, cars, pick-up’s and trucks strewn across the road with well-armed rebels sitting in the shade on seats ripped from the vehicles. As I approached, they roused themselves and took up aggressive poses. When I came into full view and saw their reaction it was one of surprise, they roared with laughter, some were laughing so much they had tears running down their faces. I stopped and dismounted, again offering the Kebembi greeting, and then in Swahili I asked what was so funny? The leader, a small middle-aged man, told his men to be quiet, then he walked around me and the scooter before stopping in front of me and pointing to the scooter asked where I was going on this toy. I told him “To England”. This set everybody off into hysterical laughter again.
One of the rebels stepped forward and announced he knew me from my days with the fishing company. He told them that he had worked for me as a guard on the fish lorries; he also told them that I had often purchased a leg of goat at the market and given it to him to share amongst his village. He told the rebel leader I should be unharmed and left to go on my journey to England.
“Twice A Refugee” - an extraordinary book by Ron Holder, tells his gripping, factual account of being a refugee twice in his life. The incredible, poignant social history is testament to Ron's strong character and self-belief.
Ron was born to devout Christian missionary parents in China during WWII. The family fled the advancing Japanese army by flying over the Himalayas in an unpressurised cargo plane by the US Airforce, arriving in India as refugees. Placed in a boarding school at age just 4 1/2 so his parents could continue their missionary work in China, his childhood became one of bitterness and resentment.
At just 15, Ron was taken to The Belgian Congo to learn about his parents' religious devotion and commitment. 4 years of adventure, which culminated in The Congo's Independence and its descent into civil war, resulted in Ron becoming a refugee again. These years of self-reliance equipped Ron better than any academic qualification could have.
Both Ron's loving wife Lin and MDS UK hope you enjoy this remarkable story as much as Ron enjoyed writing it. It really is a wonderful read, and a bargain at £12.00 plus P+P!
To order your copy:
- Please email Andy Veitch (MDS UK's Kent Local Group Coordinator) on firstname.lastname@example.org
- Please include your postal address.
- The P+P costs for UK addresses is £1.99 per copy, but for other countries it will be higher. When you email Andy to request your copy he will confirm the exact cost of P+P based on your location.
- After having emailed Andy as above, and received his reply, it is then simply a matter of donating the suggested sum on the book’s JustGiving page and he will mail you the book.
You can of course also donate without purchasing the book if you wish! Many thanks if you choose to do so
MDS UK is the only charity solely dedicated to helping those with Myelodysplastic Syndromes and their loved ones through pioneering research, a helpline, specialist speakers and more. We are a small charity that needs your support!
MDS is a blood cancer and bone marrow failure disease. Approx 2500 patients are diagnosed every year with MDS in the UK. The causes are mostly unknown and the average age at diagnosis is around 74 years old. Aplastic Anaemia shares features of this disease, but can affect patients at much younger ages too. Symptoms of severe unusual fatigue or repeated odd blood counts results are some of the signs to watch out for, and require further investigation by haematologists. Please always consult your GP in good time.
More information on MDS and ways to contribute: www.mdspatientsupport.org.uk
MDS UK would like to thank Ron Holder, who was determined to raise vital funds for us despite his illness. You’re an inspiration and are sorely missed! We would also like to thank Lin for helping to publish the book and for remaining a vital part of our fundraising community.