Today is the cremation day for Nelly Sukawati, who passed away at the age of 98. It is the first time ever that a non-Balinese is to be given a royal cremation in Ubud. Below is a short biography given to us by her family:
photos of young Nelly courtesy of the Sukawati family.
lead shot: Nelly with her husband to be, Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati in Makassar
Nelly Sukawati, née Nelly Luchsinger, was born in Velsen, the Netherlands, on August 6th, 1918, to AH Woldringh – her Dutch mother and C. Luchsinger – her Swiss l father. She attended elementary school in Ijmuiden and middle school in Velzen, and was active in sports. She loved to swim, play tennis, field hockey and play bridge.
Upon graduating from high school, she attended a teachers’ education program in Amsterdam. She then became a teacher at a “finishing school” in Amsterdam, where she experienced the hardships of World War II. It was a very stressful time. Hers and many of her family members had to move out – or were forced to evacuate – from the same neighborhood they lived in. Nelly and her parents moved to Santpoort while the others to Overveen. Later, Nelly and her parents also moved to Overveen to be reunited with the rest of the family, and all lived under one same roof. In spite of difficulties, hers was a close-knit family and whenever they were together, they played bridge. During the war, they hardly had anything to eat, as food was scarce. Nelly would then ride her bike every weekend from Amsterdam to Santpoort, and later Overveen. She took home with her food for the family. The dishes were prepared by the students at the school where she taught. It was during this period that she lost her father Caspar Luchsinger.
Nelly Luchsinger as a young child
After the War and having completed her training, in 1947 Nelly decided to cross the oceans and teach in Indonesia; first in Jakarta and then Makassar. During the period of 1948, the commissioner of police in Makassar was Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati. He was the son of the then President of East Indonesia (NIT), Tjokorda Gde Raka Sukawati. The police needed flags for their vehicles, and these were made by Nelly’s students at the school. And so it was then that Nelly Luchsinger and Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati met for the first time. It was to be a meeting that ended in a marriage which took place in Ubud, Bali, on December 19th, 1949. Hence onwards, Nelly Luchsinger became known as Nelly Sukawati.
Nelly at the school in Makassar where she taught.
After this period, Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati’s life took a different turn. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia. His first posting was to Stockholm, Sweden. In late 1950 through 1953, he was posted in The Hague, The Netherlands. And It was here that the children: Tjokorde Gde Rake Sven Sukawati and Tjokorde Istri Vera Partini Sukawati were born.
Assignment completed, their return trip to Indonesia in those days was done by ship. The family boarded the famous ship: the ‘Willem Ruys’ of the Rotterdam Lloyd.
In 1955, Nelly Sukawati accompanied Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati to his next diplomatic post in France, to work at the Indonesian Embassy in Paris. The journey was in part by ship – to Rotterdam, and from thereon by plane to Paris. During their stay in Paris, the family regularly went to The Netherlands to visit and stay with Nelly Sukawati’s mother in Haarlem. Not just trips to the Netherlands or to other European countries, they also traveled a lot around France. In addition to raising her two small children, Nelly Sukawati would engage herself actively in all functions her position as spouse of a diplomat demanded. Their mission in Paris ended in 1959.
The long return-trip of Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati and family to Indonesia began with a road-trip from Paris to Naples (Napoli) in Italy. The boat they were to board, the “Neptunia” of Lloyd Trestino, was to officially depart from Genoa. But since Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati and Nelly Sukawati also wanted to see Rome, they drove to Rome, then went all the way to Naples, catching there the Neptunia, before she would set sail. The car was loaded onto the boat.
The long journey home on board Neptunia consisted of many stops, among others at Port Said, where the family disembarked to visit acquaintances in Cairo and to see the pyramids, while the ship continued to sail through the Suez Canal. At the end of the Suez Canal, they again boarded the boat to continue the trip home. After several stops in Calcutta and Colombo, the ship finally reached Jakarta.
Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati and Nelly Sukawati remained in Jakarta till 1967, where they established friendship with both Indonesians as well as expatriates working at their respective embassies in Jakarta. It was not an easy time for them, due to the uncertain political and economic conditions of the period. To make ends meet, and just for a time being, Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati worked for the KKO-Korps Komando or the nation’s Marine force, causing him to be away from home for extended periods. Nelly Sukawati, always a great support to Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati, raised the children, managed the household and developed many activities that were in line with functions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She attended the numerous receptions at various embassies. She also organized a number of bridge games and gave French lessons to children of diplomats in Jakarta.
In 1967, when Tjokorda Gde Rake Sukawati – the former President of East Indonesia (NIT) and father of Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati – passed away in Bandung, Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati and Nelly Sukawati were jointly responsible for organizing and arranging the cremation ceremony as according to the Balinese tradition.
In December 1967, Nelly Sukawati accompanied Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati to his new diplomatic post at the Indonesian Embassy in Belgium, residing in Brussels. By now the children were already in high school and were enrolled to the Indonesian School in the Netherlands. The posting in Brussels did not last long, just a little over a year. Soon after, they were transferred to Bonn in Germany. Here again, Nelly Sukawati organized many bridge sessions. They remained in Bonn until 1972. This time, their returning to Jakarta was like coming home to an old, warm nest of good friends and acquaintances. During this time, Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati followed training at LEMHANNAS, the National Defense Institute, to prepare him for his role as Ambassador. Nelly Sukawati never failed to render her unconditional support to Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati – to his career and private life.
In 1979, Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati was appointed Indonesian ambassador to Switzerland, residing in Bern. Understandably, Ambassadorship comes with a lot of obligations to fulfill. There are local government institutions to visit, do courtesy calls to embassies, social establishments to call on, receptions to attend and to host in return. Nelly Sukawati managed to successfully organize all of this and, not to forget, to stage her much cherished bridge sessions. While in Switzerland, Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati and Nelly Sukawati also traveled quite extensively. In 1979, as his tenure as ambassador came to an end, and having reached the age of retirement, Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati took leave from his duties in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
For Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati, however, retirement does not in any way mean sitting idle. He now joined Unilever. Thanks to the support of his large circle of friends and possessing knowledge of government affairs as an asset, Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati was appointed Director of External Relations at Unilever. Time and time again, Nelly Sukawati rendered her unyielding support to Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati. She participated actively in Unilever’s organization for women. She took part and played in Unilever’s Balinese gamelan ensemble for women. Here she played the gong.
When his time at Unilever was over, Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati sustained the position as Commissioner nevertheless. He even maintained a number of other executive positions at other companies, among others, Mantrust and Frisian Flag.
the ritual bathing of Nelly’s remains, an essential part of Balinese funerary rites, when all the family gather for this last loving gesture. photo@Rio Helmi
Nelly’s only daughter Tjokorda Istri Vera Partini Sukawati, a.k.a. Vera, at the ritual bathing of Nelly’s body photo ©Rio Helmi
Nelly’s only son, Tjokorda Raka Sven Sukawati, praying at dawn this morning during the special blessing and “measuring’ of the cremation ground. photo ©Rio Helmi
Enjoying more free time now, Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati and Nelly Sukawati would regularly go to Bali or to the Netherlands to visit the grandchildren, and as far as to Germany and Switzerland to visit relatives. However, due to the decline of Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati’s health, their last visit to Europe was in 2004. Nelly Sukawati faithfully took care of him until she too succumbed to illness and was no longer able to care for her husband. Nelly Sukawati suffered from back-pain; it was painful for her to even walk. She was forced to undergo surgery for hip replacement in 2009 which made her able to move around again, but not for long. An impending subsequent surgery on her intestines resulted in her being bedridden for the rest of her life.
On February 21st, 2013 Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati passed on in Jakarta. This was a truly painful situation for Nelly Sukawati, for her condition did not make it possible for her to go to Bali to attend her husband’s cremation ceremony. She could do nothing but to say goodbye to her husband of 64 years from Jakarta, from her bed.
All through the years that Nelly Sukawati remained bedridden, she received tremendous support and was tirelessly and lovingly cared for by her daughter, Tjokorde Istri Vera Partini Sukawati, and was faithfully assisted by several nurses and doctors. On December 25, 2016, after a short stay in the hospital, in the presence of her daughter Tjokorde Istri Vera Partini Sukawati and granddaughter Tjokorde Istri Amber Guinever Sukawati, Nelly Sukawati drew her last breath and passed away peacefully. She was 98 years old.
Young Nelly Sukawati-Luchsinger left her home town in Europe to follow her husband and become part of a family in a far-away land. She always felt extremely connected to the family in Bali; she upheld and honored the Balinese family ties, she kept herself updated with any development regarding the family. When Nelly Luchsinger became Nelly Sukawati, she not only immersed herself in the Balinese culture, she became Balinese. Therefore, there is no doubt that she would want to leave this world as a Balinese would. And that is, to be cremated in Bali.
Todya, on February 13th, her cremation ceremony will take place. We will honor and will bid her farewell in the most appropriate Balinese tradition Nelly Sukawati deserves.
Tjokorde Gde Rake Sven Sukawati and Tjokorde Istri Vera Partini Sukawati