Friday, November 21, 2014

A Memorial to Ernst Kofod, from THE LIBYAN by Esther Kofod

Ernst Kofod was born on the rocky windswept Danish island of Bornholm, in the Baltic Sea. Besides contacting a severe case of mumps as a child, he led a happy, carefree life with his parents and his sister Ruth. After finishing high school, Ernst left Bornholm for the capital, where he studied engineering at the University of Copenhagen. Upon graduation, he set sail in steerage class on the "Queen Elizabeth" for America, to seek his many young men from Europe did in those days.

Shortly after arriving and securing a job at Frick Engineering in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, Ernst met and married an American girl working in the same company. Unfortunately, that marriage lasted only a year, after Ernst found her in bed with his best friend. Seeking a change and also to escape the small town of Waynesboro, he asked the company to transfer him overseas.

A few months later, Ernst arrived in Calcutta, India, also known in those days as "the black hole" for it's heartbreaking poverty. On many occasions, Ernst painfully recalled walking around lifeless bodies on the streets, of the unfortunates who had succumbed to hunger or violence. Calcutta was not a pretty place in those days, but as a handsome bachelor, Ernst was very popular, and considered quite a catch among the lively expat social crowd. Almost falliing for an Anglo-English beauty by the name of Cynthia, he is lured instead by the offer of a transfer to Singapore, the Pearl of the Orient.

Ernst immediately falls in love with the vibrancy and cosmopolitan world of colonial Singapore. It was also here where he made his fortune and found the love of his life, Lian. She was the beautiful daughter of a tin mine owner, who was killed by the Japanese during the occupation of Malaysia. After a surreptitious courtship, Ernst and Lian marry, and became the parents of Lina Kofod, the protagonist in THE LIBYAN. 

Ernst's marriage to a Chinese lady and his position as an executive in an American company afforded him and his family a gracious and opulent lifestyle. The social life of the Kofods included the elite of Singapore society, diplomats, international business executives, and even royalty. Ernst travelled extensively throughout Asia, India and Japan, and every year for their vacation, the Kofods went around the world. When their daughter turned fifteen, Ernst insisted on sending her to school in Switzerland. 

Over the years, Ernst became more successful and respected in both the Singaporean as well as the American community. He was an active member of the Rotary Club as well as the only civilian certified to train attack dogs. He was also an avid golfer and a member of several private social clubs, including the Singapore American Club, the Tanglin Club and the Singapore Island Club. He and Lian loved entertaining at their beautiful mansion in Bukit Timah, and were invited to every notable party in town by the elite of Singapore society. Alex loved Singapore, and Singapore loved him back. 

When his only daughter announced that she was marrying a Libyan she met in Washington D.C., Ernst's world was only slightly shaken. He had hoped that Lina was going to return to Singapore after college in America, but he realized that she would be living in Libya instead. He was disappointed, but Lina's happiness came first. He was concerned with how she would be accepted in a Moslem world where women were generally regarded as second class citizens. He begged Lina to visit Libya before she married Kamal, but she explained to him that was not possible. He accepted his daughters decision and her new husband Kamal, the Libyan.

The years passed quickly for Ernst Kofod, and once a year he and Lian would see their daughter and grandchildren, either in Singapore or the United States.  He looked forward to the day when he retired,  so that they could spend more time with Lina and their grandchildren in America. 
That was not to be. 

Yesterday, Alex suffered a massive heart attack as he was playing with his dog in the garden of his home on Camborne Road in Singapore.

RIP Ernst Kofod, 1923-2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

"Fontana De Ghazelle", Tripoli, Libya...


The iconic bronze statue of the girl with the gazelle has been sitting in the fountain in downtown Tripoli for almost 100 years. It was one of the favorite sights in the city, and driving around the fountain was a treat for the eyes and the soul. Glistening in the desert sun, they sat together, the girl and the gazelle, frozen in time and joy. They were a reminder of beauty and history in the midst of Gaddafi's madness. 
Last night, 3 years after the demise of Gaddafi, the madness that has replaced him removed the statue, torn and chipped away at its base. Gone. 
The removal of this statue is a representation of the lawlessness that has been substituted in place of the dictatorship Libyans endured for 42 years under Gaddafi. People have been assassinated and infrastructure destroyed...Hospitals, schools, airports, buildings, even mosques and antiquities have been the target of extremists. 
Libya is slowly slipping into the abyss while the outside world, including the U.S., watches, but does nothing to help...

This is what is left of the "Fontana De Ghazelle"...