Few nations have endured a birth as traumatic and painful as the world’s youngest country, East Timor. Born amid the flames, pillage and mayhem that surrounded Indonesia’s reluctant withdrawal in 1999, it will for years be coping with the effects of destruction. Irena Cristalis, one of a handful of foreign journalists who stayed on during that nightmare to report it to the world, has kept faith with the Timorese friends whose story she decided to tell.
Her book is a first-hand account of the lives of individual Timorese during the long decades of Indonesia’s repressive occupation, their often heroic struggle for freedom, and their efforts to cope with the dramatic historic shifts engulfing them. Based on years of research and lengthy interviews with East Timor’s past, present and future leaders, it explores the complexities of East Timor’s internal politics. The book also tells the story of the ordinary students, farmers, nuns, priests, journalists and others, who found themselves playing extraordinary roles in terrible times.