Ong family – Ong Jap Lik – Reunion 2010 – 王网

1.5.1. Kwee Mei Lie Nio

Kwee Mei Lie Nio (1.5.1.) – The Scarlet O’Hara of Salatiga

Kwee Mei Lie Nio was the oldest daughter of Ong Balok Nio, who was herself the fifth daughter of Ong Jap Lik and Kwee Ing Soen. She married Liem Swie Liong, a “lieutenant of the Chinese”, an honorary title bestowed by the Dutch-Indonesian government on Chinese people with special merits to the government. As a “lieutenant of the Chinese”, Liem Swie Liong had among others the task to arrange the tax payments for the Chinese.

After their marriage Liem Swie Liong and Kwee Mei Lie Nio established themselves in Salatiga. They started a business providing provisions and beverages and later became the main supplier of the garrison of the Dutch army that was stationed not far from their house. This of course was the main source of income for the couple. Mei Lie Nio helped her husband taking care of the business. As the main supplier of provisions and beverages for the garrison, Liem Swie Liong and his wife had build a good relationship with the Dutch government. On special occasions, for example the celebration of the birthday of the queen of that time Wilhelmina, the couple received invitations for the receptions and diners. On those occasions Mei Lie Nio often addressed the people. She was also a very good dancer and was respected by the Dutch people.

Kwee Mei Lie Nio family (I)

Unfortunately these good times of Liem Swie Liong and Kwee Mei Lie Nio ended. After the birth of their son Giok Ien, Liem Swie Liong passed away, leaving his wife and eleven children behind. Being a young widow, Mei Lie Nio had to provide for the whole family on her own. With help from her oldest son Giok Bie, she continued the business she and her husband had started. Her grandsons Tiong Djoen and Tiong Kie had to help as well.

Mei Lie Nio, for her descendants better known as “Mak Swie Liong”, was a woman with a strong personality who was not afraid of anything and who was very socially moved. After the death of her husband she had to make all decisions, business and parental, herself. Hence she became a tough woman with a strong character which held her standing in those difficult times.

In the twenties, when most women behaved as sophisticated ladies, Mei Lie Nio drove her own “bendi” (a carriage). Every day she drove the “bendi” to pick up her grandson Max Liem from his school. Because of her traits, she was named the “Scarlet O’Hara of Salatiga” by her grandchildren. (For those unfamiliar with the name Scarlet O’Hara; she is the main character in the book and film “Gone with the Wind”). Mei Lie Nio gave her children a strict education and she managed to raise all her eleven children. When the children were grown up to be adults they went their own way. Mei Lie Nio stayed behind on her own.

Kwee Mei Lie Nio family (II)

After the capitulation of the Japanese after world war II, it was very chaotic on Java. There was no authority in Salatiga and in these dark and out of control times, the period of “Bumi Angus” took place. Houses were robbed and burned. Many Chinese in Salatiga were deported and their houses were burned. Mei Lie Nio as always resisted very firmly, until she was violently thrown out of her house, which was burned in the process. A passer-by, a French man and an acquaintance of her, saved her and brought her to the hospital in Salatiga. He then warned Mei Lie Nio’s daughter Gien Nio, who took her mother to a hospital in Semarang for further treatment. After Mei Lie Nio was healed, she returned to Salatiga, where she passed away a few years later.

Text by Lanny Utama. Source: Meta Tan (, Max Liem ( en Poo Djiang Oen (Toto) ( Many thanks to them for providing information on Mak Swie Liong and the situation of Indonesia in the period of their childhood.

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