I am delighted to introduce the first installment from my mother
I was born in May 1944 in a small provincial town in the East of the Netherlands or Holland, as so many people know this little country on the edge of the North Sea. It was war time, but all Dutch people believed the war would soon be over (as my father explained to me years later when I questioned him whether it was wise to have a baby during a war). My personal memories only start from when I was five, but my mother told me that I never slept in a cot as I was always in a pram, in order to beat a hasty escape, in case matters become too dangerous. There was a lot of fighting around our area because in September 1944 the Allies tried desperately to free our country, but they never made it over the main rivers in the middle and south of Holland, before the notorious hunger winter set in.
We as a family were quite lucky as we all survived. My father was captured a few times and he was forced to do several jobs for the Germans, but managed to escape their clutches. He was there when my mother rode to the local hospital in a horse drawn carriage at 6.30 in the morning, having been given special permission by the authorities to break the curfew. The road was full of terrible pot holes, so it is of no surprise that I was born a few hours later. I was the second daughter and my parents were delighted with another girl. It made it easier to dress me, for my mother had kept all my sister's clothes. I was an easy baby, so my mother used to say, and slept through most of the bombing and shelling. My parents would hide in our cellar or we would all go to a neighbour who had a much deeper and safer cellar. I of course cannot remember any of this, but my sister, who is almost 6 years older, remembers sitting in her best coat and hat under a candle which kept dripping and there was no room for her to move. It was a lovely blue coat with a matching bonnet so I can imagine that this worried her.
Because my mother had had a baby, she was allowed to collect two litres of milk from the local farmer (the same one who had provided the transport when I was born) which went a long way to give food to my sister and my parents. My sister remembers the porridge that was always being cooked and ...my oh my.... if it boiled over onto the stove. Perhaps that is the reason why she hates porridge and selmolina. Nonetheless it was a very hard time for my parents as there was so little to eat. My father could not work his vegetable plot in the open as he was officially in hiding he also had started to grow his own tobacco, although it never quite ripened. He often would sneak out at night and walk through the nearby fields in the dark as the hunger kept him from sleeping. It is of no surprise that even today I have great difficulty in throwing food away, as I was brought up with the knowledge that to have enough food on one's plate is a great blessing.
In April 1945, with our house still standing, but most of the tiles off and the windows all blown out, clogs were the only safe footwear to wear when in the house, my small town was liberated by a Canadian battallion and I am sure that the people had never celebrated with such enthusiasm and delight before. The evening of my first birthday became the time on which Holland remembered all the people that had lost their lives during those horrible five years, so at eight o'clock there would be two minutes silence. So for me my birthday has even now,strong associations with the Second World War. But foremost the end of it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and I sincerely hope that we as people will work endlessly to solve problems by talking and not by taking up arms.
I hope this first chapter is ok. I am no author, but would like to share my experiences with all of you reading this! -L