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Deciding to Leave – Saying Goodbye

“On May 1, 1948 my wife and I and our 11- mouth old daughter arrived in Quebec City, Canada. We decided to leave our homeland of the Netherlands for a better life in Canada. Work was hard to fine at that time but we managed to save money to pay for the trip. Immigrating was said to be a ‘live burial’ since it was thought that your family and friends will never see you again. Even though it was difficult, we decided to make the move for a better life.” (Simon Grin, 1948)

“Although I was only four years old at the time, I can distinctly remember the kist seated on the back of a truck parked in front of our home in Britsum, Friesland. This large wooden crate was soon tightly packed with as many of our household goods as possible. Included were living room furniture such as a table, armchairs and a china cabinet; a bed; mom and dad’s bicycles; mom’s special set of china cabinet dishes, all carefully packed for transport; most of dad’s carpentry tools; and an odd assortment of washtubs and garden tools, the latter having been disinfected so as to prevent the transfer of soil-borne diseases from the old country to the new.” (Kenneth Robert Vandenberg, 1953)

“Living in Holland after WWII, the outlook was not very promising and many people began thinking about immigration. In the early fifties a sister, and later a brother, of my friend decided to go to Canada and ended up in Manitoba. Then in 1954, my friend decided to go as well; meanwhile in 1952 I had gotten to know Anny Rensen, who was fifteen at the time; I was eighteen then. After high school in 1950 I worked in the office of a factory where bakery utensils were produced and I could not vision a future there. So after my friend had left I decided that is what I was going to do too.” (Frank Niesink, 1955)

“I personally had no idea where we were going. I had said goodbye to friends and classmates and knew we’d be leaving for Canada for good. I knew nothing about Canada. My Dad was the only one who knew how to speak English. He could speak German and French too … At the time, I had no fear nor trepidation. Dad was taking us to Canada and he must have had a very good reason. He never told me what that reason was.” (The Lindeijer Family, 1956)

“After the war many people began to leave Holland, for various reasons. Taxes were very high, especially for small business. Many small business people began to leave because they just couldn’t get ahead. It was a while before we talked about it. Eppo’s brother Auke and his wife, and Henk and Remmy Knol had left for Canada. Holland did not seem to offer any opportunities for the kids. Employment and education were very limited. So we talked about leaving Holland. Two destinations were being considered: Canada and Australia. Henk Knol wrote and told us the best thing would be to come. He also wrote a special letter to me, for encouragement to make the right move. Eppo thought that Canada fit better with our nationality than Australia. He was worried about being different. He had met many Canadians in the liberation army and felt comfortable with them. He also wanted to know about the church situation; he would not send us into the wilderness of beliefs.” (Eppo and Epke Eekes, 1952)

“Unlike many immigrants my parents decide to come to Canada not from economic need, but because my father wanted to farm and as the owner of a grocery store in Laren, Gelderland, he would not have been able to fulfill his dream. Ever since the end of the war he had dreamed of emigration – he very much wanted to go to the United States as several of his relatives of an earlier generation had gone to the Denver area via Ellis Island, but he had no sponsors in the U.S. He considered New Zealand and Australia as well, but my mother was adamant that she would not move so far away, so Canada was a compromise. It took a long time to persuade her, as she was a ‘town’ person who had worked in stores all her life and who thought the idea of a farm repugnant. My father had a sister, who had immigrated a couple of years earlier to Southern Ontario, so St. Thomas was settled on as a destination.” (Ina van der Veen, 1953)

“Because of its currency crisis, the Government did not allow foreign exchange (US or Canadian dollars) to be taken out of the country. Only $100 per person was permitted. Instead, it advocated converting our Dutch money to durable goods to be taken along for that would boost the local economy. As a result of this decree, most early immigrants brought with them this enormous crate filled to the bursting point with all manner of things – some useful while others proved unsuitable for the Canadian environment. Some unscrupulous venders aware of this kept hounding my parents to buy more of their goods and it would not surprise me if one of them, a chap just starting up in business, was thus single-handedly elevated to prominence by my folks! Seven brand-new bicycles, leather jackets, furniture, and tons of clothing – you name it – all disappeared into that huge, 14 m3 crate when the movers came. It also included my 120-bass accordion in its custommade wooden case and my very own, duly pad-locked, small wooden box that held all my personal ‘treasures.’” (Hugh Timmerman, 1950)

“My parents were 55 years old when they decided to take 7 of their children, Sebastian 22, John21, Ben 19, Jerry 18, Cathy (myself) 13, Robert 11, and Greta 9, to Canada. (Jean 20, stayed in Holland, she was to join us the following year with her new boyfriend). One of the first things we were required to do, was to have physical and mental examinations, to be vaccinated and X-Rayed. This was done by Canadian doctors and personnel, with the help of an interpreter, because we did not speak a word of English. When the time came near for our departure, we had movers come to pack our furniture into a large crate … Then came the day to say good-bye to my friends at school, my teachers, cousins and neighbours. I was quite happy with my life, had lots of friends. I was a fun loving 13 year old. Leaving all that behind to go to a strange country was terribly hard. I cried many tears that day.” (Cathy Bos, 1953)