Beginnings

Well, that was scary. Yesterday I created my new Blog and published my first post. I’m not new to blogging, so creating my new blog was not particularly stressful. The thing that makes this one different is that my previous blogging has been more along the lines of information and support for a specific community. A lot of facts, research, supporting families in their day to day lives. Little Black Cupboard is just me; getting myself out there creatively. And that is scary. 

I’ve been writing for a long time, for as long as I can remember. It’s taken me a little while to take the plunge and acknowledge that I am a writer. According to just about every dictionary out there, a writer is someone who writes. So, yes, I am a writer. I may not be an author, yet, but I am, and have been for most of my life, a writer. 

Starting Little Black Cupboard is my way of putting in the hard yards, my minimum one thousand words a day. My plan is to publish a random mix of thoughts, writings and wanderings once or twice a week. Maybe more, maybe less. I will see where the wind takes me.

The only stipulation is that each post must be at least one thousand words. Consider yourself warned.

Right at the moment I have a bit of time on my hands while I recover from recent surgery. Nothing serious, but my mobility is a little restricted for the next few weeks. I’m also broke. Not being able to work at my paying job means no income, which is seriously inconvenient. But to be brutally honest, even when I am working, I’m still broke, so really, nothing much has changed.

So, for now at least, the thousand words a day task is not that difficult to manage. Going back to work will slow things down a little but I’ll deal with that when it happens.

One thing that has been fabulous about having all this time off is that I’ve been able to read again! And read a LOT! I have been reading so much that I finally gave in and signed up to Amazon Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime. Didn’t have a choice really. My non-existent finances were not coping well with the steady stream of “One-Click” purchases. The size of the actual Little Black Cupboard means that physical space is severely limited, so, where possible, I have to manage with Kindle versions of whatever it is I want to read. Unfortunately, not everything I want, or need, to read is available electronically, resulting in a financially irresponsible steady stream of bound books arriving from all over the world.

Right at the moment I’m in a research phase. I am the daughter of Dutch immigrants and the stories of survival in the Netherlands during World War II are firmly embedded in my family history. I have this overwhelming need to know more about how my family survived, what they experienced, how (or if) they managed to put it all behind them, how they view the world around them today in the context of the turmoil of their early lives. 

My parents were very young children during World War II, both middle children of very large families, each with numerous older and younger siblings. For this reason, I’m particularly interested in the experiences of children during those times. My research has taught me that the thousands of children hidden throughout the Netherlands during the War years were, until recently, not considered victims of the War or the Holocaust, despite the fact that they were torn from their families, for whatever reason, and were forced to live with strangers. And then there are the children of those families that took them in. All of these children grew up surrounded by secrecy and, no doubt, terror. The hidden children terrified of being found, the children of the families hiding those children terrified of what would happen to their own families if the hidden children were found. I have come across countless invaluable resources during the course of my research. In particular, the USC Shoah Foundation: The Institute for Visual History and Education, which has set out to record and preserve video testimonies of survivors, rescuers and aid providers of World War II as well as other acts of war, genocides and violence around the world. This is a truly remarkable resource and I have spent many a day over the last several weeks during my recovery listening to the countless stories of survivors and rescuers told in the heavily accented Dutch/English that is so familiar to my ears. 

Listening to these stories, I have to remind myself that these people were, in some way, part of my parents’ lives. My parents were there on 10 May 1944 when their homeland was invaded by the German forces that, only hours before, had reassured them that the Netherlands would remain neutral. My parents and their families lived in Occupied Holland under German rule. They and their families survived the Hongerwinter. My father’s hometown was destroyed. My mother’s father was arrested upon suspicion of hiding a Jewish family, later escaping by jumping from a train destined for the Westerbork transit camp. 

It astounds me that my siblings and I grew up in surroundings and circumstances so vastly different from those of our parents, yet we take the relative ease of our lives for granted. I wonder how my parents were able to raise their own children in such stark contrast to their own experiences. For me, World War II is not ancient history, as seems to be the case with children growing up today. For me, World War II is my history and my parents’ reality.

My parents were like so many others of their generation; thoughts and memories of the War and their years of fear and deprivation were hidden from their own children. As a child I knew nothing of their lives in Holland. There was, however, an unspoken rule that we were never to ask anything about the War. It was not until I started my research that I began to ask questions. Interestingly, as seems to be the case with many people of my parents’ generation, they are now willing to remember and to tell their stories. 

MK


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