"Although they didn’t show it, they were afraid. The only English word they knew was ‘potato.’ My grandfather had said they were going to hell and would never come back. And he cried, with his face buried in his arm against the stable wall."
"Uppermost was the question, ‘Will I ever see them again?’"
"Uncle Tom, smiling, said, ‘If we will not see each other on earth again, we’ll meet in heaven.’ I smiled too, and a little ray of sunshine entered my heart."
"So she decided to pull on a little rope that was hanging there. Within two minutes, the train was motionless; she had pulled the emergency brake!"
"We used every cardboard box we could find for insulation to keep the wind out."
"‘Don ’t kill him! Don’t kill him!’ These words still ring clearly in the mind of Berend Kraal. They are a reminder of the agony of his introduction to the hard work on the farm and the overbearing attitude of his boss when he learned that Kraal didn’t even know how to milk a cow properly."
In the fifteen years following the end of World War II, thousands of Dutch people waved goodbye to their families, friends, past lives and possessions, boarded a ship, and made the long voyage to Halifax, Quebec City, or Montreal, where they disembarked as landed immigrants to Canada. Most of them had little or no idea of where they were going or what they would find when they got there. Still, they came. Between 1946 and 1982 more than 180,000 people emigrated from The Netherlands to Canada. That enormous tide peaked in 1952, when almost 21,000 Netherlanders made Canada their home. The movement arose out of a long-occupied country whose citizens considered Canadians their liberators, out of tiny Holland’s limited capacity for growth, and out of the uneasy political situation in Europe. The real result of the movement, the lives of the ordinary people who uprooted themselves to immigrate, is the subject of this overwhelming documentation.
Told simply and movingly, this is the story of every immigrant’s experience, from the decision to leave and the journey itself to the arrival in Canada and the difficulties to be faced. A new language, poverty, homesickness — the hardships — were many. But the opportunities — the freedom, the chance to stretch and grow — compensated for hardship.
Here are the simple and straightforward words and pictures of a cross section of immigrants who came to Canada, not just for themselves and their children, but because Canada was an ideal place, a country one could dedicate one’s life to. Some were disappointed and returned to The Netherlands. Most stayed. They became Canadians, not because of birth, but by choice, their choice and Canada’s choice.
This is the tale of postwar Dutch immigration to Canada, a story as moving and terrible, as humorous and simple as life itself. To most of those immigrants, Canada was an unknown entity. However, despite their hardships, they became some of her staunchest citizens. Here, one of our most interesting ethnic groups speaks for itself.