We have learned much about the costs of WWII both to this country and have heard stories as well of how it affected those in our own family. One of the places we stopped while on our travels was Exloo Drenthe.
In Exloo, we hiked into a wooded area. This wooded area presents like any park. Smaller parking areas throughout the park with trails going in at all different points. We were following coordinates and knew we needed to be on the white trail. We were on a mission to find a certain spot. At this spot, N 52° 53.547 E 006° 51.053, on the white trail in this park in Exloo, Drenthe is a resistance monument.
From our time together at this place, my oldest niece says this:
Today we were able to see the memorial that stands in memory of my grandfather’s uncle Chris and four other members of the Dutch Resistance. On September 19, 1944 they were forced to dig their own graves before they were shot and killed by Nazi soldiers. So, so grateful for their courage and sacrifice.
The internet says the following about this monument:
This monument can be found at the beginning of the Burg. J.v.Rooijenpad in the ‘boswachterij Exloo’ at the Hondsrug between Emmen and Borger. (boswachterij is best described as a forestry, a protected area).
A simple wooden cross is the monument with the names of five victims, members of the resistance movement. These resistance fighters were unknown to each other, they were arrested independent from each other in the course of the month of September and imprisoned in the Scholtenhuis in Groningen.
A sixth resistance fighter survived the execution on 19 September, 1944, and was released.
The text on the monument can be translated as follows:
1940 – 1945.
19 – 9 – 1944.
J.C. Borgdorff dob: 15-12-1908
D.N. Breukelaar dob: 11- 2-1896
R.G. Radersma dob: 14- 5-1902
J.Wagenaar dob: 11- 6-1906
A. Wedzinga dob: 20- 6-1905
All from the city of Groningen
And so it is part of our family story.
Grateful for the opportunity to learn more about our story and stand in the spaces that honor and remember those who chose to stand for their Country.
This morning in our chapel time we read Psalm 121. It is the Psalm that was read as my Mom’s family prepared to leave the land they called home and head to America. I heard it with new ears this morning. I envisioned the scenes where this Psalm was read as a Psalm of farewell and blessing. My Mom shared there were always some tears shed whenever this was read. It was read often as many people were leaving their community to seek new opportunity in a new land.
As I read more of Beppe’s story as we prepared for today, I was aware of how this Psalm impacted all that was unfolding.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; 8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Today was different than yesterday as my Mom grew up in the country. It was not a walking tour but more of a drive through different spots in Friesland. We visited the church where my Pake and Beppe had their children baptized, the land where their home once stood, but today has
been lost to fire, and the church where some of their family is buried in the cemetery.
Their home was one where the barn was attached and two of my uncles slept above the cows in a loft type of space. It was a different time in a different land, but my Mom shared stories of her friend next door and how they would braid the weeds from the river. The land is beautiful and feels life giving. I can’t imagine all a fourth grade girls heart held as her family left all they knew and sailed to start a new life in New Jersey. In all of the goodness that came from my Pake’s brave decision, today I could envision that young girl my Mom was and the beauty of what Friesland holds in her memory.
My Mom is a beautiful and vibrant woman. As I reflect on her journey I am thankful for her tenacious spirit and gentle heart. I know for all of us here she represents a wife, mom, sister and Beppe who lives her life fully, embraces her story and longs to bring goodness to others, sharing openly and honestly about what she has learned on life’s beautiful path. My Mom is many things, but I will always include Frisian as one of the many things she is. After all being Friesian is just part of her being.
I am keenly aware of the deep faith that was needed in these days. It feels unreal sometimes to think of this as a story of my own parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles. And so as we travel together through this week I am grateful for the words of Psalm 121 that promise the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Last night we were all invited to read a small booklet made by Aunt Dot that has a segment of Papa’s story. It gave all of us some context to our day trip today to Overschie and Rotterdam. It was so fun to see everyone sitting around reading it and hearing how it shaped their thoughts for today.
We ventured about about 10 am this morning and stopped in Delft before we met up in Overschie. I was with my Dad and Mom and Sonta and Peter. We set out without a specific plan and soon we were climbing 370 some steps all tightly compacted into a spiral staircase to the top of the church tower. Although the two youngest made it all the way to the top, the rest of us were just shy of the top tower and still got a glorious view of the city.
We then met in front of 52A on the corner of Schielaan and Chalonsstraat in Overschie. It was there that our walking tour began. It was a time of remembering and learning. Of hearing stories of the days of war and the years following, of the impact on a city, a community and a family. To see the house of the German headquarters across the street and hear how about 7 miles away Rotterdam was bombed at the harbor, brought a very small sense of what was real as we stood in the streets where this all unfolded during the war.
We walked the streets and talked with a few of today’s neighbors and learned the man who lives in 54b has a Borgdorff for a plumber.
The kids had questions about Papa’s life as a young boy and there was curiosity about where his uncles and grandparents lived, what it was like to go to live in the community and the impact of the war. It was fascinating, reflective, powerful and so sweet to see my Dad share his story and to hear the kids absorb it each at their own level.
It is such a joy to be in this land with these people. God is faithful and as we witnessed that today in a very real way. I am thankful for the life of my Dad. For the journey he has been on from the start of his life at Schielaan 52A in Overschie and then their immigration to Canada, through Calvin and Seminary and onto his impact all over the world through his work with the Church. Today we are all more aware of this journey and thankful for this man who in our very small community is husband, father, Papa, brother in law and friend to us all. We love you!
#kupborgdebos takes Europe
This morning we started our day with devotions at the Chapel and headed out for a walk to find the sea. Such fun to all take a walk together. In a large group with an age range of 7 to 76 we mingle and intermingle with different family all along the walk.
We ventured long and far down a path and wondered how it would look when we approached the North Sea. As we approached the dune we headed up and some headed down. And from there the experience was delightful….
And then the day unfolded with lunch out, kids doing homework, a nice hard rain shower, happy hour and a beautiful dinner. To top of the meals, the kids do the clean up. It takes a village and our village is a true mix of the full array of emotion, but this week it feels like pure joy!
Let me tell you about the group we have here. It is called the Kupborgdebos group.
It is made up from
KUP represents Aunt Dot who is our third parent. She has been as important to us in life as our parents in different ways. She has been my role model to live well as a single woman. She lives across the street from me and that has assisted our friendship in growing. We travel together, share life together and delight in the younger generations together. It is right that she represents the KUP in KUPborgdebos
BORG is a pretty easy one. The Borgdorff’s are a big group with lots of personality. We understand living and losing, celebrating and life. This represents my Dad and Mom who are faithful, generous and always creating space for us and others to gather. My oldest brother Len who now awaits us in heavin and his wife Marcia, Olivia, Sonta, Noah and Jean Marc. They come and fill a room with wild energy, sensitivity, compassion and an ability to get things done. Nick and Jonna, Andrew and Ryan bring commitment, discipline, brilliance and order to our group. They are witty and often have us laughing. I come as the aunt whose door is open and bed is always free for a house guest. I love celebrations and bring the invitation to my family to celebrate well. And together we make up the Borg in kupBORGdebos
The Dekams make up the DE and hold their space well. They number 8 of us with the addition of Matthew Cole who married Janneke. The DeKams live life fully and with lots of joyful noise. The DE in kupborgDEbos brings much JOY.
And then we have our dear Suzi. The child who completed our original bunch. Suzi and Andy, Peter, Isaiah and Johanna. The Bos’ are a family who bring youth and laughter, delight and invite us all to be interactive with each other. The kupborgdeBOS would not be the same without these awesome five.
And that completes our Kupborgdebos group. Our pictures are labeled with #kupborgdebostakeseurope. Stay tuned for the adventures of our group walk to the North Sea.
As I wrap up today (Tuesday night)
I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude for all this day has held. I am writing from a retreat center in Castricum Netherlands. That in itself is delightful but to be surrounded by almost my complete family is even better.
As I have written about before, my parents both immigrated and had a strong desire to share their story with their grandchildren. As a high schooler me and my siblings returned with my parents and we still have such good memories of that trip. I am so grateful to be back again to hear the stories again, to understand even more and to share in the experience more fully.
Suzi found a great place for us all to stay. It is a beautiful retreat center and has such comfortable spaces. I will write more about the rooms and spaces in the coming days, but as we all gathered for dinner around the table, it just felt so right.
My Dad suggested we all meet each morning in the Chapel for morning devotions. I love how the kids are all so comfortable with that. I am looking forward to that time each morning. It will be simple and it will include a song and a few words, but it will honor the Faith that we share and God’s faithfulness in all of our journeys.
My Dad and Mom and Aunt Dot have spent much time creating options for our days. We will travel to a variety of places and the week will move quickly. The kids are eager to hear the stories and experience this new land together. Suzi and Andy, Peter, Isaiah and Johanna and I spent a few days in Germany before we arrived today and Suzi and i spoke a bit about the European influence that shaped us. I love how things feel familiar and comfortable here. I can say the same about my life with my Canadian family. I am so aware and grateful for my Dutch – Canadian – American life and all it has taught me.
So tonight as we all gathered I was aware that there is so much joy when everyone is together. It is not a giddy type of joy but a deep sense of gratitude. The kids all enjoy being together and are quickly at home with one another. Their is no age separation for any of us. From 7 to 76, everyone spends time sharing with each other. There was a comfortableness in the room that I was very aware of and it was lovely to all have traveled from different places today and spend the evening enjoying one another.
I hope to write often while I am here. There will be stories to tell and document for our family story ~ and that is clearly my purpose for blogging. Our family is living our story and I am committed to documenting it in consistent and creative fashion so it will be able to be shared for many years to come.
Stay tuned for more Netherlands adventures.
I am so grateful for the power of story. I have been diligent over the years at learning, understanding and embracing my story. One of my favorite realities of everyones story is how other stories intersect and bring rich experiences.
And I now see that in my family story as well. We are about to experience the best of all of that. My parents have a story and both of their stories started way before they fell in love. As a family, we are traveling to the places each of their stories began. We will visit Rotterdam, Netherlands and Wijnjewoude, Friesland, Netherlands. We will listen to stories, we will experience a small sense of what initially shaped them to be the people they are. And we will recognize that the first 10 – 12 years of their lives are significant and there is so much more that has shaped them as well. I would guess we will hear stories of life in the Netherlands and beyond. We will hear stories of family members and relationships and experiences and Faith.
I am grateful for their stories of immigration and how through their sharing over the years, that has also become part of our story. It is delightful to hear, through my nieces and nephews, how they relate to being grandchildren of those who immigrated and how they also embrace that as their story. Through this trip we will experience so much together which will allow for a greater understanding of all that has and continues to shape the Kuperus/Borgdorff bunch we are.
So as we board planes and travel over the coming weeks, I will stand in awe of how God invites us to understand His place in our stories. His invitation is kind and His presence is real. I am grateful for my story and how it is interwoven with both struggle and hardship and amazing abundance and blessing. As a family we will deeply miss Len, my oldest brother who died in December of 2012. He would have loved this trip. And we will celebrate the way we continue to carry his story with us into everyday living.
Thank you Dad and Mom for being story tellers to each of us. It will be an exciting chapter.