Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author


Living in War Times

The child of people who survived the Second world war, I was enthralled by the stories they would occasionally tell. I say occasionally, because getting them to talk about growing up in occupied Holland was like pulling hens teeth. Though I know times were hard and dangerous for them, they always put a twist of humour into the telling. I don’t know how they managed it, yet they always did. I could imagine the adventures they had, and things they saw. Of course, it wasn’t until I was much older that I realized what a dangerous time it had been for them. They both had stories to be lost in, but I’ve chosen to tell one of my father’s.
We had visitors over, friends of my parents who were also from Holland. The two men, my father and his friend Pete, had a shared experience, though they’d never met when they lived in the Netherlands. This is an account of their similar, yet separate experiences.
Young men were commonly taken by the Germans, then sent to Germany to be trained to fight. The first time teenaged father was taken, it was summertime. He waited for his chance and when it came, he escaped and walked all the way home. It was a journey fraught with danger. He could be shot, recaptured or suffer injury as he made his way. He travelled over six hundred kilometers on foot, no food, no water, only the clothes on his back, all the way back home.
He was sitting at the table, wolfing down porridge, when his mother hurried to tell him that there were German soldiers coming up the front sidewalk to the door. Quick as a wink, my teenage, future father, ran to the back of the house, only to jump out a window into more soldiers who had been at the ready. Away he went again, taken from his country to be trained to serve Germany.
This time, it took longer to find a chance
to escape. By the time he got away again, it was winter. Once again, he started off on the perilous journey. Woefully underdressed for such an endeavour, he was beyond cold, on top of being miserably hungry. Just before crossing the border from Germany into the Netherlands, he came upon a dead German soldier. Desperate times call for desperate measure. The soldier was still in his heavy, woolen trench coat, a coat he certainly had no use for now that he was dead. With no little amount of difficulty, the coat was removed and soon, it was providing warmth to a teen who desperately needed it. Carrying on, the teen who would some day be my father, stuck to trees and farm fields away from roads. He had one goal in mind, making it home.
He was scarcely over the border, furtively crossing a farm field, when he was loudly ordered to halt. There he was, arms raised to show he was unarmed, staring down the barrel, of the Dutch farmer’s rifle. Realizing he was wearing the coat of a German soldier, he hurried to save himself.
“I’m Dutch,” he said, “I’m not German, I’m Dutch. Don’t shoot!”
Luckily for him, the farmer believed him, though he made it clear that shooting who he thought to be a German soldier wasn’t an idle threat. He would’ve done just that, if dad hadn’t quickly spoken up. Instead of being mistaken for a German soldier and being shot, he was fed, clothed, and sent on his way.
Their friend Pete, had a somewhat similar story. He too, like many other teens, had been taken against his will to Germany. He too escaped, and made his way back to his home county despite the danger, distance and chance he would be caught again. Found starving by a Dutch farm family, they took him in and sat him down at the table with them to eat. A huge bowl of steaming hot, mashed potatoes was set before him, and without a moment’s hesitation, he dug in and began to shovel food in as fast as he could. It was only when he was scraping the bowl that he looked around at his hosts. The whole family was simply sitting there, quietly, politely watching him. No one was eating, no one was cleaning their plate, for you see, he’d eaten what was meant to be for the whole family. They never said a word, no one complained, and Pete never forgot them or that time. It was life during war times, and he was grateful for their kindness.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB