Mr Vanleeuwan

Community History Project

My interview was with John VanLeeuwan form the Providence Independent Church of Winnipeg.

1. HOW OLD WERE YOU DURING THE WAR?
"I was three years old. I know a lot about the war time because my older brothers told me many stories."
2. WHERE DID YOU LIVE?
"I lived on the outskirts of Rotterdam,Holland in a town called Ysselmonde."
3. DID YOU HAVE TO MOVE FOR ANY REASON?
"When the war broke out, the Germans were going to position there canons in the back field behind where we lived. I remember walking beside the baby carriage to a farm in Dortrecht. I don't know if we knew the people, but we stayed there for a couple of days. We went back home after that because Rotterdam gave up. They were bombed very badly in those few days, but our house was still standing."
4. WHAT DID YOU DO DURING THE WAR?
" Well, I was very young, so I continued as normal, but my dad kept working putting up thatch roofing. One of the roofs he was supposed to do, but he didn't, because we fled to the farm, the house was hit by a bomb and he would have been on it had he continued working."
5. HOW DID YOUR LIFE CHANGE BECAUSE OF THE WAR?
"There wasn't really a lot of change for me to notice at that age. The last year of the war, we didn't have a lot of food, so we moved to my grandparents house in the town of Wilmis. I remember having to eat pancakes made from oats and sugar beets."
6. WHAT OUTSTANDING MEMORIES DO YOU HAVE ABOUT THIS TIME?
"I remember my grandfather had an outhouse filled with turf and as kids my cousins and I would play on it all the time. One day we moved some turf aside and found a trap door. It was used for when the Germans would come and we could sleep and hide in there. Turf is a small square of grass and dirt cut out and dried. We used them to burn in the stoves. I also remember, when there would be a 'razia', which is a kind of recruiting raid done by the Germans. The town of Wilmis devised a plan that when they knew the Germans were coming for this , they would pull a switch which made everyone's light turn on for a minute or less. Then we were warned to hide."
7. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS IMPORTANT FOR YOUNG PEOPLE TO REMEMBER FROM THIS TIME?
"War is wrong! The Bible says 'Thou shalt NOT kill'.We should never start a war, but if war is started against us, we should take up arms and fight."
8. WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THIS TIME?
"When I was young, I didn't think about this much. But now it is very important to remember that God is in control, and that nothing will happen without His will. That is what we all can learn from that war."
9. HOW DID YOU SEE GOD'S FAITHFULLNESS IN THIS TIME?
"Well, he brought my parents and family and your grandparents and family to Canada, to a safe country. Also, when the Germans bombed Rotterdam very badly, he left our house still standing, even though the canons were in the field right behind our house."

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