At a recent family picnic gathering people from my husband's side of the family, I spent a fair bit of time chatting with his Uncle Eliza (yes, this is a man's name in the Netherlands). This eighty-eight year old patriarch filled in some things I had been wondering about regarding his parents and their early years after immigration. (One other uncle, who is ten years younger, also remains of this generation.)
Uncle Eliza had been the "scout" for the family to determine if Canada was really worth immigrating to in the post-war period. In the Netherlands between the years of 1922 and their emigration to Canada in 1951, my husband's grandfather had to twice destroy his entire herd of dairy cattle due to disease. There was no insurance to compensate for such losses, so the family had to slowly dig out of poverty each time. They lost their farm and ended up living in substandard housing at times. This uncle vividly remembers having to wear a hand-me-down sweater to school that had belonged to a girl from their village; there was no use protesting because they could not afford anything else.
It was the desire of my husband's grandfather to see a better life for his children, even when he was 62 and his children ranged in age from 15 to 28. None of these children was married, but one son was in a serious relationship. It was determined that they would not emigrate because nobody was to be left behind. However, when that relationship ended, plans went ahead rapidly for a new start in a new land. The children signed documentation promising that they would provide for all the financial needs of their aging parents as an assurance to the Canadian government that they would not be a drain on its resources.
In 1951, they arrived in the Mississauga area in order to work for a tree nursery business, which had "sponsored" them for one year. Late that summer, tragedy struck the family. The entire clan, except Uncle Eliza, was attending a church picnic on the Labour Day weekend. When the eldest son was swimming at the conservation area, he ended up in a very deep spot. He was not a strong swimmer; despite efforts to rescue him he drowned. He was just shy of his 27th birthday.
Uncle Eliza placed this event in perspective. So many people from the church community surrounded them with comfort and material assistance during their time of need. He also reminded me of the joy the following summer his two sisters, aged 29 and 23, were married in a double wedding ceremony. These men who became part of the family were pillars of faithfulness, who were involved in raising the respective children they were blessed with.
In a short time the brothers pooled their money to purchase a farm in Newcastle, Ontario. Here his grandfather and grandmother thrived under the care of their children, with plenty of open space. They lived to see and enjoy many grandchildren, reaching the ages of 84 and 77 years, respectively. Not only were they themselves blessed by the decision to come to Canada, their succeeding generations have thrived in the land. In the hardships and the joys they recognized God's providential hand.
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