Having lived through post World War II Holland, local musician Saskia Overbeek has a special connection to Remembrance Day.
Growing up in the Holland of the 1960s and ’70s, Overbeek remembers playing in German bunkers and getting by with very little food.
“During those times, even when I grew up, there wasn’t a scrap of food that was thrown away, because my grandparents went through the hunger winter of 1945, and that winter yielded nothing in terms of food,” she said.
“They were eating wallpaper off the wall to have something in their tummies!”
Her grandparents – particularly her grandmother – made abundantly clear the importance of learning from society’s past mistakes, including the events that led to World War II.
“She impressed upon us that no matter what happens, you can never let people forget this,” Overbeek said. “I remember her looking at me with this intensity and tears in her eyes.”
Her grandparents found themselves in the middle of the Holocaust, hiding Jewish people under their kitchen tiles.
“Imagine the stress of that!” Overbeek exclaimed.
“Those were times we can’t begin to imagine. I heard all those stories when I was younger. I grew up with them, sitting on my grandparents’ knees, not in a scary way but more in an educational way, in hopes that none of this will happen again.”
These and many other stories will accompany an upcoming musical performance by Overbeek and musical partner and husband Darrell de la Ronde, at the Calvary United Church on Saturday.
The storytelling duo will perform a handful of songs centred on post World War II life, including a song about a young boy who goes to war and never returns, post-traumatic stress disorder and war brides.
During those times, even when I grew up, there wasn’t a scrap of food that was thrown away, because my grandparents went through the hunger winter of 1945, and that winter yielded nothing in terms of food. - Saskia Overbeek, local musician
War brides represent a complex issue, Overbeek explained, noting that many Dutch women fell in love with their liberators.
Their song centred on this issue follows the story of a war bride who comes ashore at pier 21 in Halifax to meet her waiting husband.
“She came to a country that she knew nothing about, she couldn’t speak the language, and she didn’t even know the man she married,” Overbeek said, adding that she married the man in the ecstasy of liberation.
“Many of them got pregnant, some of them never found the woman they married again, it was just a real tough situation for everyone at that time.”
In addition to sharing these stories and enabling people to learn from history’s mistakes, another motivation behind the show is raising awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I’ve had friends over the years that were very close to me who fought in places like Afghanistan who commit suicide,” Overbeek said.
“They could not live with the memories … and the atrocities that they saw committed to the people.”
She encourages people to contribute to the Royal Canadian Legion’s Poppy Trust Fund.
“That helps people with post-traumatic stress disorder. That goes out to the veterans, young and old … who suffer,” Overbeek said.
Saturday’s show will take place at the Calvary United Church will begin at 7 p.m., with tickets costing $15.
It’s a beautiful venue with plenty of seating, Overbeek said, adding that although tickets are for sale at the church and at Val’s Floral Boutique beforehand, there’s likely to be some left at the door, as well.