Boston (13-May-2011)

After settling into my hotel room (I am so getting used to that by now) I try to set up my Boston appointments, with success. Once that is done I drive over to a mall and shop around a little, not because I want to buy anything (my suitcase is full and heavy), but because I want to divert myself a little. That evening I enjoy watching the traffic on the Massachusetts Turnpike. I never thought I would ever enjoy something like that, but I do.

Thursday morning Dan Waterman comes over. He lived in Loosdrecht and thus has known both the refugee children in Den Dolder, who were taken in by Kees Boeke in his school in Bilthoven, and the ones in the Alijah facility in Loosdrecht. Unfortunately Dan is not able to tell me all that much about the refugee children.

Later that afternoon I catch a bus to downtown Boston and visit the Museum of Fine Arts. There is an exhibition with works by Dan Chihuly. I had never heard of this artist, but I absolutely taken by his beautiful glass works. I see the European Art section as well, and then walk over to Copley Square and Newbury Street. This is my first time in Boston, and I wish I would be less tired. Yet I get to feel the city a little bit: it feels quite different from New York. I eat by myself, catch a bus back to Newton Corner and go to bed early. This time it’s a baseball team coming home to the hotel that wakes me up at midnight.

Friday I have a lunch appointment with M. and her husband. I really wanted to meet her, and was hoping she would grant me an interview. She never talks about the past, so I was not sure if she was willing to talk to me about is. After a delicious lunch she agrees to be interviewed in my hotel room. Her story is tragic, and I can understand why she finds it hard to talk about it. Yet I am very grateful that she overcame that and did tell me her story.

And with that, my work on this trip is done. All in all I did 15 interviews (and gave one). I flew 8371 miles (including my flight home tomorrow), drove 800 miles and walked quite a bit as well. Apart from the 15 people I have interviewed I met (and talked to) 37 other people, so that makes 52. All this in 19 days. I do admit that I am a little bit tired, but mostly extremely satisfied, happy and grateful. It is always so special to talk to these children, who are now of course not children anymore, but the child that they once were is still there. They are the ones who lived through all the situations that I am trying to imagine and reconstruct. Often they tell me things I did not know yet, sometimes I can fill in the gaps in their lives and memories. Sometimes they do not understand what happened when, and sometimes I am also unable to answer their questions. These oral histories give my research and upcoming book a different dimension.

It will be a challenge to form all these stories into a part of my book. By now I have so much information! But every story deserves to be told. At the party in NYC someone said that my book will really be 2000 books in one, because every child’s story is a book in its own, and that is true. All the stories have similarities, but are also different. And every story deserves to be told.

For me it is still mind boggling that it was so often pure luck that decided who survived and who did not. Often, whilst sitting across these survivors, I realize that by the same token their life could have taken a different course. And we would not have been sitting across from each other.

Tomorrow I’m flying home.