In The Netherlands, on May 4th, is a day called Dodenherdenking, which means ‘remembrance of the dead’. On this day, around the country, services are held and two minutes of silence are observed to commemorate all civilians and members of the armed forces who have died in wars or peacekeeping missions since the outbreak of World War Two. In Amsterdam, at the Dam Square Memorial, the King and Queen stood vigilant with thousands of on lookers to remember these brave souls.
The following day, is known as Bevrijdingsdag, and is a national holiday to celebrate the end of the Nazi Germany occupation. The nation was liberated largely by the First Canadian Army, which included British I Corps, the first Polish Armoured Division, and in some areas, American, Belgian, Dutch and Czechoslovak troops. Across the Netherlands, free public music festivals were held in honour of celebrating freedom. Most people do not have to go to work, and many are adorned in orange and the country’s national colours, red, white, and blue. Celebrations of big and small are all over the country, as in Utrecht, I saw thousands of people in line for a music festival and in Tilburg, I saw a group of friends who had sat outside on the street curb in lawn chairs drinking cold beverages. Later that night, I was cycling home from seeing a film, and I could hear the British anthem playing loudly on a sound system somewhere in the city centre, echoing over the sleeping rooftops.
In my opinion, it is really a beautiful contrast to see such somber thoughts moved to overwhelming joy over these two days. I’m moved, really, to love such a proud nation who have overcome so much since this time period. I am so proud to say that I am Canadian, and so please to spend time celebrating such a special occasion with a country that now call my second home.
As many of you may know, last December, I won a scholarship in honour of the Liberation. This is also another reason why I am so moved by this occasion, as over seventy years later, this incredible moment of history has affected my life in a way that I never thought possible.