Two minutes silence and a lot of heartbreak

Below is the full text in English of the speech by King Willem-Alexander during the National Remembrance on Dam Square in Amsterdam. I’ve decided to translate it properly as I have nothing else to do and I can’t sleep, and can’t keep bugging people. And it needs to be read.

And translation is what I do.

It was a touching speech. I cried buckets and I don’t even like royalty. But memories of something awful and today is normally a big event, where kids are taught about history and others come to pay respect, concerts and some actual survivors turn up and are so joyful and sweet, and then you see them and you just want to hug them. The survivors, not the royalty.

But here is what he said, our King. Also couldn’t keep myself from butting in a bit here and there.

It feels strange on an almost empty Dam for Remembrance Day. But I know that what we are all experiencing is something are going through together.

In these exceptional months, we have given up some of our freedom.

Our country has not known anything like it since the war.

Now we make our own choices. For the sake of life and health. At those times the choice was made for us. By an occupier with an ideology without mercy, which killed many millions of people.

How did that ultimate freedom feel? There is one testimony I will never forget.

It was here in Amsterdam, in the Westerkerk, almost six years ago. A small man with clear eyes – proudly standing upright at 93 – told us the story of his trip to Sobibor in June 1943.

His name was Jules Schelvis.

There he stood, fragile but not broken, in a full, silent church. He talked about transporting 62 people in one cattle wagon. About the barrel on the bare floor. About the rain that splashed through the cracks. About hunger, exhaustion, filth. “You were going to look like scum,” he said. And you heard how sorry he was in his voice.

He told us about the watches that were torn from wrists by soldiers upon arrival. About how he lost his wife Rachel in the chaos. He never saw her again.

“What normal person could have thought of this? How could the world allow us righteous citizens of the Netherlands to be treated as scum?” His question was lost  between the pillars of the church. I have no answer. Still not.

What I also remember is his account of what preceded the journey. After a raid, he and his wife and many hundreds of others were taken to Muiderpoort station. I still hear his words: “Hundreds of bystanders watched without protest as the crowded trams passed under strict surveillance.”

Right through this city. Right through this country. In front of countrymen.

It seemed to go so gradually. One step further each time. No longer allowed to go to the pool.

No longer allowed to play in an orchestra. No longer allowed to cycle. No longer allowed to study. Be put on the street. Are picked up and taken away.

Sobibor started in the Vondelpark [Amsterdam]. With a sign: “Forbidden for Jews”.

Certainly: there were many people who resisted. Men and women who acted, who showed civil courage against the tide and put their own safety on the line for others.

I am also thinking of all civilians and soldiers who fought for our freedom. To the young soldiers who died on the Grebbelinie in those May days. The soldiers who served our Kingdom in the Dutch East Indies and who died, unnecessarily. The resistance fighters who were executed on the Waalsdorpervlakte or inhumanised in prison and concentration camps. The military who did not return from, or were seriously injured in, peacekeeping missions.

[Ankie edit: added unnecessarily, we were the main the reason for the deaths in the Dutch East Indies, and how can you even say serving our Kingdom? We never had any right to go there. Not our land. Never our land. And killed so many in Kosovo while peacekeeping, because I think the men were too young and inexperienced, our mistakes, young men.]

Real heroes willing to die for our freedom and our values.

But there is also that other reality.

Fellow human beings, fellow citizens in need, felt abandoned, heard insufficiently, insufficiently supported, if only in words. Also from London, also through my great-grandmother, yet steadfast and fierce in her resistance. It is something that does not let me go.

War spans generations. Now, 75 years after our liberation, the war is still in us.

The least we can do is not look away. Don’t justify it. Do not erase. Do not set aside. Not making “normal”, which is not normal.

And: nurturing and defending our free, democratic constitutional state. Because only it offers protection against arbitrariness and madness.

[Ankie edit: isn’t arbitrariness and madness a part of life now, just to get by? I am not nurturing any constitutional state ever.]

[Ankie edit: two minutes later: ok, get your point.]

Jules Schelvis endured hell and managed to make something of life as a free person. Much more than that. “I have kept faith in humanity,” he said.

If he could do it, so can we. We can do it, we do it together. In freedom.

A very Dutch speech, I was a little undone. We do need to remember this always. As will future generations about these days.

Now so so tired and need about 2/3 days sleep. All this translation tires one out. xx

We are not all in this together

It may be happening to all of us, but we all react in wildly different ways.

I am getting less relaxed about this now. Not that I was relaxed about this to start with but a few panic attacks later with a severely tight chest, and then yesterday a few dry coughs, and some crazy apps to people in the middle of the night and early in the morning, I realised that I may not be suffering from corona but coronapanic. What is this damn virus doing to our brains?

I talk to my parents often and feel their slight fear of things increasing and I cannot do a damn thing about it and it breaks my heart. I want to be with them, now more than ever.

My friends are zooming, video calling, facetiming with their pets (this is kind of a wonderful thing and should be continued) and it breaks my heart because they want to see me and they can’t in real life. I want to be with them and hold them. And hold them some more. And then some more.

My lovely neighbour and I have coffee, and all I can think of is “am I far enough??”, am I far enough to keep him safe?? But I have touched the cup he drinks out of and I also forgot to cough into my elbow and spread all potential deadly shit all over my room. Are we all deadly?

And also meet a new gorgeous friend and want everything too fast and act irresponsibly, because the normal rules don’t apply and new weird ones do, so end up acting even more irresponsibly, since nobody actually fucking knows what to do. And rules? Did I ever do rules? Meh. And then new ones I can’t get my head around? Please? We’re both still walking and expect we will be for quite some time, happily.

This was not my April, my birth month, the Dutchiest month, which cheers everybody in the Netherlands, no matter how down in the dumps you are. But not this year. These weren’t anybody’s plans. Plans are impossible now.

I had Sri Lanka in my dreams for April, to spend their new year there being all warm and comfy with all their celebrations and to see my friends. My best friends who make me laugh just by silly behaviour, occasional telling off, and a bit more craziness, but mostly just by being there. And hugs, did I mention the hugs?

I’ve been through world madness before. I will be ok. But sometimes just the panic comes back and is all encompassing, you’re just scared and frightened. I had it last night and this morning. Terrifying. It will eventually go.

I am building new memories that will scar me for life, death counts on TV every day. So I switched off the TV. Medical translation work that makes me run to the toilet and be sick, just a total nervousness of everything, cleaning incessantly. Just on autopilot half the time. I am not relaxed, but that crazy fear I had last night, and again early morning, the one where I totally couldn’t breathe and everyone was asleep and I sent some stupid arsed apps around the planet in a mahussive panic attack? The fear went. That fear goes.

Obviously I am not a medic so if you can’t breathe and it’s not a panic attack do seek help. A panic attack is usually over in about 20 minutes, although symptoms vary and it can in come in waves as missus here experienced and you end up tearing your hair out and think you are dying, YOU’RE NOT.  It’s awful and try to get kind help or just somebody to hold you if you have family or a friend nearby to help regulate your breathing.  BUT you will be ok. Remember that. You will be just that, ok.

Other breathing symptoms that last longer or are continuous with lung sounds,  get to hospital as soon as possible.

I have also built some amazing memories to end on a good note. New friends and deeper ones too. This is what I will build on more. All of us need to.

This is

This is

This is life, or so we thought

This is the new normal, so they say

This is seeing friends, from afar

This is watching TV, religiously every day

This is saying it ain’t me, I’m ok

This is saying stay away, I’m ok

This is thinking, will it stay this way?

This is hoping, will my family be ok?

This is, keep your distance, this is here to stay

This is hurt, in every way

This is uncertainty, and fear

This is overwhelming, in more ways than one

This is why I broke

This is happiness, love and friendship, amplified, yet choked

This is why I broke.

When this is over…

When this is over, I want to bask in the warmth of the sun.

I want to say thank you more often.

I want to work less and play more.

I want to be the love I hope to create.

I want to say hello to strangers.

I want to laugh loudly with friends.

I want to make amends with my enemies.

I want to tell people they’ve changed me.

I want to keep growing.

I want to kiss with reckless abandon.

I want to treat my body with reverence.

I want to revere your body, too.

I want to settle my debts and my scores.

I want to cook more of my food.

I want to taste more of it, also.

I want to radically re-envision society.

I want to work to make that vision real.

I want to lead through my service.

I want to chase what I’ve wanted.

I want to remember I’m decent.

I want to vanquish my demons.

I want to find what’s been hiding.

I want to laugh in the face of fear.

I want to reach the horizon.

I want to live so when this is over,

I want to never write this again.


© John Gorman, 13 April 2020

Dirty Britain

Another brilliant piece by my friend Michael about the real impetus behind the very Brexiteers now in charge (I use the term loosely) of the British Government. The world deserves to know about this so reblogging it!

Padraig Colman

Many detached observers have asked what the point of Brexit is. Who benefits?

Many people have asked the simple question: why is the UK going through the ghastly and costly process of leaving the EU?  Remainers are fighting to keep jobs and save businesses, are fearful about their livelihoods. The government’s own research has clearly shown that there will be major disruption to the economy and to the daily lives of ordinary people. Did anyone vote in the referendum to be worse off? Who benefits from this chaos?

The prime minister’s more attractive and brighter sister, Rachel, has some ideas on the subject, “People who have invested billions in shorting the pound or shorting the country in the expectation of a no deal Brexit”. Ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, explored the same theme, alleging that Johnson “is backed by speculators who have bet billions on a hard Brexit –…

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A blog about freelance translation as a digital nomad, travel, food & drink and all things Sri Lankan and Dutch.