The Village of Telkwa is one of 140 communities across Canada to receive a 70th anniversary Dutch-Canadian Friendship Tulip Garden.
Telkwa Elementary School students planted bulbs Thursday alongside war veterans and survivor Leny Boonstra, who was eight-years-old when she got the day off school in Holland to watch the Canadian tanks roll in and liberate her home country. She moved to Canada when she was 21.
Boonstra told of the suffering she and her countrymen went through, especially during the winter of 1944-45 when food was short and hoarded by German soldiers. She moved to a more rural area in Friesland to attend school during that harsh winter.
“We couldn’t go home. There was not enough food,” said Boonstra after planting bulbs for red and white tulips with the kids.
“Everything was in coupons. My older sister, my brother and me went to the country … so my mom had the coupons from us, so they had a little bit more food for the two little ones at home.”
Tulips have been a gift from the Netherlands since 1945, when the Ditch government gave Canada 100,000 tulips as thanks for the role Canadians played liberating their country and for the hospitality shown the Dutch Royal Family in Ottawa during the Second World War.
The flowers planted at Hankin Corner and the other 139 gardens planted across the country will be symbolically linked to a 70th Anniversary Dutch-Canadian Friendship Tulip Garden to be planted this fall in our nation’s capital.
Boonstra still vividly remembers the day the Canadians came.
“We had that day free from school because the Canadians were coming. So we stood on the side and we had flags. We were just excited,” recalled Boonstra.
Deputy Mayor Leroy Dekens visited Holland this past spring with his family and had a chance to watch a reenactment of the Dutch liberation after walking the streets where his ancestors lived. He was amazed by the warmth from the Dutch people and the meticulous care they still have for the graves of Canadians buried in their soil.
“Even their kids’ kids appreciate Canadians. It was astounding, people would come up to us [and say] ‘thank-you for what your country did for us,’” said Dekens.
Boonstra said Dutch parents pass on their stories from generation to generation, so as to never forget. She hoped the garden in Telkwa would help Canadian children remember, too.
“We told our children, and they will always remember,” said Boonstra.