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An Interview with Edith (Edie) Bijdemast (Part One)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2015/09/15


To my Mother, Henderika (Henny) Bijdemast.

As a teenager you watched your sweetheart taken away to war.

After liberation you looked abroad, dreaming of a home and more.

Leaving the Netherlands hand-in-hand with young children in tow.

You moved to Vancouver, western Canada, and watched your family grow.

Flights back and forth to Europe kept our family connections strong.

Summers spent driving relatives in BC, all singing a Dutch song.

Cooking Pannenkoeken, erwtensoep, boerenkool, and vla for us as treats.

Enjoying Hollandse haring at the vendors along Haarlem city streets.

Our Dutch traditions and language are an intrinsic part of who we are.

Thoughts of the birth place where we came from are never very far.

Dutch coffee socials and Klaverjas card games, such fun to do.

Dancing the jive to Nederlandse liedjes resulted in much laughter too.

So many gezellig moments we have shared together over the years.

All cherished, and more to be created, as your 92nd birthday nears.

Met veel liefs, je dochter, Edith (Edie) Bijdemast


An interview with Edith (Edie) Bijdemast. She discusses: her geographic, cultural, and linguistic family background; the Netherlands Association “Je Maintiendrai” and the Dutch Network web site; the Dodenherdenking ceremony (May 4th Remembrance Day), the Bevrijdingsdag celebration (May 5th Liberation Day), and V-E Day (May 8th Victory in Europe); the bonds between the Netherlands and Canada forged by the rescue efforts of Canadians at the end of WWII; the emotional impact on Dutch-Canadians relating to these events; and her volunteer efforts leading to the honour of Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau.

Keywords: Bevrijdingsdag, Canadian Veterans, Dodenherdenking, Dutch culture, Dutch-Canadian, Dutch Network, Edith (Edie) Bijdemast, Greater Vancouver Dutch Network, Holland, immigrants, immigration, Je Maintiendrai, Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau, Koningsdag, liberation, Netherlands, Netherlands Association, president, Remembrance Day, Sinterklaas, V-E Day, WWII, World War II.

An Interview with Edith (Edie) Bijdemast (Part One)[1],[2],[3],[4]

*Please see the photographs, footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. In terms of geography, culture, and language, where does your family background reside?

My family’s ancestry resides in the Netherlands. My mother was born in Haarlem and my father in Amsterdam. They met during WWII in 1944 and married in 1950. My sister and I were both born in Haarlem. As a result of a housing shortage, my parents reluctantly decided to pack their bags and leave the Netherlands in 1956. I remember the flight across the Atlantic, the train ride across Canada, and the ferry trip to Victoria vividly, as if it were yesterday. Back then, I was 5 years old with my nose and hands pressed tight against any available window space during the entire trip.

Although now a devoted Canadian citizen, like so many other immigrants, my original heritage still calls to me. I have spent the majority of my life in south western British Columbia. As a child in Victoria and Vancouver, my parents still spoke Dutch to me at home. However, within the first year of attending elementary school, I began to reply to them in English. My grandparents visited us for ten months in 1960. And I feel that the need to act as interpreter for them was one of the factors that helped me retain my native tongue.

At the age of 18, I married a Canadian and we spent our spare time hiking in the local mountains and sailing along the west coast. Thus, geographically, my heart was captured by the Canadian west-coast rainforest. When I think of “home” I see eagles swooping down in front of the sailboat lifting salmon into the air. I hear the spiraling song of the Swainson’s Thrush in the woods and the haunting call of the Loon echoing over the water. I see the artistic shapes of the unique Arbutus trees and the pitted sandstone sculptures of the Gulf Islands. Memories of exciting close encounters with killer whales and black bears also come to mind.

Blindsided by our divorce in 1985, I felt an urgent need to reconnect with my family in Europe. Thus, I returned to the Netherlands for the first time at the age of 33 and spent two months there reconnecting with relatives. I was taken aback at the emotional connection and the intense feeling of being at “home” when I arrived there. During subsequent visits in 2010 and 2013, those intense emotions remained. Tears sprang to my eyes and a lump gripped my throat when the bus I was riding drove into Haarlem, the city where I was born. So geographically, it seems my heart has two homes, one on either side of the vast blue Atlantic Ocean.

In 1993, my father passed away suddenly at the young age of 68. In tears, my Mother said “I will never dance again”. With those words ringing in my ears, I found the Netherlands Association “Je Maintiendrai” (N.A.J.M.) that hosted 4 dinner dances annually. We became members and danced the jive together to upbeat tunes played by the live bands. At one of the N.A.J.M. dinner-dances in 2005, I was asked to join the Board of Directors. When I created the Dutch Network web site to help boast N.A.J.M. membership, e-mails written in Dutch began to arrive. Thus, I had to attend night school for two years to learn to read Dutch.

I have spoken English for the majority of my life. Struggling to read Dutch on a daily basis has done a great deal to improve my spoken Dutch. Now that I am retired, I speak Dutch about fifty percent of the time. As an N.A.J.M. volunteer, I attend quite a few Dutch-Canadian events each month and speak Dutch there. We wish to maintain our language and that can only occur with practise. Accustomed to the more subtle Canadian style of communication, I do sometimes raise an eyebrow at the spoken directness of new Dutch immigrants. As my Mother has aged, we have progressively shifted to speaking more Dutch together. I feel there is something quite unique about speaking ones native tongue. In Dutch, we would call it “gezeligheid” which is a difficult word to translate. It encompasses a feeling of comfort and belonging.

Culturally, I would say I am 75% Dutch and 25% Canadian, gravitating towards Dutch food, sports, and entertainment. There are Blue Delft ornaments on my shelves, orange Dutch soccer T-shirts and Vollendam traditional outfits in my closet, and wooden shoes on my balcony. Tulips, windmills, accordions, harmonicas, Dutch cheese, chocolate, and double salted licorice all bring a big smile to my face. At home, my mother cooked traditional Dutch cuisine such as erwtensoep (pea soup) thick enough to stand a spoon in, hutspot (mashed potatoes with carrots) sweetened with appelmoes (apple sauce) and she often served vla (custard) for dessert. Rijsttafel (a medley of Indonesian dishes) is also a Dutch favourite, reflecting the countries colonial past. We enjoy eating pannekoeken (pancakes) and bitterballen (bite-size, deep-fried, pureed meatballs) at local De Dutch restaurants. In addition, no Dutch-Canadian special event would be complete without Poffertjes (quarter-sized mini-pancakes) which are always in big demand. If readers are interested in expanding their culinary talents, a collection of Dutch recipes can be found at and To purchase Dutch imported food locally, readers can visit the Holland Shopping Centre at 141 East Columbia Street in New Westminster or Karl’s Dutch Meat Market at 2621 West Railway Street in Abbotsford. When travelling in the Netherlands, I recommend that visitors stop at one of the many Dutch “zoute haring” (salted herring) street vendors to savour a taste of Dutch tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages.

2. Your representation within the media tends to connect to education, celebrations of the Dutch and Dutch-Canadians, Dutch-Canadian relations, and even a pen and ink drawing.[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10] What is the importance of having Dutch-Canadian voices, lay people and leaders, out in the public of Greater Vancouver?

During my working career, I was a research assistant in the Zoology Department at UBC and did some biological art work and insect collecting in the field to complement articles on insect taxonomy. More recently, I taught science and biology at Fleetwood Park Secondary School in Surrey. As a Netherlands Association “Je Maintiendrai” (N.A.J.M.) volunteer, I help to organize Dutch-Canadian events.

Dutch Culture is one unique thread among many in the Canadian Multicultural tapestry. Each culture has its own perspective, communication styles, customs, nuances in logic and humor, and stories to share. When traveling in Canada, I bump into Dutch-Canadians everywhere and it seems that sharing a point of origin and language sparks an instant connection. Celebrating and sharing cultural traditions and stories with the public leads to increased understanding, appreciation, and acceptance, which enables us all to work better together, and results in synergy.

3. In 2014, you were surprised to earn an important public recognition of excellence: the Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau.[11]   What does such an honor mean to you?

I felt very humble to receive the honor of Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau. One does not volunteer to be recognized. Most of the projects and tasks that get accomplished are the result of the hard-work of a team of dedicated volunteers. This year, the Netherlands Association “Je Maintiendrai” (N.A.J.M.) is celebrating its 50th Anniversary since incorporation. In order to achieve this milestone, the Association had to undergo quite a substantial metamorphosis over the last 10 years to bridge the gap between three generations of Dutch-Canadians. I feel that the award belongs to all the volunteers of N.A.J.M. and that it is a reflection that the Association is progressing in the right direction.

4. You earned numerous positions including president of the Netherlands Association, founder of the Greater Vancouver Dutch Network, and executive committee member of the White Rock Seniors Computer Club. In general, what duties and responsibilities does each position require of you?

In 2005, I created the Dutch Network web site and newsletter in an effort to unite the local Dutch-Canadian community. Initially, the Newsletter was distributed in print format, however, it is now sent out via e-mail. Over the years, I have maintained the web site, designed and distributed over 60 editions of the Newsletter, and answered the interesting stream of e-mail correspondence that results from them both.

I began my duties on the Board of the Netherlands Association “Je Maintiendrai” (N.A.J.M.) as Public Relations director in 2005 and have been President since 2006. Over the 10 years on the Board, I have taken on other tasks as well such as Secretary, Treasurer, Program Director, Event and Volunteer Coordinator, and Library Manager, as the need arose.

The White Rock Seniors Computer Club (WRSCC; meets each Wednesday from 12:30pm to 2:30pm (September to May) at the Kent Street Seniors Center. I joined the club in September 2014 and as their Program Coordinator, I research, invite, and book guest speakers to give presentations, on computer related topics, to the WRSCC membership. Currently, I am in the process of booking the September 2015 to May 2016 session and recruiting and training volunteers to form a WRSCC Program Committee.

5. You note one of the strong bonds between the Netherlands and Canada with V-E day.[12] In particular, the Dutch and Dutch-Canadians, in addition to Canadians, celebrate Dodenherdenking or Remembrance Day because of the liberation and rescue efforts of Canadians. For those without the appropriate background knowledge about V-E day and Dodenherdenking, its relation to the Netherlands and Canada, and the modern Dutch-Canadian, and Canadian with Dutch heritage, community, what remains the importance of V-E day and Dodenherdenking?[13]

The Dodenherdenking held annually on May 4th in the Netherlands is a ceremony to remember those who have died during war and in peace-keeping operations. The Vancouver Netherlands Consulate and the Netherlands Association “Je Maintiendrai” (N.A.J.M.) have hosted Dodenherdenking services locally on May 4th to commemorate the end of WWII in the Netherlands, to remember the sacrifices of the liberating armies, notably the Canadian army, of which thousands gave their lives to allow the Dutch to live in peace and freedom. This year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended the service in the Netherlands. Click >>Here<< to read the article.

On May 5th 1945 in Wageningen, Nazi Germany officials signed documents surrendering the Netherlands. To commemorate the end of occupation by Nazi Germany during WWII, the Netherlands has an annual holiday on May 5th called “Bevrijdingsdag” (Liberation Day). There are liberation festivals in every province across the country and Dutch crowds fill the city streets to celebrate their cherished freedom.

May 8th 1945 marks the formal acceptance by Allies of WWII of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces and marked the end of WWII in the rest of Europe. It is celebrated as V-E (Victory in Europe) Day each year in Canada, the USA, and across Europe.

Veterans Affairs Canada provides background information on Canada’s role in the Liberation of the Netherlands.

6. What emotions come to the fore for the Dutch-Canadian community in relation to these events and their appropriate remembrance?

When I place a wreath at the cenotaph each year on May 4th it is a heartfelt thank you for the lives of our family and a remembrance of the more than 7,600 Canadian soldiers that made the ultimate sacrifice to free my oppressed native homeland overseas. During WWII, my parents were teenagers. My father was taken away into forced labor camps in Germany and he was in Berlin when it was bombed flat. After the war, he returned to find his family home bombed and two of his sisters injured with shrapnel. My mother survived on sugar beets and tulip bulbs during the last year of the war. I think of the Canadian soldiers buried in the Netherlands and the Dutch children tending their graves. Everyone of my Mother’s generation in the Dutch-Canadian community has similar and more horrific memories of WWII. These memories must be preserved and passed down from generation to generation so we can learn from them and hopefully have a more peaceful future.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] President, Netherlands Association “Je Maintiendrai” (N.A.J.M.); Founder, Greater Vancouver’s Dutch Network; Program Coordinator, White Rock Seniors Computer Club.

[2] First publication on September 15, 2015 at

[3] Bachelor of Science & Bachelor of Education, Science, Biology, and Education; Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau.

[4] Photographs courtesy of Edith Ursula Bijdemast.

[5] Please see Balen, E.V. (2013, May). Dutch community comes alive at orange events. Retrieved from

[6] Please see Massah, S. (2014, May 5). A bond that has stood the test of time. Retrieved from

[7] Please see Davison J. (2015, May 4). VE-Day: Why Dutch-Canadian connections have stayed so strong. Retrieved from

[8] Please see (n.d.). Holland Remembers exhibit well received by appreciative visitors. Retrieved from

[9] Please see White Rock Seniors Computer Club (n.d.). 2015 Executive Committee: Edie Bijdemast. Retrieved from

[10] Please see Journal of the Entomological Society of Canada (1994). Journal of the Entomological Society of Canada: No 2 (1994) Occasional Paper (Entomological Society of British Columbia). Retrieved from

[11] Please see Massah, S. (2014, May 5). A bond that has stood the test of time. Retrieved from

[12] Please see Davison J. (2015, May 4). VE-Day: Why Dutch-Canadian connections have stayed so strong. Retrieved from

[13] Ibidem.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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