This week we have a special post from Executive Director Joost Schokkenbroek, PhD about his personal connection to our newest exhibition, Celebration 75 Years of Freedom.

A photo of a man  with a sextant. Canada – I must have been three or four years old when I first heard this country’s name.

I was born in Nijmegen where, since 1945, the city has hosted an annual Vierdaagse (Four Days’ March). Vierdaagse is a four-day walking event that was originally a training exercise for the Dutch military. Over the years other armed forces have joined in the walk. Canada began participating in 1952.

After a rather modest start, the Nijmegen Vierdaagse has grown into a large-scale parade. Nowadays Nijmegen has tens of thousands of participants, most of them civilians, willing to walk 50 kilometres per day.

One of my earliest childhood memories is related to this event.

I filled my cradle in 1961, only 16 years after the end of World War II. The Canadian forces had liberated my country from the German occupation. In the summer of 1964 or 1965, I stood at the side of a narrow street – in fact, more a path in the pastoral suburbs of Nijmegen— where the marching crowds passed by, my little hand in my dad’s.

We heard singing in the far distance. Suddenly my father bent down and said with a stern voice: “Joost, listen carefully to this song. These are Canadian soldiers. We can stand here in freedom because of them. Don’t you ever forget this.” Alouette was the song the soldiers sang, accompanied by the rhythmic sound their heavy boots made on the pavement.

Here we are today, almost 50 years later. Little did I know then that one day I would be the proud host of an exhibition commemorating the braveness of the Canadian women and men who fought for our freedom and celebrating the strong friendship between the two nations. 

Celebration 75 Years of Freedom is on view at the Vancouver Maritime Museum until November 15, 2020.