Today is International Women’s Day and I have no hesitation in writing about my mum, she was and still is my inspiration and here’s why:
Hendrika Adriana Hoegee
My mum was 12 years old when on 10th May, 1940, German troops invaded the Netherlands. She was living in Rotterdam, in Clemensstraat to be exact, at the time. She was told to pack up a bag and her mother, father and two brothers went to the Maastunnel, (a tunnel which connects the banks of the Nieuwe Maas) along with neighbours and friends, to hide from the Germans.
They hid in the Maastunnel for a few days, eating and sleeping as a community and because the Germans hadn’t invaded the tunnel, families began to move out and went back to their homes, back to a new way of life.
Their daily routines had now changed, there were curfews, set times when they had to be back in their own homes. Some children would play a game of chicken during these curfews, running under the cover of darkness from one house to another. This was a deadly game because if the Germans had seen them they would have undoubtedly been shot.
Queuing with her mother in a butchers one day for their rations, she was suddenly pushed to the ground, she heard the sound of gunshots and when she stood up, saw the dead bodies of Jews who had minutes before been queuing with her.
The occupation lasted for five years and the Germans officially surrendered on May 5, 1945, my mum was 17 years old.
When the British Army arrived in Rotterdam, my mum met my dad and they decided to move back to England and get married. She lived in a village called Netley with her mother and father-in-law, while my dad was posted abroad with the army. It must have been hard, living with people you hardly knew, husband away and not being able to speak a word of English.
Mum lived in Netley all her life, worked in local businesses, raised four children and ten grandchildren. She was a well known figure, I remember that just a trip to the local post office would take a long time as she would stop to chat with different people.
She died 15 years ago and will always be an inspiration to me.