Hugh Timmerman has been gathering facts based on his own memory of living under occupation in world war II Holland. The events that took place before his eyes and in his family home would forever be burned into his memory and remain something he wanted to better understand. More than 65 years later his research and his travels have helped him piece together the story of the allied plane that crashed on his property, as well as the stories of all the soldiers that died on his family farm.
This month Hugh returned to the Netherlands from his home in Canada, to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary. Together we sat down to do this podcast, part 1 of 2, on what he remembers from his childhood during the war, his experience as an immigrant in Canada, and how he went about putting together this book.
On line at the grocery store, I read the big sign in the window: Seeking new colleagues to join our team. Around the block at the café there’s a small paper in the window that reads: seeking wait staff. The restaurant next door is full to the brim with customers everyday and employs only 2 servers and 1 cook, the entire staff looks overwhelmed.
No matter where I look in the service industry, the Netherlands seems to be lacking workers. Yet at the same time, I can think of many university students who would never take such jobs. I’m also reminded of my fellow university graduates who are seeking work in the field of their studies and would not take up work in a restaurant or a grocery store.
All this to make the un-scientific observation that there could be some type of labor shortage in this part of Europe. And it is getting worse.
Meanwhile I read about the situation of detained refugees in Belgium, who are currently on hunger strike. Belgium’s politics and economic reality is certainly not identical to the Netherlands, but I still think it says something about where this entire region is within the discussion of the right to work and immigration policy. For the neverending obsession with keeping people out, I’m wondering who they’re going to turn to when no one in the country will take essential jobs.
Depending on where you live in the world or what media you consult in your daily life, you may not often hear about things happening in Australia. You might hear the occasional story from a friend who travelled there or perhaps its the summertime wild fires that manage to make the oldstream media reports around dinner time.
One ongoing saga over the past decade, that involves so much human suffering and not much international media attention, is the detainment of asylum seekers in Australia. Long before there was the torture prison at guantanamo, or extraordinairy rendition made the news, the Australian government was carrying out a policy of imprisoning anyone seeking refuge from war, political oppression, or any such cause that would force someone to flee their country. These people, of all ages (that is: including children) were kept in prisons located on small pacific islands, which is how the program came to be named “The Pacific Solution.”
Started in the 1990’s under a labor government and then carried out in a big way by the Liberal government that allied itself so closely with the Bush administration, these imprisonments led to hunger strikes and demonstrations, as well as condemnation by international human rights organizations. Yet still one would have been hard pressed to find much space dedicated to the issue in many of the world’s most popular news outlets. Even more rare was hearing any criticism or pressure from world leaders for the Australian government to change its policy.
And so it has taken many years and much suffering, as well as the election of a new prime minister, but finally this policy is changing. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s government has announced that they will stop imprisoning asylum seekers and end the Pacific Solution. A look at the details reveals that children will no longer be detained, and in some “more extreme cases” people might be detained but their cases will be reviewed every three months. It may be too early to celebrate, but this announcement already seems encouraging… full credit not to the Australian government for finally doing something to end the suffering, but to all those who sacrificed their own well being in an effort to make this change come true.
Over the summer I recorded podcasts documenting my parents’ lives in Portugal. In this podcast I sit with my mother here in Amsterdam and she explains what it was like moving from Portugal to Newark, New Jersey in the 70’s.
What I enjoy most about recording this series of podcasts about my family is that not only do people seem to enjoy hearing these stories, it is also great for my family as alot of these stories we haven’t told in a long time and I continue to learn details that I did not previously know.