To celebrate Valentine’s Day, we asked you to share with us your favorite family love stories for a chance to win a free 1-year subscription of Geni Pro. The stories could be anything from an anecdote of how your grandparents first met, a memorable proposal, or even the story behind a sentimental photo. We enjoyed reading some wonderful and funny stories ranging from first date woes to contemporary stories of finding love online. Entries were submitted through email, Facebook, and Twitter and the lucky winner was chosen at random.
Today we’re happy to congratulate Els Servaas-Zondervan for winning a free 1-year subscription of Geni Pro!
Els shared the amazing story of how her mother, Teuntje Hylkema, risked her life to save Els’s father during World War II all while she was pregnant. At the time, El’s father, Jelke Zondervan, was a member of the Dutch resistance. Thanks to Teuntje’s brave action, Jelke was able to escape capture.
Read the incredible story below translated into English from Dutch:
1940 World War II had just started and Jelke Zondervan and Teuntje Hylkema were in love …
In the spring of 1944 they stood before the civil servant in Franeker; a happy wedding couple. Jelke Zondervan and Teuntje Hylkema said “Yes” and needed a beautiful new home after the ceremony. But Jelke was a resistance man and Teuntje [a] courier, and that is why the first happiness did not last long. The illegal group was rounded up one day. The resistance fighters, who managed to escape, went into hiding. For them, a tense time of roaming and hiding started. The couple Zondervan, who had also escaped the clutches of the Gestapo, would not easily forget that time. My parents separated for the sake of safety and it was the bitter necessity that they came together again after a short time.
On 13 July 1944, he was sentenced to death in absentia by the Higher Kriegsgericht der Luftwaffe in Utrecht. Jelke Zondervan could therefore no longer live at home and he had to go into hiding.
The SD made a fierce hunt for illegals and it happened that one day at Grouw a very dangerous resistance fighter was spotted for the Germans. It was … Jelke Zondervan. A manhunt was used with the Grüne Polizei. The head office in Leeuwarden tried to warn but could no longer send in time. They did not know exactly where “Summer” was, as was the nickname of Jelke Zondervan. His wife did. She was very pregnant. In this circumstance the expectant mother went out to save her beloved husband. No means of transport was available to her. On foot, she walked the nearly eighteen kilometers from Sneek to Joure, where the refugee had meanwhile found yet another shelter. Jelke Zondervan was warned in time, but the great effort that his wife had made was not without consequences.
Back in Sneek, the young woman was suddenly not well. In the morning of the 24th October 1944, at a quarter to ten, Klaske Lolkje was born. A seven-month child of 880 grams. The delivery took place in a reformed nursing home. A midwife was happy to offer a helping hand. Jelke Zondervan had waited for the course of the birth in the immediate vicinity. He was, he said, completely gripped by the tension and fear under which he was burdened for days and the unexpected birth. The very small baby was in an incubator and in the absence of a regulator (to regulate the temperature), the nurses did not spend a moment from the incubator. Thanks to this excellent care, Klaske made it.
Father Zondervan, who had experienced a weapon drop 24 hours before the happy event, was given the assignment to buy clothing. Papa came ‘home’ with too big trousers, where the baby could go in ten times. Wadding was made from a jacket by inventive nurses and a ladies handkerchief served as a diaper. It was something amazing, what the Sybrandie and Bruinsma sisters had performed in those days, my mother told me. ‘The special thing is that Teuntje Zondervan-Hylkema declared her child herself at the Burgelijke Stand. In this case it was too dangerous to do this immediately after birth. With permission from the local public prosecutor, the declaration was made six months later in Sneek, when liberation had started.
Through the enormous effort of my mother and the love for her husband, she saved his life and ensured that her child did not have to grow up without a father. After Klaske Lolkje, 3 healthy daughters and a son were born in freedom, including the undersigned. My parents and sister Klaske unfortunately no longer live.
My parents both received the Resistance Memorial Cross. For my mother, I received this Resistance Commemorative Cross posthumously from the hands of H.K.H. Princess Margriet. My sisters and brother were very surprised and my (grand) children too.
Congratulations, Els! We hope you enjoy your Geni Pro subscription.
All photos courtesy of Els Servaas-Zondervan