Marion Trippe moved to this village in the northeast of the Netherlands several years ago with her husband looking for an affordable house in which to spend their retirement days. What they soon discovered was that their house a converted post office came with more than space for them and their dogs. It came with a secret. Tucked beneath a staircase was a dirtfloor hiding space. It had been used in the Second World War to hide people from Nazi forces.In the decades since the war the small community of Nieuwlande has gained recognition for its protection of hundreds of people marked for forced labour in Germany or death in concentration camps.Among those who hid here was Salo Kimel a classmate of Anne Frank. Just about every household in Nieuwlande risked imprisonment and possible execution to provide sanctuary or support.
Now nearly eight decades later some of the homes once used to hide Jews are being used to shelter another generation of people seeking safety Ukrainian families. Ms. Trippe is among those who have opened their houses. It is an echo of history in Europe as memories of the continents bloodied past undergird generosity toward those fleeing Russias invasion of Ukraine.
For Ms. Trippe the decision to take in Ukrainian refugees is at least in part linked to the legacy of Nieuwlande. Reading about the history of the area and learning about the background of her own home made a big impression she said.More than six million Ukrainians have fled their country since the Feb. 24 onset of war. In the Netherlands authorities have registered nearly 60000 Ukrainian refugees.
Among them are Anna Alekseeva and her son Matvii Alekseev 5 who fled Kharkiv in early March. Weeks later they arrived in Nieuwlande at the home of Jan and Willy Smid. The Dutch couple bought toys and a trampoline for Matvii and took him and his mother on trips to the zoo McDonalds and local festivals. They pitched in to buy a camper home that they parked in their back yard where Ms. Alekseeva and Matvii are now living.
The Smids home is a magical place warm kind Ms. Alekseeva said.It is also steeped in history. Where the Smids live was once the home of Johannes Post a renowned Dutch resistance fighter who began the organization of Nieuwlandes efforts to shelter Jews and others. The original wooden beams of Mr. Posts barn still stand over a space that was likely used as a hiding spot between stored straw.Heroes. I dont know how else I can describe these people Ms. Alekseeva said.
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