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After spending three years hiding from the Nazis, a Jewish family is reunited and begins the job of rebuilding their country and family.
It is not easy to find Usselo. On many maps of Holland you cannot find it at all, only on those that list every village, no matter how tiny. Not many people, however, care to know where Usselo is. Why, there is hardly anything there-fields, a cafe, a bakery, a school, a church and parsonage, a kind of dry-goods store in a house, and farmhouses, but only a handful of those. There's no more than that in Usselo. Such a quiet little village, where life was orderly and pleasant for years and years and years.
Sometimes there would be a wedding, or a funeral to which every fanner went, walking two by two behind the hearse, talking in hushed and not so hushed voices.
"Quiet, he's not buried yet." "But what's true's true. He was as dumb as a pig's ass. Take how he planted potatoes ... no good ... right smack next to each other ... told'm so, too ... wouldn't listen. He could never have gotten as many basketfuls as he said he did. If you ask me, Id say he was a liar."
There were dances, too, in the cafe, where an accordion player pulled and pushed and pressed down on keys and buttons with fingers that werestiff from farmwork, while around him, legs waltzed and polkaed inside tight black pants and long black skirts, and lace caps slid off, showing hair that was stiff and shiny from sweet milk that had been rubbed on to make it so.
Year after year, every season, the same things happened in Usselo. In the winter pigs were slaughtered, and the farmers visited each other, sipping from glasses as they commented on the animal that was hanging from a ladder in front of them, cut open
"She's got a tasty border of fat on'r, not likeWillem's pig we just saw...." "Some sausage this one will make -- No, thanks, not another drop.Don't forget, we've got three more calls to make today. All right, a little bit then, to wet the throat."
And back on their bikes they'd go bemuse soon it would be time to milk the cows.
During the rest of the year they saw each other, too, the farmers of Usselo. Outside, in the fields, behind plows and wielding sickles, on hay wagons, and as they were binding the sheaves of rye, wearing straw hats this time, against the sun; the women in white aprons with long sleeves but no gloves, their hands scratched and their nails broken. And they saw each other with baskets of seed potatoes on their arms, and turnips, and cabbage. They knew each other well. But then there were sofew of them, not more than a handful.
The Oostervelds lived in Usselo, and had for over fifty Years. Their farm was small. When Johan Oosterveld was a child, he went to the oneroom schoolhouse, just like. the few other children in Usselo. Sometimes he played soccer, as they did, but only sometimes and never for more than a short time. His father was sick; Johan was an only child, and even though the farm was small, there was a lot of work that had to be done.
"Johan, Joha-a-an, come home." And his mother would give him a piece of bread on which she had sprinkled salt, so he'd be able to taste the thin layer of butter better; before she sent him to get the horse and plow. And off he would go, down the road, to where the fields were. "C'mon, horse; come, come, come." It was not easy to make straight furrows in the soil. He was only eleven, Johan, and the plow was heavy.
His father continued to be sick for six more years. Johan no longer went to school at all or played. He had no time.
"Too bad," his teacher said when Johan didn't come back. "That boy has brains, Vrouw Oosterveld. He could go far, become a teacher, like me .... 11 Instead it was "C'mon, horse; come, come, come" year after Year after Year. But I did not know any of this then. How could I? I was not even born yet.
When Johan was seventeen, his father died.
"Take it easy for a few days now," his mother said. "Look around and find someone to marry. But, please, don't choose a girl from the city. They don't know what work is. Get someone With a good pair of hands, Johan, to help.),
"Leave it to me, Ma" Johan said. "I'll see what I can do.
He looked around Usselo. Then in the next village the one that was only half a mile away, he found Dientje. "Wait till you see her, Ma," he said "She's got a real pair of hands on her -- you won't believe how big they are. We can both. take it easy from now on. She's a lot older than me, too.Shemust really know how 10 I work. And I'll tell you something else. We're going to be rich. She's got a real -- "what-d'you-call it -- dowry. Some beddingand this youll. love, Ma, five chickens and none of them scrawny. Maybe even a cow if I play my cards right. Eh?"
"My Johan," his mother said proudly, wiping her eyes.
After the wedding the three of them lived in the little farmhouse -- Johan, Dientje, and Johan's mother -- Opoe, as everyone called her, although she never did become a grandmother. And life went on. Orderly and pleasant enough, until --But not yet. There were more weddings and funerals to go to first, more plowing to do and harvesting and sausage making.
Johan and his mother still worked very hard. "It's funny, Ma, with such hands who would've thought... Dienje always wants to rest"
Posted April 26, 2000
When i think of World War II the first thing that comes to mind was the hardships and cruel treatment of the Jews in Germany. The JOurney Back was a good depiction of a common Jewish family in Holland. After being forced to hide from the Nazis, the de Leeuws had to learn how to rebuild their lives and move on from a tragic experience. When hiding from the Nazis the family has to search for a safe and secure home where they won't be caught. This is a good book if you want a quick outlook on the Holocaust.
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