Musician/anthropologist Rob Boonzajer Flaes (74, rear) decided in the autumn of 1956 to emigrate together with brothers Steven (70, mathematician, front left) and Michiel (72, schoolmaster) from their house at 29 Loderstraat in the Eindhoven district of Strijp.
‘Hold still,’ cried our father. He wanted us to pose. We walked on. It wasn’t that when he told us to do something, we did it. Moreover, we were on our way: telling the neighborhood that we were going to emigrate. We had come to Eindhoven from Zeist because of work for father at Philips. The company offered four employees their own house, on the condition that they build one themselves. Strijp was a real Philips neighbourhood, with a strict separation between Catholic people from Brabant and non-Catholic imports. For us children it was often fighting in the neighborhood. Steven sometimes says: ‘Give me a hostile environment and I’ll feel right at home.’ I recognize that. That makes me sharp. At home we received recorder lessons from our mother. She was the daughter of a musician and far too ambitious to be a housewife. Somehow, having children was the tragedy in her life. Our father had been through a lot in the war, never spoke about it, but had his moods. We learned to tell jokes and curse well from him. All three of us only started to feel at home when we went to study in Amsterdam. Luckily there were grandfathers around at the time. They had all kinds of clubs: for disassembling radios, collecting stamps, or carpentry. For example, we made our emigration vehicle called Kameleon, just like Sietse and Hielke from the book of the same name. At the time, emigrating seemed an enticing prospect. But of course nothing came of it. Fortunately, despite the necessary headwind, there was a lot of laughter at home in those years too.”
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of June 16, 2021