“Will we ever have war here again?” The first time our daughter asks me the question, she is five years old. It is May 4th and our street is turning red, white and blue from the flags that are at half mast. My explanation of what Remembrance Day exactly means is short and cryptic, so as not to instill fear in her. But it’s enough for her childhood brain to understand that World War II has taken a serious toll, including in our city. A year and ten days later, on May 14, we follow the lights in the sidewalks that mark the fire boundary and I point out the Stolpersteine in the neighbourhood. “If you look around you well enough, the war is visible everywhere,” I tell her.
Last week she posed the question again, this time triggered by the sudden outbreak of war in Ukraine. And while I would have steadfastly said “no,” the honest answer is that I don’t know if there will ever be war here again. The world is subject to change. Democracy and freedom are not given, that much is clear by now. We have been fortunate to have lived in relative freedom for over 75 years. And, I assure her, if you look around you well enough, you will see that Rotterdam has been marked through all generations by the consequences of wars worldwide: from Moluccans to Afghans to Syrians, all with their own story.
The fact that our country, our city, has suffered so terribly, makes the political discussion about who is entitled to – temporary or otherwise – painful and bizarre. For example, on top of the existing reception capacity of 39,500 refugees, the cabinet wants to make room for 50,000 Ukrainian refugees. In order to be able to absorb this more than doubling, the refugees must be spread over the various security regions. For Rotterdam-Rijnmond, this means making room for the reception of 2,000 Ukrainian refugees.
Rotterdam has already rented two river cruise ships to receive refugees from Ukraine
The decisiveness seems considerable and has also been announced as such: Rotterdam has even rented two river cruise ships for the reception. Rutte may say, Ruttian, that within the existing agreements and frameworks we will ‘see what we can do’ and especially want to help the Poles with reception in Poland, the Netherlands is indeed ready. Bring it on!
I was also initially impressed by the apparently considerable number (and at the same time irritated that offering help to people who resemble white Dutch people is apparently much easier and faster than – just name it – Afghan interpreters who, at the risk of their own lives, offer help to the Dutch. have assisted).
We are prepared to receive an additional 0.3 percent of refugees out of our total population of 17 million people, with the emphatic footnote that it is temporary. A child’s hand quickly turns out to be filled, we are used to so little.
It’s not strange. Barely a month ago, a discussion in the Capelse council about temporary housing for 6 to 8 refugee families with young children got so heated that it was a matter of whether the plan would make it at all. In the end, the decisive vote came for housing the 30 war refugees of Leefbaar Capelle dissident Kees de Jong. He did it for the kids, and because of his own war-scarred family history. Mercy can sometimes be found in unexpected places.
Hasna El Maroudic is a journalist, columnist and program maker