PEI

Do you know these soldiers? P.E.I. family at work on Dutch mystery

A father and daughter in P.E.I. are trying to help a Dutch woman solve a decades-old family mystery, and have discovered a personal connection along the way.

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An Hondorp, pictured here as a young child, centre, has wondered for many years about the Canadian soldiers in the photo. (Submitted by Debbie Barry)

A father and daughter in P.E.I. are trying to help a Dutch woman solve a decades-old family mystery, and have discovered a personal connection along the way.

An Hondorp of Gelselaar, The Netherlands, is hoping to find information about two Canadian soldiers who appear in a photo with her family taken at the end of the Second World War.

Debbie Barry of P.E.I. has shared the photo on Facebook, in the hopes that someone will be able to provide some information.

"We're sort of hoping through the power of social media to see what happens," said Barry.

A visit to his hometown

Barry and her father, John te Raa, found out about the photo last month, when they took a trip together to the Netherlands to visit Gelselaar, which is te Raa's hometown. Te Raa left the Netherlands 60 years ago, at age 17.

While in Gelselaar, they attended an exhibit where they saw a photo of a family standing with two Canadian soldiers. Hondorp, now in her 70s,was the young girl in the centre of the photograph.

Debbie Barry and John te Raa attended an exhibit it te Raa's hometown, where they saw a photo of a Dutch family with Canadian soldiers, taken at the end of the Second World War. (Submitted by Debbie Barry)

"[She] has for years tried to figure out who are these Canadian soldiers," said Barry.

When the exhibit's organizer heard that Barry and te Raa were Canadian, he connected them with Hondorp in hopes they could help solve her mystery.

Barry shared the photo on Facebook. While she hasn't had any responses with information yet, she said she is hopeful.

"Maybe there's somebody out there who knows something, or can connect somebody with something," said Barry.

"Stranger things have happened on social media."

'It brought back a lot of memories'

Hondorp no longer lives in Gelselaar, so Barry and te Raa haven't met her in person, but they have been in touch through email.

And it turns out, their families have a personal connection. Hondorp and te Raa were both born during the war. And while te Raa doesn't remember her, he does remember her father, who worked as the postman.

She started telling me stories about the past and my family, her family.- John te Raa

"He used to go pick up the mail in the city … and then he'd bike past our place to go to Gelselaar village. And he would also stop in at the farm, maybe have a cup of coffee, and drop off the mail. So I knew her father very well," said te Raa.

Not only does he remember her father, te Raa also has a photo of him, which he has sent to Hondorp.

John te Raa has this photo, which show's Hondorp's father on the far left. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

"She was really excited. She emailed me back, she said 'fantastic.' And she started telling me stories about the past and my family, her family," said te Raa.  

"It brought back a lot of memories for her and for myself as well." 

About the Author

Sarah MacMillan is a journalist with CBC P.E.I. You can contact her at sarah.macmillan@cbc.ca