Dutch migrants reunite after 58 years

Being an Alpine Ambassador has its perks for Dutch migrant Fena Waalkens.

But never in her wildest dreams would she imagine meeting someone who migrated to Australia on the same voyage 58 years ago. But that’s exactly what happened when Mrs Waalkens greeted Henny and Coen Boerlade at the Alpine Visitor Information Centre last week.

“I immediately picked up their accent as being Dutch,” Mrs Waalkens said.

“We chatted for awhile and then discovered that Henny and I were on the same ship in August 1952. We both became very excited, we almost felt like family.

“We were both only children but remember the journey quite well. It was a very long and unpleasant trip due to the heavy seas, awful food and sea sickness.”

The six-week voyage departed Amsterdam in August 1952 before stopping in Cape Town on its way to Station Pier in Melbourne. Mrs Waalkens said she had ‘goose bumps’ when she realised the significance of the meeting.

“We both remember docking in Cape Town for a day and looking up at Table Mountain,” she said.

“We had not seen a mountain before, it was unbelievable. We probably played together on the ship. What a small world we live in. We exchanged emails, we have so much more to talk about.”

Mrs Waalkens spent her first night in Australia at a migrant camp in Bonegilla. Since then she has lived in Wollongong and Sydney before settling in Bright eight years ago with her husband. Her life in Australia has featured countless hours of volunteer work ranging from working with young disabled children to her current role as an Alpine Ambassador.

“Being an ambassador is wonderful,” she said.

“You get to meet so many people from all walks of life and from many different countries. It’s great to be able to help tourists organize their stay in the Alpine Shire. At the same time I’m learning so much about this beautiful area. My husband and I love it here. There are so many opportunities to be involved with the community. We love the seasons, and the relaxed village atmosphere, not to forget the wonderful scenery.”

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