Bridging the Distance | The Van Zanten Family
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-21821,single-format-standard,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,select-theme-ver-2.4.1,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-4.7.4,vc_responsive

The Van Zanten Family

For years Kyra and Rochelle only vaguely knew about each other’s
existence and their professional interests are anything but alike.
However, their mutual passion for cooking seems to have been inherited
from their great-grandmother, Maria Catharina Van Zanten – Op Den Buijs,
who worked as a cook at a nunnery.

“It was like catching up,
rather than meeting her for the first time”

Although Kyra and her second cousin Rochelle had been Facebook friends for quite a few years, it was only just recently that they actually met each other in real-life. Kyra recalls her grandparents showing her photos of distant family when she was a child. “We all knew of each other, but we didn’t really know much. I knew that people existed over there, but not their names or how many of them”.

It was thanks to Rochelle’s boyfriend, who had been travelling in Australia a few years earlier, that Kyra and Rochelle finally got in touch with each other. And now Kyra is actually planning to travel over to the Netherlands for Kings Day.

Wedding photo great-grandparents Henk and Maria
Christmas in Australia
“We have been in touch ever since”

Surprisingly it was not Rochelle or Kyra who took the first step that lead to their friendship. It was actually Rochelle’s boyfriend. Seven years ago, when Bas was planning his trip Down Under, Rochelle’s grandmother had said: “Oh my brother lives in Perth, you can go and stay with him!”

And so it turned out that Bas was taken to Rottnest Island, as well as all the other tourist attractions, and had a wonderful time with his distant in-laws. Since then there have been a few visits from family members on both sides. “We have been in touch ever since Bas went to visit” Rochelle says.

“I don’t know anything before 1800”

Kyra is a graduate architect and has been working for the National Trust WA since she finished university. “I have wanted to be an architect since I was about 15 years old. I was always into drawing and art before this and it came quite naturally to me.” One of the projects Kyra has been working on is Fremantle’s Artillery Drill Hall. Freo has an abundance of convict era history and this building is situated in part of the original convict grounds. “The history of the place makes the work all that more enjoyable” Kyra tells.

It is this background in architecture that really makes Kyra look forward to her upcoming trip to Europe with it’s rich history. “I don’t know anything before the 1800s actually” Kyra jokes. The travel itinerary Rochelle is currently preparing for Kyra’s three-day visit to the Netherlands is therefore, in one word, impressive! It includes visits to the historic cities of Utrecht, Amsterdam, Leiden, Delft and Den Haag. Fortunately the Netherlands is only a very small country!

Fremantle Artillery Barracks
Rochelle and Kyra
A gap-year of travelling

Rochelle had just finished her masters study and registered as a general remedial educationalist before she boarded a plane to the Asia-Pacific region for a gap-year of travelling. Of course meeting up with Kyra and her family over Christmas was part of the trip. “For me, being around Kyra felt like we had known each other for ages and actually grew up together. I was very relaxed and myself around her. I think that she made me feel that way because I saw so much of my sister and myself in her. For example being up for challenges, not easily giving up on things, being just a tiny bit stubborn and always in for a good laugh and joke” Rochelle says.

Not something that was spoken of very often

Despite being a life-changing event for Kyra’s grandparents, their migration was not something that was spoken about very often in the family. What actually motivated them to take the big step is therefore still not entirely clear.

But one fact is that Kyra’s grandfather came from a large family and a few of his eleven siblings had already moved to Australia, which probably influenced the decision. His brothers had been stationed in Indonesia after WWII and by the time they returned to the Netherlands there was a lot of poverty and unemployment. The Dutch government offered those who served in Indonesia the chance to move to the Land of Opportunities. Many of them did.

Brother Hermanus Dirk came by plane directly from Indonesia.
His command declares: “Very trustable and honest. A good comrade.” Source: National Archive of Australia
200 mile desert road 1960
“It was important for them to get the photos and updates and to stay in touch”

Rochelle explains that both families were more connected through the grandparent’s generation. So when they started dying the connection seemed destined to be lost. However, with the recent interest of Kyra and Rochelle’s generation in the mutual migration history, this connection is in fact becoming reinforced. Modern means of communication, of course, also help a great deal to stay in touch. Both Kyra and Rochelle are very keen to find out more about their family history.

Free meat in Perinjori

When Kyra’s grandparents arrived in Australia in 1958 they stayed with one of their siblings for three months. Back home Kyra’s grandfather was a boilermaker, but newly arrived in Australia he worked for BP where his brother was. Not long after he was offered a farm job in Perenjori, where he earned £10 a week, along with no rent and free meat! And that was not all, at the end of each year he would receive 5% of the farm’s profit! Unfortunately they experienced a 7-year drought. But despite this, four or five years later they still had enough money to buy a property.

Perinjori Farm Station Kids 1963 and 1964
Van Zanten Family,
Red for the Aussies and Blue for the Dutchies
Not again…

Although quite a few of Rochelle’s grandmother’s siblings had migrated, it never crossed her mind to follow them. Not even for a holiday. “She hated flying” Rochelle tells. But they certainly stayed in touch. “They sent each other plenty of photos, like updates almost.” Kyra says. “And my grandmother used to call her four brothers in Australia weekly, which annoyed them a lot. In a good way. It was like, not again…” Rochelle adds.

Carrot stew with sausage aka Hutspot

Kyra truly is an Aussie through and through. But are there not any Dutch influences at all? Typically Dutch food possibly? “Mum said that when grandma was alive they had a lot more traditional food, but when she died this kind of stopped. It now only is what my mum remembers. Do you have carrot stew, I mean mashed up potatoes and like sausage?” Kyra asks Rochelle, who replies in the affirmative. “We have that one a lot, we like that one!” Kyra continues.

Great Grand Mother Maria cooking 1957
Tribute to Harry Roger

The land of the kangaroos and koalas

Having distant family on the other side of the world has always been fascinating to Rochelle. “They had these photos and posters of Australia in their spare room.” Rochelle tells about her grandparents place. “I dreamed about those pieces and I have always been curious about the land of the kangaroos and koalas ever since”. So with her recent visit to Australia, a dream did come true.

“You’ll be surprised how flat it is!”

Knowing that Kyra is planning to come to the Netherlands for Kings Day, the question is what is she expecting from this small chilly country. “I know about canals and I really want to see windmills and the countryside, and the tulips. All the typical things everyone knows about the Netherlands.” Kyra tells. “As a kid I pictured it kind of really mountainous and snowy”. Rochelle laughs, “You’ll be surprised how flat it is!”

The Beemster Polder was dried during the period 1609 through 1612
Lekker ding

Considering that Kyra will be in the Netherlands for Kings Day, which is a typical Dutch tradition, Rochelle made sure that Kyra at least learnt a few Dutch sentences she could say to the bartenders. Checking with Kyra if she still knows her lines, Kyra instantly replies with: “Lekker ding! Ik hou van jou.”