In the "Hunger Winter" of 1944-45 hundreds of thousands of people in the western Netherlands faced starvation. The little food that remained after five years of war had been seized by the German army. There was, however, still food in the agrarian east of the country. The problem was how to get it - temperatures were well below zero, there was no transport, and civilians were forbidden from passing German checkpoints.
On January 10, 1945, my aunt Do (pictured) and her late sister Fien (short for Josephine) set off for the east on borrowed bicycles. They had a forged Red Cross pass (supplied by my late uncle Frans, a member of the Dutch Underground) which they used to get through German checkpoints, in particular at the crucial IJssel Bridge at Arnhem. The trip, in subzero temperatures, took three weeks.
On the way back their bicycles were so laden with food they had to walk. Somehow they got home with all the food intact; they even cheekily hitched a ride part of the way on a German army truck.
I recorded Do as she told the story of her epic journey to save her family from starvation. She could even remember word-for-word the conversations she and her sister had with the guards at the IJssel Bridge checkpoint. Next month I'm going back for more.