My husband and I  lived in Amsterdam for a brief while.    This is a city and a people where the second world war is still very close and very personal. We lived on Gerrit van der Veenstraat .  Following  the war the street was renamed after the resistance fighter Gerrit van der Veen .   He was executed by the Gestapo.   On this street there is a monument honouring him.  I walked past it every day and always, always there were fresh flowers in the niche of the building.

At noon on the first Monday of every month the defence air raid siren would sound.  Pedestrians would pause.   Cyclists would dismount.  Men would take off their hats.  All were honouring those who gave their lives during the war.

To be a Canadian in Amsterdam is to be frequently thanked by strangers.  The  Dutch have not forgotten it was  the Canadians who liberated Holland.

I discovered the red poppies.  The poppies that grew in Flanders Field.  The poppies    despite the war ravaged land bravely showed their colours.    I found them in vacant lots and bits of forgotten land.  Anywhere these  glorious flower could take root.  It is understandable why these  symbolic flowers are so important.  We wear them over our hearts to show we remember.

I returned home with packages of Dutch red poppy seeds and year after year the poppies bloom in my garden.  Of all the flowers in my garden it is the red   poppy dearest to my heart.



  1. What a beautiful experience and remembrance. I think often, subsequent generations in this country have forgotten the sacrifices so many young men and women made in that war. And soon, there will be no more first-hand witnesses to retell the history. We just never seem to learn.

    (I have planted those poppies year after year in my wildflower gardens but they have only thrived once or twice. What a sight!)

    • My dear friend, That is also what happened to me. I thought they would behave like a California poppy and come up every year. Fortunately I managed to find more poppy seeds, and yes oh yes what a beautiful sight.

  2. I was one of the lucky Canadians whose father came home from the war. Red poppies are my favourite wild flower too. It was also my father’s nickname.. “Poppy “

    • Dear Louise, When I watch the documentaries of the war and the untold suffering it is inconceivable that any country could even contemplate war. I love your father’s nickname. It makes me smile. Thank you for writing and sharing your story. Cheers Virginia

  3. For the people of Amsterdam WWII was real and you experienced their gratitude. I remember poppies (artificial) being sold in Texas; they were called Buddy Poppies. I have never seen them growing. Thank you for sharing.

    • Dear Jo Nell, The Dutch are very pragmatic, straight forward type of people. Even a bit gruff. But the minute they found out we were Canadian and why we were living in Amsterdam we could do no wrong. We appreciated their caring so very much. XXXOOO Virginia

    • The first time I saw poppies growing in a vacant lot I started to cry. This fragile beauty struggling in the inhospitable environment and then triumphantly throwing their beauty out there for all the world to admire. I whispered the words … “in Flanders field the poppies grow” … I wanted more than anything to grow those red poppies in my garden. A reminder of Amsterdam and the kind people who helped us through our time in their city. XXXOOO Virginia

    • Dear Joanne, This is how we remember. It is in the telling of the stories. The reading the words. Listening to their voices. We will not forget. We will remember. Thank you, Virginia

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