News - April 29, 2020

Celebrating freedom in lockdown

Luuk Zegers

Every year, students are involved in running events on 4 and 5 May, whether as storytellers, wreath-layers or volunteers at the Liberation Festival. ‘It is a great pity to have to celebrate freedom in a situation in which that freedom is restricted.’

The national war memorial on the Grebbeberg on 4 May. © Transvaal

Board members of the Transvaal student militia have a long tradition of laying a wreath at the national war memorial on the Grebbeberg every year on Remembrance Day, 4 May. ‘As a student militia, we offer students the chance to learn a bit about defence,’ says Soil, Water, Atmosphere student Floris Lafeber (23), president of Transvaal. ‘Our members are involved in the commemoration ceremony on 4 May and the Liberation Day celebrations on 5 May in various ways.’

Last year, Lafeber was one of the students who laid a wreath at the war memorial on the Grebbeberg. ‘You join the procession in full ceremonial uniform and walk to the cemetery, where 12 wreaths are laid. The national anthem is sung and everyone observes two minutes’ silence. That made a tremendous impression on me. It makes you realize how amazing it is that we have freedom. That is not something to take for granted.’

The board of Transvaal at the Grebbeberg memorial.
The board of Transvaal at the Grebbeberg memorial.

Laying a wreath
Even though the commemoration ceremony and the celebrations are cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak, Transvaal members are enquiring as to whether they might be allowed to lay a wreath after all. ‘We are in touch with the ministry of Defence. We hope that two people might be allowed to lay a wreath at the memorial on the Grebbeberg. We’ll hear the decision soon. We think it would be a nice way to still commemorate 75 years of freedom.’

Jaenet ter Schure (23, MSc student of Plant Sciences and Plant Biotechnology), is one of the organizers of Kabaal am Gemaal, one of the podia at the Liberation Festival. ‘It is brilliant to work towards the Liberation Festival with an enthusiastic team and to be able to celebrate freedom with the visitors. It was a shock when we heard that it couldn’t happen this year  - because you look forward to it all year. I fully understand the reasons for cancelling it, but of course it’s a real pity to celebrate freedom in a situation in which that freedom is restricted. Luckily, we are weighing up whether we can hold a scaled-down version of Kabaal am Gemaal in the autumn. That is if the coronavirus situation allows it by that time, of course.’

On 4 May, Ceres member Lukas Golterman would have been telling the story of a group of Wageningen members of the resistance who invaded the city hall to steal the population register. ‘Amongst other things, that register showed which residents were of Jewish origin. Their actions made it harder for the German occupying administration to track people down, and so lives were saved. An important story that we must go on telling.’

Later on 4 May, in the evening, Ceres usually opens its doors to veterans, who are welcome for a beer after the commemoration procession. The building is a meeting point for veterans on 5 May too, so they can reminisce and tell their stories to visitors. ‘Sadly, the coronavirus makes it impossible to commemorate it together,’ says Golterman. ‘Nevertheless, we shall find a way to mark 4 and  May and we shall make sure the story can be told again next year.’