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  • Photograph 7529892

Henk Wolswinkel, the youngest of 13 Wolswinkel children, boarded the Dutch migrant ship Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (JVO) in Amsterdam with his parents and 10 of his siblings in February 1957. Preparations for the trip had been extensive, but even the most organised migrants might forget something. ‘The night before we left, I’d been outside. We must have been saying goodbye to someone. We always had to leave our clogs at the back door, and I’d left them out.’ Henk did not realise he had forgotten his clogs until he was aboard the JVO, so his clogs stayed behind. The family’s journey included some drama. Heading south past the Bay of Biscay, the ship was damaged in a storm and docked in the Canary Islands for repairs. ‘Some things I’ll always remember,’ Henk says. ‘I’ll never lose them in my memory. There was a huge storm. We were sitting down at dinner. All of sudden you could see the whole floor moving and things were falling off tables and people were yelling.’ Passengers were ordered to put on their lifejackets and wait in their cabins. ‘Everyone in my family got sick, except my brother Wilhelm,’ Henk says. ‘It was such a mess. You’d grab these paper bags. I couldn’t stand the sight or the smell of paper bags for many years after.’ After two nights the JVO continued on to Australia. ‘From Cape Town to Fremantle… well, that took ages. I was like a little kid in a car trip with Mum and Dad, saying “Are we there yet?”, except it was “Is that land?”. I just couldn’t wait to get my feet on land.’ The Wolswinkel family was the largest on board the JVO. They caused a media stir on arrival in Melbourne, featuring in the Sun News-Pictorial. Quotes from interview with Henk Wolswinkel, January 2012.

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