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  1. Owner Jack van der Laan of Filman's Men's Wear has retired after 38 years




    On Christmas Eve 2016 , Jack van der Laan locked the doors on his clothing shop forever. After 38 years in business for himself, the landmark that is Filman's Men's Wear closed.

    "It's been a good run," said van der Laan, who turned 65 in January 2017. He likens his years of ownership to being the captain of a ship. You need to keep the engines running smoothly, including staff, inventory, service, and finances, so that you can navigate soundly through economic ups and downs.

    Over nearly four decades, van der Laan has stayed the course despite the typically rocky retail sector. He jumped at the opportunity to own his own business at the young age of 26 a few months after the store's namesake, Bill Filman, passed away. In the years that followed van der Laan leaned on his experience in the family clothing business in Holland, and created a destination store drawing a bevy of devoted clients from near and far. In the same way, Canada was a long-held destination for young van der Laan, the second oldest of five children who hails from Harkema, the Netherlands. He'd heard so much praise heaped on his newly-adopted homeland while growing up — due to Canada's role in liberating the country in the Second World War — that he felt compelled to visit at age 17. He spent three months of his summer vacation in Burlington and area helping his aunt and uncle run their market stall on the land that is now occupied by Mapleview mall. He returned to the city at age 20 and stayed. A year after the young entrepreneur bought Filman's Men's Wear he met and married his wife Theresa. "When I make a decision, I move quickly on it," he quipped. When the van der Laan's three children — Andrew, Cobi and Joel — came along, life got even busier for the hard-working couple. Ever the community stalwart somehow van der Laan managed to do more.

    CANADA NETHERLANDS FRIENDSHIP TIES

    Perhaps his most notable community contribution is the Canada-Netherlands Friendship Association he formed in 1996. He managed to convince the city to proclaim Friendship Day on May 5, 1997 and twin with Apeldoorn, Netherlands in 2005. The city continues to mark both with a flag-raising ceremony and reception at city hall annually, and every five years there is a parade of veterans and other ceremonies. "My mission is to make everyone aware of the Netherlands' gratefulness to Canada," says van der Laan. In 2010, he received the Burlington Tourism Ambassador award and is a recipient of the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal, as well as the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. "This is the end of my retail journey but I look forward to enjoying a new chapter in my life," said van der Laan. In the meantime, he will find a new home for the posters and other memorabilia that he proudly displayed in his store over the years to tell the story of Canada and the Netherlands' bond. He'll also need to find a new place of pride to hang "the tie that binds", which he designed and sold to mark the Friendship Day.

    Vanderlaan will continue to sell his

    Canada Netherlands Friendship Ties, the American Netherlands Friendship Ties, Canada – Japan, and other unique ties.

    TULIPS FROM MARGRIET & THE FRIENDSHIP TIE

    Documentary Tulips from Margriet" since 2005 on OMNI Television

    It was during World War II that Canada and Holland developed warm and powerful bonds of friendship. 7,600 Canadian soldiers died fighting to liberate the Netherlands. Canada offered shelter to Crown Princess Juliana and her children, and during that time, Princess Margriet, Juliana's third daughter, was born.

    Once back to Holland, the royal family sent 120,000 tulip bulbs to Canada as a gesture of gratitude. Today, the Dutch people are still deeply grateful to the Canadian soldiers and to the ultimate sacrifice so many of them made. On every May 5 -- the anniversary of the Liberation in Holland -- the Canadian veterans marching by are thanked profusely. "Tulips from Margriet" retraces the stories of the people who forged the friendship between Canada and The Netherlands, and of those people who are keeping it alive today.

    Philip Pochailo

    Philip Pochailo, born in the small town of Rainy River in North-Western Ontario in 1920, enlisted in the RCAF in 1942 as aircrew and went overseas in August of 1943. His aircraft was shot down over the Netherlands on May 21 1944, and only he and his pilot survived. Phil evaded capture and was saved by the Dutch Resistance Movement. He stayed in hiding with them for the next 12 months, until he was liberated by Canadian troops in Rotterdam in 1945. Phil returned to Canada after the war, but stayed in touch with his Dutch friends ever since. He went back to Holland 25 and 50 years later to thank them. He also came back in September 2004, for the filming of "Tulips from Margriet." Phil now lives in Ottawa with his wife Julie and has two children and five grandchildren.

    Col. Sydney Frost

    Charles Sydney Frost attended the Royal Military College of Canada. Upon graduation in 1942, he was commissioned into the PPCLI (Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry) and served with the Regiment in Europe. He fought in Sicily and Italy, and was twice wounded in action. By 1945, he was acting second in command of the battalion, and played a crucial role in the liberation of The Netherlands.

    After the war, Sydney Frost entered Osgoode Hall Law School and after graduation in 1949, practised law in Toronto.

    Jack van der Laan

    Jack van der Laan is the owner of Filman's Men's Wear in Burlington, and the President of the Canada-Netherlands Friendship Association. He is the major force behind the official proclamation of May 5th as Canada Netherlands Friendship Day in Burlington, in honour of the liberation of Holland by Canadian Forces in 1945. He is also actively promoting the twinning between Burlington and the Dutch City of Apeldoorn.

    Jack was born in the Netherlands in 1952, and twenty years later, emigrated to Canada. In 1979, Jack met his wife, Theresa Kraal, the daughter of Dutch immigrants who established themselves in St. Catherines in 1950.

    "TULIPS FROM MARGRIET" BY DOMINIQUE DARMON MAPLE TULIP PRODUCTIONS LTD.

    TULIPS FROM MARGRIET

    It was during World War II that Canada and Holland developed warm and powerful bonds of friendship. 7,600 Canadian soldiers died fighting to liberate The Netherlands. Canada offered shelter to Princess Juliana and her children, and, during this time, Princess Margriet, Juliana's third daughter, was born. Once back to Holland, the royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Canada, as a gesture of gratitude. Today, the Dutch are still deeply grateful to Canada, and every year, during Liberation Day parades on May 5, the Canadian veterans marching by are thanked profusely. But as veterans are dying -- May 5 2005 will be the last parade including WWII veterans – how will their memories live on afterwards? This engaging one hour documentary retraces the stories of the people who forged the friendship between Canada and The Netherlands, and of those people who are keeping it alive today. This documentary will have a Dutch and an English version.

    Maple Tulip Productions Ltd. The Hague The Netherlands

    OUTLINE

    The tie that binds

    Jack van der Laan, is the recently retired owner of a men's clothing shop in a Burlington strip mall, he is very proud of his Friendship Tie creation. It's a more subtle version of his previous Canada-Netherlands friendship tie. "The flags are a little smaller, and the colours a bit more classic," he explains. But even the former version was proudly worn by Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, and members of the Dutch royal family. (Jack has photos to prove it!) Jack is the founder and the chair of the Canada Netherlands Friendship Association in Burlington, and the major force behind the official proclamation of May 5th as Canada Netherlands Friendship Day in Burlington, in honour of the liberation of Holland by Canadian Forces in 1945. Although Jack was born after the war was long over (in 1952) in Harkema, The Netherlands, the stories he heard from his parents and at school made a big impression on him – especially the stories about the Canadian liberators. Jack learnt how 7,600 Canadian soldiers died fighting for the freedom of his country. How Canadians gave shelter to Princess Juliana and her children during the war. And that, at this time, the princess was pregnant with her third daughter, Princess Margriet. Since Dutch law requires that any heir to the throne had to be born on Dutch soil, Canada declared her hospital room in Ottawa a territory of The Netherlands. When the war ended, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa and Princess Juliana sent another 20,000 to thank Canadians for protecting her family. "The Dutch people will never forget what Canadians did for them," Jack says. "My father told me so many stories about Canadians, and when I was 17, he visited Canada for 3 months. I liked it so much, that I returned three years later – but this time, it was for good!" In 1979, Jack met his wife, Theresa Kraal, the daughter of Dutch immigrants who established themselves in St.Catherines in 1950. She too, has war stories etched in her memory, that she'll never be able to forget.

    Jacob Kraal's story

    Theresa's uncle, Jacob Kraal was caught by the Germans, and condemned to death. The night before his execution, he was allowed to send one last letter to his family. "Dearest wife, father, brothers, in-laws and all dear to me, It is under very sad circumstances that I write to you this time, because today the 13th of April, 1944, your son, husband, brother and brother-in-law is condemned to death. It is awful for you to read this, but it is better to say it right away. I had always hoped for a more lenient sentence, but God decided different. (…) Father, I am the first of your sons to go to Jesus and mother, much that I have done wrong, also to you, but I know that everything is forgiven. Jacob Kraal" Theresa's family received another letter shortly after – by the girlfriend of another prisoner who witnessed his death and wrote to her about it. "This girl was a complete stranger to our family," says Theresa, "but she sent his letter to our address." The letter describes how Jacob and seven others prayed and sang all night before their execution: "It was awesome this singing all night, the very last night of their young lives. It was like Paul and Silas in prison, full of hope and full of conviction. They have died all honour to them." And the tales of honour and glory abound. Every year, on May 5, Jack spends a huge amount of time organizing Liberation parties in Burlington. Theresa and Jack want to make sure the heroic actions and sacrifices of Jacob Kraal, and so many other brave soldiers, are not forgotten.

    Philip Pochailo's Story

    Philip Pochailo (83 yrs) was part of the Canadian Air Force, and was flying home from a mission when his Lancaster Bomber got shot down. "The whole crew was killed except the pilot and myself," explains Pochailo. "But the pilot was immediately captured by the Germans and was held prisoner until liberation. I was lucky -- I was able to escape." Pochailo had landed in the woods near Oost Voorne, and was rescued by members of the resistance. "They put me in contact with a couple, Franz and Mies Braal, who had a cottage in the woods, and who were offering refuge to all kinds of people -- I think we were about 26 people staying with them, hiding from the Germans." For seven months, Pochailo stayed with the Braals, until his hiding place was eventually discovered. So on Christmas eve of 1944, he had to flee, and once again, found refuge with a member of the resistance, Jan van Vliet. Together, they helped the resistance as much as possible. But much of the time was spent hiding and just surviving. "It was during that terrible winter where people were starving to death," explains Pochailo. "There were no more food supplies in the cities and fuel had run out almost completely." He recalls how children in rags were looking for food everywhere. "I remember seeing a little girl chewing on the stem of a Brussel sprout she found in a garbage can. Three other kids approached her to get some of it, and suddenly, her eyes turned green. She defended that sprout like an animal. And the three kids were like predators surrounding their prey. It was the most horrible thing I saw in my life, especially since I couldn't do anything about it! Regularly, you would see kids dropping dead from the cold and the hunger. It was really awful." Philip Pochailo claims that if he is alive today, it is thanks to the Dutch people that hid him and took care of him. Despite the horrors of war, it was the beginning of Pochailo's love story with The Netherlands.

    Sydney Frost's story

    When Col. Sydney Frost (82 years old) got wounded in 1944, he promised himself, that if he survived the war, he would embark on regular pilgrimages to pay his respects to those that never returned.

    Sydney Frost was part of the PPCLI (Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry), one of the first divisions responsible for the liberation of West Holland, the area north of the Maas River (the region of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague). The people had almost reached the end of their endurance from the misery and starvation. "I'll always remember that moment when we marched into Amsterdam," says Sydney Frost. "People were literally starving. Thousands had already died. I think if we had come just another day later, thousands more would have died…" By April 28, the Germans in West Holland had been driven back, and on that day a truce was declared, and fighting ceased in that area. Several days later, food supplies began to move through for the starving people. "The people were so grateful," reminisces Frost, "we were cheered, thanked, and always greeted with this incredible joy. It was such an amazing moment!" "I just love Holland," he says. "The people are still grateful to us even today. And what's strange – it's more the young people than the old ones! When I came back in 2000 as commander of the parade on Liberation Day, so many young people were there thanking us and cheering us on. I was deeply moved."

    According to Frost, the way the Dutch people care for the burial places of the war dead is quite touching. "You can see they have not forgotten the sacrifices the Canadians have made."

    The Groesbeek Memorial

    Canada's 7,600 war dead in The Netherlands are buried mainly in seven Commonwealth War Cemeteries, or are commemorated on the Groesbeek Memorial that stands in the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery about ten kilometres of Nijmegen. It commemorates, by name, those members of the Commonwealth land forces who died during the campaign in Northwest Europe between the time of crossing the Seine at the end of August 1944 and the end of the war in Europe.

    Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek

    Each war cemetery is marked by a large stone Cross of Sacrifice bearing on its shaft a crusader's sword of bronze, and in the larger cemeteries, there is also a Stone of Remembrance, an altar-like monument bearing the words: Their Name Liveth For Evermore.

    Today

    Still now, Princess Margriet has kept strong ties with Canada. She travels there regularly, and is also present at many Liberations Day parades. On May 2,2000, it was she who unveiled the National Committee Canadian Liberation Monument in Apeldoorn – "The Man with the two hats." (Its twin statue stands in Ottawa and this "monument which spans an ocean" symbolizes the connection between the two countries).

    Philip Pochailo is still in close contact with the Braals and Jan de Vliet. "We certainly became friends for life," he says. "And we've always stayed in touch and found ways to visit each other." Pochailo went to the Netherlands four times since the war ended, and certainly hopes to make it on May 5, 2005 for the 60th anniversary celebration of Liberations Day. To make sure his memories live on, Sydney Frost wrote a book of his memoirs: Once A Patricia, about his experiences in the Canadian Army during the war. His second book Always a Patricia describes the pilgrimages he made, and his efforts to assure that the resting places of his fallen comrades would always be well maintained and cared for. He also made strong friendships with Dutch people, such as Jan Koorenhof from the Stichting Bevrijding '45 (The Foundation for the Liberation '45), of Apeldoorn. For several years now, Jack van der Laan has been actively working on twinning Burlington with Apeldoorn in The Netherlands. As Jack likes to point out, Burlington is home to quite a large Dutch Canadian community, as well as to Canadian branches of Dutch international companies, and Dutch Canadian owned enterprises. And Apeldoorn is a logical choice. Not only is it Princess Margriet's home, but also, following the Liberation of the Netherlands in 1945, it served as headquarters of the Canadian Army until it was repatriated. For decades, Apeldoorn kept many ties with Canada, and hosted quite a few Liberation Day celebrations, where Canadian war veterans stood at the centre. In order for the twinning to succeed, quite a lot of exchanges must take place between the schools, cultural centres, and businesses of the two cities. "It's an ongoing process," explains Jack, "and it takes a lot of effort. We're not there yet, but we're certainly trying hard!" The tulips that bloom every year in Ottawa also symbolize the strong friendship between the two countries. Recently, Jack's Canada Netherlands Friendship Association presented a new tulip: the "Canadian Liberator Tulip" to honour all members of the Canadian Army, Navy and Air Force who took part of the liberation of Holland during WWII. "It's a bright scarlet tulip with a touch of deep red on the outer petals," explains Jack, "it has lasting qualities, and is an excellent tulip in every way!" Who knows? Maybe one day, we'll be able to see it engraved on Paul Martin's tie!

    MAPLE TULIP PRODUCTIONS LTD.

    Dominique Darmon – Producer / Director

    Dominique Darmon is an independent producer and president of Maple Tulip Productions Ltd., a company based in The Netherlands that creates European and Canadian television programmes. Dominique started her career at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), in both the French and English languages, working as a journalist for radio and television. Since 1995, she has been a producer for Vision TV, Canada's national, multi-faith television network. There, she produced and directed field documentaries for their Gemini Award winning show Skylight, as well as Insight and 360 Vision. Dominique lives in Holland since April 2000, and from there, has produced numerous segments and documentaries on topics such as sex slaves in Italy, illegal refugees, policies on hard and soft drugs. Dominique's work took her around the world, to places such as Cuba, Iraq, Italy, and Papua New Guinea.

    2019: Contact us at Jack(at)filmans.com , jack(at)cnfa.ca or jacobvdl(at)sympatico.ca if you have any questions. You may also visit my LinkedIn page for information.
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