The story how Julia McNally came to Ballantyne is steeped in history, luck and fate, as is true of so many immigrants who fled to the United States in the aftermath of World War II.Born in Rotterdam, Holland, in 1937, McNally, 75, describes her early childhood as happy and carefree. She was the only child of Emma and Adrian van Winklehof. Her father’s job as a seaman with the Holland American line provided a “comfortable existence” for the family. In 1942, however, everything changed. All able-bodied men in Holland were sent to work camps in Germany. When McNally was 5 years old, her father was taken away.McNally remembers planes overhead, the sound of bombs, and Jews being lined up against the church and shot. She also remembers eating tulip bulbs because nothing else was available. Shortly after her father’s departure, the family’s house was robbed. McNally’s mother concluded she was not safe in Rotterdam. She put her young daughter on the back of her bike and pedaled north for four days, sleeping in hay lofts at night. “I remember crying on the back of the bike,” McNally says, “but I now realize I had the easy part.”Emma van Winklehof and her daughter finally reached the little town of Oldemark, near Paaslo, Holland, and sought help from the town’s Catholic church. The priest suggested they seek refuge from a nearby farmer, who could provide lodging and food in exchange for Emma’s cooking and cleaning.McNally and her mother stayed at the farm until the end of the war. “We had it good at the farm,” McNally says, despite having to sleep in the closet with her mother. She remembers plentiful food, the swishing of the cows’ tails, and the kindness and generosity of the farmer who took them in. They had no idea where her father was during that time. Adrian van Winklehof was equally unaware of the whereabouts or welfare of his wife and daughter. He spent the war working in a Catholic hospital in Germany. One day, near the end of the war, he was sent into town to procure medicine. He just kept walking, making his way on foot from Germany to Holland. He entered his homeland in the north and planned to make his way back to Rotterdam and see what had become the wife and daughter he had left behind. Walking by an apple orchard near Oldemark, van Winklehof saw a familiar face in one of the trees, picking apples. It was his wife. He reunited with his family and spent several months with them in the farmhouse, awaiting the end of the war. They then returned to their home in Rotterdam but, says McNally, “we stayed in touch with the farmer and visited him several times.” With nothing left for them in Rotterdam, the van Winfklehofs decided to start life anew in the United States. McNally’s parents left first, without her, because they had free passage (thanks to her father’s former job on the Holland American line). McNally’s departure was delayed because she’d had tuberculosis as a child. McNally lived with her grandmother until she turned 10 and was allowed to leave the country. She arrived in Hoboken, N.J., and was reunited with her parents, who settled in the Bronx. “I was very homesick for Holland at first,” McNally says, “and the language was an issue.” She grew to love her new home, and she has fond memories of the New York subway and skyline. She met her husband, Francis, in the Bronx and married him in 1958, moving to North Carolina when her husband attended Belmont Abby College. They had four children and enjoyed more than four decades together before he died in 2002. McNally returned to Holland for a visit six years ago, but she considers North Carolina home, a home she is grateful to have after her incredible journey.
Friday, Jul. 05, 2013
World War II survivor finds her way to Charlotte
Katya Lezin is a freelance writer. Do you have a story idea for Katya? Email her at email@example.com.
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