Sytse was a man who was difficult to define in many ways. I found him to be gentle, yet quite tough when needed. He also had a strong work ethic, enjoying physical labour and unafraid to pitch into whatever needed doing. Growing up in Holland with a religious family, he spent much of his life pondering on God, at first at the direction of his father, who was both a minister and a missionary, then later as he struck out on his own adventures. The photo provided above defines his thoughtfulness perfectly
When he was a young man, growing up in Holland, his schooling tended towards farming and he chose the type of education which could prepare him for working the soils of Indonesia, which at the time was a Dutch colony. As his father had taken him there in his early years, he fell in love with those islands and the people. There will be some related photos to be posted about that later on in this blog.
However, there was another storm brewing in Europe and Sytse was no fool. He knew that Germany, Holland’s neighbour to the east, had begun making threatening gestures and he joined the Dutch Army in preparation. Not long after the Nazi regime invaded Holland, Sytse was captured and forced into a prison work camp deep inside Germany where he remained for the entire duration of WWII. I don’t know much of what he faced there, suffice it to say that he was put to work in a factory. He never did tell me much about it, perhaps because a smouldering hatred sealed his lips shut on those years. No doubt that they took a toll on him that lasted his entire life. Of course, there are no photographs of it either, so that part of his life shall remain a mystery to all of us. There are perhaps a few anecdotes which I will include as we look at his life.
After the war ended Sytse returned to Holland and his family but he was still considered a soldier and so, after a period of recuperation, he was sent off to Indonesia, the very place he had studied in school before the war. This time, though, he was to be an intelligence officer. Indonesia had rebelled against the Dutch colonial structures and a war had broken out. I have some excellent photographs that he shot during that period in his life. I’ll be scanning and including them in this series.
When the Indonesian conflict ended with the dutch losing, Sytse once again returned to Holland. He’d suffered some serious wounds which eventually healed and decided to marry and settle down, which he did. More photos to follow that event as well.
After marrying a woman he truly loved, he had decided that Europe was no place to raise a family and, now that Indonsia was no longer an option, moved to Canada in 1954. He lived there until his death in the late 1970’s.
For now, that is all I’m going to reveal about him as this will be an extensive series of posts on my blog… one of remembrance for me and I hope you will also get to know this remarkable person. Just another life among billions, but one worth accounting. He loved photography and did much with his old Voightlander camera, but I will refrain from divulging too much information, keeping it vaguely ‘third person’. The internet, as we all know, is not such a friendly place and it would be unkind of me to expose too many details.
My intention with this series is to celebrate the life of a man. If you’re interested in following this, the best way will be to search using the word Sytse which I will apply as a tag for each entry.