A question I am repeatedly asked, when I am explaining The World in My Backyard project, is “How do you find all the people?” Followed by, “Is it even possible?” My response has not wavered from the project’s inception. Finding people is the easiest part. I am limiting my connections to one degree, so I must meet them or know them myself or be connected to them from a friend, acquaintance or even someone I have just met. It still amazes me how much learning, sharing and inspiration can come from making the one degree connection.
Today, I share with you a connection that has great meaning to me and there is a purpose to sharing a small portion of Peter Metzelaar’s story today.
While I was visiting my friend, Stacey Walker, in Bellevue, I met Ellie Revert. One of Stacey’s greatest loves was connecting people. She was a HUGE fan of The WMB. She would call me any time of day asking if I had found someone from X, Y or Z country because she had made a new connection and could not wait to share them with me.
Ellie was at Stacey’s house picking up her granddaughter who was playing with Stacey’s daughter. When I arrived to Stacey’s home, she immediately dove into telling Ellie all about my project. Within seconds, Ellie and Stacey began spouting different countries they knew people from. Both competitive, it became a game of one-ups-manship. I quickly fell in love with Ellie and so appreciated her enthusiasm for my project. As soon as I emailed her, she connected me with Peter Metzelaar who was born in Amsterdam even though she had only met him a time or two herself.
I share this back story because I want to dedicate this “post” to Stacey. After an incredible five year battle of breast-brain cancer, she peacefully passed away on July 6th of this year. September 6th was her 44th birthday…she died much too young but she made an incredible impact on everyone who had the good fortune to know her and her spirit lives on. Without Stacey, I would not have met Peter, a hidden child of the Holocaust, from West Seattle. The afternoon I spent with him was unforgettable.
Born in Amsterdam in 1935, Peter was the only child of Dutch-born, tailor Simon and Austrian-born, homemaker Elli Metzelaar. Dutch and German were spoken in his home. His family were non-practicing Jews living a modest life in a five story walk-up apartment in the neighborhood known today as Rooseveltlaan. Until the age of five, Peter’s life was very ordinary. He began attending school and then things began to change. Here, Peter reflects on his earliest memories that had devastating impact for his family.
Peter recalled hiding under a trap door his mother had built into the apartment’s closet floor. With the loss of his family and the raids becoming too dangerous, Peter and his mother fled the city with the help of the underground.