05/2014 - Familystories - BremerMisjpoge

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A Memoir of Rudy Bremer by his friend of many years, Maralyn Heathcock

Published by Maralyn Heathcock in Personal Stories · 13/5/2014 21:02:15
Tags: English

I first met Rudy Bremer in the early October of 1960 when I went up to the University of Birmingham (England) to begin my BA course in English and History.  Rudy had been sent there, having completed his Candidaats in the University of Amsterdam, to study for one year.  We became friends – and for some time more than friends, though Rudy had several other girlfiends during that year.  One of them was Mina Maleki, a girl from Iran.  By the end of the year I was deeply in love with Rudy and ‘ran away’ to join him in Amsterdam.
My mother secured an interview with Professor TJB Spencer, Head of the English Department in Birmingham and he agreed to the almost unheard of concession of granting me a year’s leave of absence, so that I could study English in Amsterdam University.  My father agreed to finance me and I went to Amsterdam, to live in a bedsit, close to the Holendrechtstraat, where Rudy lived with his aunt and uncle.  (I actually spent one night in the bedsit, I remember, living for the rest of the time with Rudy and his family.)
It was then that I learned Rudy’s family background.  His mother and father were taken away by the Nazis – and never heard of again.  Rudy was put into an orphanage for Jewish children.  His mother’s sister, Sophia Maria van Agen Zegerius (known to everyone as Fie), was married to a non-Jew, Age van Agen.  He went to the orphanage and told them a lie:  he said that Rudy was his illegitimate son by his sister-in-law, therefore only half Jewish, and he wanted his son back.  They gave him Rudy.  I am told that the next day the children in the orphanage were taken away by the Nazis.
So Rudy was brought up from the age of about five by Fie and Age.  It was a very happy household.  Fie was a wonderful woman – a great cook, who taught me a lot, with a wonderful sense of humour.  She was also very courageous.  I was told that, during the German occupation, she would go out into the streets of Amsterdam with anti-Nazi propaganda hidden in her bicycle basket, underneath the shopping, and distribute it under the noses of the Nazis.  I think that perhaps my hero worship for Fie was as much as my love for Rudy.  She used to say to me, ‘Je bent een rijk kind – je hept teen huis met een naam’.  And she loved to play with words.  When the family cat was in one of its crazy moods, she would say, ‘Die swijn van een kat heft hond’s dolheid!’
At the end of that academic year, 1962, I returned to Birmingham to finish my degree course, very much enriched by living with Rudy and his family.  And during that time Rudy and I went on many hitchhiking trips around Europe and also Turkey.  We hitchhiked round Turkey, from Istanbul, down the west coast, along the south coast, up the eastern border, where we were arrested for being in a prohibited area – we didn’t know it was – and they put us in a hotel room, guarded by someone who had our passports of his desk. Rudy calmly picked up the passports and we escaped.  We met the son of the local headman of a village on the south coast.  We sat with him and some of his servants, drinking raki.  We later went to ‘bed’ on the beach.  Rudy had carefully poured most of his drink into the sand, so was awake when the head man crawled over to us and started to unzip my sleeping bag, some of his followers surrounding us at a distance.  Rudy leapt to his feet pointing a knife at one person and a (damp) starting pistol at the man doing the unzipping and shouting (in Turkish), ‘If that man moves then that man gets shot!’  Fortunately, the bluff worked and the offending man came over the next morning to apologise.
When I obtained my degree, in 1964, Rudy and I decided to go to Iran, a country which fascinated us both.  So we set off, together with another girl friend of Rudy, a girl called Loukie, in an old Citroen 2CV, with a tent.  On the shores of the Black Sea in Turkey we encountered a half-starved kitten, which slept in the lining of our tent overnight.  I wanted to take it with us, Loukie didn’t, Rudy said, ‘Well you can, but it will be your responsibility.’  We took it and smuggled it into Iran in the boot of the car and it lived with us in our flat in Tehran.  We were almost out of money, so had to face either an immediate return home or getting jobs.  Rudy and I got jobs teaching English in Danushga-e-melli – a private university for rich parents, as opposed to Tehran University.  Rudy became fairly fluent in Farsi – I just mastered enough to ask for groceries in the shops.  At the end of the academic year I decided to go home, via Amsterdam, where I left our cat, Pedar Suchte (literally meaning ‘your father was burned’, i.e. a heretic – which was our humourous name for the cat) – with Fie and Age.  Rudy went east with our Pakistani friend, Noori, to Afghanistan and Pakistan.  That was really the end of the romantic relationship of me and Rudy, though we parted without rancour and remained very good friends till his death.
Rudy was an amazing person.  He had many girl friends and married twice – first to Mieneke van Eek, then to Renee den Hartog and at the time of his death he was officially engaged to Noriko Ishida- who is another amazing person whom he met through his charitable work.  He was definitely not religious – but was a better person than many people who consider themselves to be religious.  He was not a vegetarian, but insisted on buying all his meat and poultry from farmers who reared their animals and chickens humanely.  He also had a profound belief in the sanctity of life.  Many people think nothing of killing an annoying fly which is buzzing around their living room.  Not so Rudy.  He would follow the fly around the room with a cup and saucer, capture the insect and put it out into the garden.  He also had a great love of cats.  I remember a very fierce wild cat, called Zwadder, that used to come to the barn that formed the back of Rudy’s house in Thesinge, before it was converted into a room.  He would throw it food, but not get close enough for it to attack him.  And he had many cats as pets.  When he was (we hoped) recovering from the brain injury which eventually killed him, I sent him a photograph of the cat which lives with me and my husband, Alan, in the hope that it might give him some comfort. Rudy was also a great believer in telling the truth – whatever the consequences.   He was also a great linguist – in many languages – and I sometimes thought that he spoke English better than me!
This account has been condensed to give a flavour of Rudy, but I have many more memories to recount.
Rudy was a very special person and scarcely a day goes by without me thinking of him and regretting that I shall never meet him again.




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