I was honoured to be invited to celebrate the birthday of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands last Thursday.
You will recall that one year ago, on April 30, 2013, on Queen’s Day, Prince Willem-Alexander succeeded his mother Beatrix and became King of the Netherlands. Consequently, from 2014 onwards the name of the holiday has changed from Queen’s Day to King’s Day. The date has also changed from 30 April to 27 April, which is the birthday of Willem-Alexander. In Montreal, the first King’s Day was organized by Dutch Honourary Consul General Michael Polack.
Pollack grew up in Cote Saint-Luc on Wavell Avenue where his parents, Maximilian and Celine still live. Max was born in Holland and moved to Montreal in 1952. He went to law school at the University of Montreal and eventually became the municipal court judge in Cote Saint-Luc in 1969 until 1979. He ran for provincial office for the Quebec Liberal Party and was elected in the riding of Ste-Anne in 1981 and 1985. He went on to become a Quebec Court judge.
Meanwhile, Max’s son, Michael, also a lawyer, has served for many years as the Honourary Consul General of the Netherlands in Montreal. He is invited every year to Cote Saint-Luc’s VE Day commemoration owing to the close relationship between Canada and the Netherlands since Canadian soldiers liberated occupied Holland at the end of WWII as well as his own personal attachment to Cote Saint-Luc.
Born in Amsterdam and raised in the Jewish community Ilse Zilversmit (nee van Collem) is a survivor of Westerborg and Bergen Belsen concentration camps. Ilse befriended Celine Polak, daughter of famous Dutch cartoonist Jo Spier. Only 10% of the Dutch Jewish community survived. Many came to Canada to begin new lives and these two ladies, along with Anne Kropveld, all originally from Amsterdam and all residing in Cote Saint-Luc reunite on special occasions like the Kings Day.
The reception at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art was highlighted by samplings of tastings from Holland including cheese, herring and of course Heineken beer. Partygoers were decked out in orange, which puzzled me as I was well aware that the colours of the Dutch flag are red, white and blue – no orange!
What I learned was that orange is the colour of the Dutch Royal Family. The lineage of the current dynasty — the House of Oranje-Nassau — dates back to Willem van Oranje (William of Orange). While the colour orange has royal roots in the Netherlands, today it symbolizes a broader pride in the country and in being Dutch.
So congratulations to all the Dutch in Montreal on the very first King’s birthday. I was privileged to represent Cote Saint-Luc at this diplomatic event along with my colleague Councillor Ruth Kovac (a Dutch herself) and Councillor Allan J. Levine.