In his letter to Plus Magazine, Karel wrote: “It is not given to everyone, but I would like to share with you that after so much misery, life becomes sunny.” We meet at the Shockland Museum. The joy of life that Karel radiates is in harmony with the contents of his letter. Together we will explore the former Noordoostpolder island of Schockland, which became the first Dutch piece of UNESCO World Heritage in 1995.
Karel was born and raised in Amsterdam. Because he loves to drive so much, he became a salesperson. His work led him throughout the Netherlands and eventually to Flevopolder. Karel was late in love. He met his first love at the age of 27 on the beach of Riccione, Italy. “I was playing chess with a friend when a nice girl from Geneva asked me if I wanted to play a game with her. Several jars followed. Soon we were completely lost, we were in love.” Also for Elizabeth this was her first courtship. After returning from vacation, I started writing back and forth. Heaps of letters. Six months later, Elizabeth had already bought airline tickets to come to Holland for Christmas. But suddenly Karel received a message that her mother did not allow her to come. After a period of heartache, the connection waned. But the pile of love letters will survive Karel’s every move.
A little later he met Lies, married her and had two children with her. They had a wonderful 33 years until the kids left home. The empty nest was bothering his wife. Karel was often worried. When she announced that she would be living with a woman, his world collapsed, but that wasn’t much of a surprise. “Actually, I was relieved. I finally had peace.”
While strolling through the swamp and meadow grouse, the sounds of reedbirds and oyster hunters make you hear even louder. It’s hard to imagine Schockland was located in the middle of the sometimes wilderness of Zweddersley. With the reclamation of Noordoostpolder in 1942, it became an “island on dry land” where old and new come together in a special way.
After the divorce, it was difficult for Karel to be alone. So when he saw an ad in the newspaper for individuals, he signed up. This is how he got acquainted with Evelyn, who got married a little later for practical reasons. “Going back and forth between two houses was a daunting affair.”
And again, Elizabeth’s letters from his first love went with him to the next house. At some point he decided to search for it on the Internet. “I thought: He must be married and have a different name, and I will never find him again.” But Elizabeth, now divorced, still lives in Geneva under her own name. After 42 years, the connection has been re-established, now by email. There was much to discuss about their lives. Elizabeth Karel and Evelian invited to Geneva. “It was such a warm and fun weekend. As if we saw each other yesterday.” Evelyn and Elizabeth also became good friends.
With a view of the former lighthouse, the reconstructed lighthouse and the Mist Building, we stop in the meantime enjoying the grass.
After ten years of calm and stability, Evelyn suddenly developed severe abdominal pain. It turned out to be metastatic pancreatic cancer and treatment was impossible. Suddenly Karel became a caregiver. “It was so hard. One minute I was in tears with my wife and the next day I had to be happy for a customer on the phone.” Karel looked after his wife day and night for four months, until she passed away in 2014.
“And again I was alone.” Naturally, Karel shared his grief with his childhood sweetheart Elizabeth. When she came to Holland a few months later, Karel made her spare room. “But she never slept there,” he laughs. “We were staying at a hotel again right away. And when you feel the warmth and love of a woman again after so much misery, that is very special. The fire was always burning.” Special years ensued, with the two visiting each other every month. They didn’t want to live together. Both had their own lives. “With butterflies in my stomach, I picked her up from the airport and brought her back crying.” They made up the years without each other. Some – until Elizabeth turned out to have metastatic stomach cancer. Karel immediately left for Switzerland to start care again. But then Karel was also diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, his colon cancer had not spread and the tumor could be removed. Instead of chemotherapy, he chose pills The least effective chemo so he could continue traveling.” “I still don’t understand how I did all that at the time. Love gives wings, don’t they say?
Speaking of love: As we walked down the narrow wooden paths they used to walk from hill to hill over swampy ground, Karel suddenly grabbed me by the waist. It shows how the Shockers passed each other by spinning around each other. “They also call this the shock dance, it resulted in a lot of relationships!”
At one point, Elizabeth was told she only had a few months to live. She wanted to go to Holland because Karel had such a beautiful home. He set up a bed in the conservatory overlooking the birds. Like Evelyn, she also didn’t talk about approaching death. Karel received a note with the text: “I love you. Here with you I want to die. It was a hard time, which Karel can’t predict without tears. Two months later she died in my arms.”
And again Karel was alone. “Walls came at me. I couldn’t really go on like this on my own, with nothing left to take care of.” But again there was an opportunity to meet new people: with a bachelor’s outing in Dronten. Where the Shockland symbolizes the struggle against water, you could say Karel symbolizes persistence after adversity. “On that walk, Amy came up to me, and you already understand… Thanks to her, I overcame my grief.” According to Karel, no one wondered if this was going too fast. Even Elizabeth’s family gave him a new happiness. “As a late miss you have some catching up to do. I don’t mind being afraid of something going wrong again. I want to enjoy life and have life smile at me again.”
Karel Seit (78 years old) has two children from his first marriage. The two women he was in a relationship with later died of cancer. He has a new girlfriend for a few years now.
Hella van der Wijst (57) is the presenter and author of The Troost Books – If You Missed a Person and a Power Together. She loves to walk and have a good conversation.
island on dry land
Walking around the former island of Schockland is unusual. Hidden in the soil remains of thousands of years of history. While the Noordoostpolder soldier was being reclaimed, all sorts of things appeared, including the skeletons of mammoths and woolly rhinos. The walk winds through lower grounds and woodland and passes various historic buildings, including a church from 1834. The Schockland Museum also organizes guided tours for groups upon request. You can find the tour at www.wandelzoekpagina.nl (search for “schoklandroute”). Much information can be found at www.schokland.nl.
Starting point and catering: Shockland Museum, Middleport 3, Shockland.
Length: 13 km.
Transportation: There is no public transportation with Shockland. You can contact Regiotaxi from Ens.