Wilfred, 68, and Annick, 56, take grandchildren home after their mother’s murder: “We raise them out of love, not because we have to” (Herentals)

They both have colds, Wilfred and Annick. “These girls bring all sorts of things, of course.” Not only viruses, but also and above all a lot of life and joy, regular quarrels and gradual adulthood. Eve, the eldest, is going to high school next year, and sister Asya is in the third grade and is more fun. They still sleep together in a spacious room that Wilfred began renovating four and a half years ago. One side is pink and the other is blue, each their own favorite color. In between, there’s plenty of room to do their thing. They just ask and Grandpa does.

Wim Janssens and Joyce Van Roosbroeck died last weekend in a serious accident in Koningshooikt. Grandparents are now taking care of their children. © RR

When we sit down at the table, Eleanor’s Altar immediately reminds us why that extra room was created. When she died at the age of 27, Eve and Asia no longer had a mother. Their father was out of the picture for a while, so Grandpa Wilfrid and Grandma Annick immediately jumped into the rags. “We didn’t have to think about that,” Wilfred says. “We took our responsibility straight away. That first period you do it on adrenaline, because you don’t have time to grieve. So much is coming to you. I still see the scenes in front of me: children crying and yelling at mom. Then you stay strong for them. I think the parents of the couple who died. In an accident they might experience it that way now.”

The mother’s body was found

Although Wilfred’s daughter did not die in an accident, she was murdered on March 13, 2018 by the Afghan with whom she had an on and off relationship. Last year, the Antwerp Criminal Court sentenced Babur Yuldash to thirty years in prison, but he hanged himself in his cell seven months later.

Eve and Asia are the two who found their mother’s body. He also had many problems with their biological father. “Eleanor was someone who always wanted to give and never saw evil in himself. Very good, but a bit naive,” says Wilfred. “It is a beautiful way to live life, but it can also be dangerous. I know my daughter strongly in Asia. We will have to be careful with her and be strict at times, for her own good.”

Babur Yuldach in the Antwerp courtroom. He was sentenced to thirty years in prison for the murder of Eleanor de Stryker (right) and committed suicide months later.

She says Annick also feels a great sense of responsibility, which is sometimes too heavy. To her, Eleanor was like a daughter to her. “She was 16 when I met Wilfred, and she later became my roommate in home care. I once promised her that I would take care of her children if something happened to her,” says Annick. “Although I never thought it would change our lives so drastically. We have entered a phase with more freedom to have fun. When friends now sometimes talk about going on a cruise or a city trip, it puts my feet on the ground. Or when I see grandparents Others on the playground with their grandchildren, I sometimes envy how they get along together. We’re always more interested. A parent’s protective look. Often this combination is very difficult.”

Graphics

“It’s completely different than when I was a dad,” Wilfred says. He raised his daughters largely alone. “But I also used to go to work a lot and on weekends I had to do odd jobs around the house. Now I am retired and I can take girls to school and to their hobbies, help them with their homework. However, it will never work without Annick.”

It shows some everyday drawings of Eve and Asia by Wilfrid and Annick. She says “You are the best”. And the: “I love you. “Make them feel grateful and we get a lot of energy from that,” says Wilfred.

But of course girls also have a hard time. “When it’s prom, Mother’s Day, or someone said something at school. Then you can feel it when they come home. Then you cry, or you scream,” says Annick. “Then I just keep very calm and say it’s totally okay to have sadness and that’s allowed. They can also see that I cry sometimes. Then we boldly move forward.”

Meanwhile, Annick also divides her attention between her daughter and her parents, who need more and more care. “Sandwich generation, they sometimes say about people my age. I’m a really thick sandwich, I say sometimes,” she laughs.

central park

What feels good between the hustle and bustle is when he sees Annick and manages to give the girls a good day, says Wilfred. “A trip to an amusement park, even to Center Parcs. Then we see Eve and Asia having fun and laughing and at night we are thankful that they can sleep that way.”

Annick says making time for yourself is also important. Every few months the girls go to their grandmother. We have support from some relatives and since last year we have also found an extra foster family, they go one weekend a month. Then we take the opportunity to go to a musical, go out to dinner, or just sit quietly at home.”

Wilfred at the grave of his daughter Eleanor. Bagpipes are played there every month. © Joren De Weerdt

She also says that Annick still benefits from victim support. The girls were supervised for two years by a child psychologist at Lier, but now they mainly go to Annick with their concerns. They also like to express themselves with music and images, because both of them go to the academy. Wilfrid often goes to his daughter’s grave and every thirteenth day of the month plays the bagpipe, which is his passion. “We are Christians and we also get a lot of our faith,” Wilfred says. “So we have one important guiding principle to offer in girls’ education: What you don’t want me to do to you, don’t do to someone else.”

But even if you’re a Christian, forgiveness doesn’t come cheap. Wilfred admits: “I carried the cross of anger and bitterness with me for years.” “After the trial, I cursed her killer loudly at my daughter’s grave. But I realized that hatred was holding me back. I saw that Annick was already well on her way to grief. I was able to let go and feel much lighter now.”

corona

2021 was a tough year across the board, because Wilfred fell seriously ill at the end of October. He contracted corona, had to stay in intensive care for weeks and was about to leave. Once he was asked if he wanted a priest to serve him, but he refused. “For weeks I was looking at two paintings of Hua and Asia, and they pulled me through it.” Annick took care of the girls on her own during those weeks. “They were afraid to lose someone again, and that was the hardest part.”

Annick says they started asking more and more questions now. “They’ve grown up thinking differently.” Definitely Eve, says Wilfred. She left her childhood on March 13, 2018. Then she took Asya abroad to seek help and this sense of responsibility remained with her sister.”

© Burt the Din

“What I often do spontaneously to make it a little lighter is bring back fond memories of their mother,” Annick says. “Then we go to the petting zoo where I occasionally visited with Eleanor and tell her how she had to laugh with that donkey, for example. We keep her alive, but in a nice way. I once asked Asia if she could tell my mom, but we We decided together that it was better to keep it with grandfather and grandmother.”

“It’s very double,” Wilfried says. “Having our grandchildren with us means that we face the absence of Eleanor every day. But if we didn’t have Eve and Asia, she would really go. Now they also face us with her presence, because she lives in them. We must never regret that we have not done enough for all of them.”

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