Tietje Ives-Scheenstra obituary

Other lives: Dutch nurse who worked under the Nazi occupation

My mum, Tietje Ives-Scheenstra, who has died aged 99, lived an eventful life. Born into a tiny farming community near Wolvega in the Netherlands, as the youngest daughter of Grietje and Meint Scheenstra, Tietje chose a career outside the farm. At 18 she began nursing training in the city of Leeuwarden, and she continued to nurse in the northern provinces throughout the second world war.

From 1940 the Netherlands was under Nazi occupation. Tietje recalled seeing Dutch Jews assembling in the town square in Leeuwarden before being transported to the transit camp at Westerbork. She remembered delivering babies by kerosene light on canal barges.

At one point she embarked on a 60km (37 miles) escape by bicycle from Groningen to her home in Wolvega when the hospital matron threatened to send her to Germany to help the war effort. To avoid being arrested during curfew she knocked on a stranger’s door and offered a pack of tea in exchange for a night’s board.

On another occasion she accompanied a family friend on a series of long bicycle trips in winter. Her companion, hoping to become a church minister, needed signatures from a number of clergy for his application, and there were fears that a lone man would be picked up by the Germans. It was decided that Tietje would accompany him and report back if he were arrested.

After liberation in 1945 Tietje was keen to seek out new adventures after the considerable restrictions of life under occupation. She enlisted to work on an army hospital ship, nursing injured soldiers returning from the war in the Dutch East Indies, and visiting Java and Sumatra by way of Suez. She then went to Zurich, where she worked in a sanatorium for TB patients.

Emboldened by this experience she then applied to work at another sanatorium in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight in 1950 and there she met Albinas Ivanauskas (known by the surname Ives in the UK), a young Lithuanian refugee, who had arrived in the country as a displaced person. They married in 1953 and went on to have two daughters, my sister, Diana, and me.

After some years in Canada, we returned to the UK, and my mum continued her career, working as a school nurse in Ilford, east London, until her retirement. Tietje was an active member of the Dutch community, serving on the committee of the Dutch Church in Austin Friars.

In her final years she especially enjoyed hearing about the travels of her five grandchildren who have inherited her independent and adventurous spirit.

Albinas died in 2013. Tietje is survived by Diana and me, and her grandchildren.

Margaret Drummond

The GuardianTramp

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