On 14th December 2000 the children of the late Kees and Tora Kolff gathered in the city of Nelson to start 4 days’ commemoration together with spouses, grandchildren and great grandchildren coming from different parts of New Zealand, as well as first generation cousins from Holland on both sides of the family. Also one son, now living in Denmark, was there with his 2 adult children. In all 36 who were directly connected to the original family were present. It was a very special time for everyone.
On the evenings of the first 2 days everyone presented themselves and related in different ways what this occasion meant to them, as well as telling about memorable incidents which they wanted to share. Tribute was paid by the children to Kees and Tora for making the decision to settle in New Zealand leading to a life they all treasure now. On the Saturday a bus was chartered to take the gathering to places in theNelson district which had played an important role in the Kolff family’s life during those past 50 years.
The Kolffs were one of the first of the 60,000 Dutch immigrants that arrived n New Zealand during the following 15 years or so. The Dutch made a considerable impact on New Zealand. Life was difficult in many ways, especially acclimatizing to the rather insular New Zealand culture and mentality of the time. The new national museum of New Zealand in Wellington, Te Papa, has at present a special display about the immigration including a film clip from 1957 of the Kolff family.
Tora Kolff wrote some articles for Dutch magazines describing their new life. For one article she won a KLM prize. Later her memoirs which she originally wrote for the family were published as a book under the title “From the Lowlands to the Hills“. In it she relates many interesting and often humoristic incidents from those first years in New Zealand, as well as her life in Holland and Indonesia before that time. Grand-daughter Louise from Denmark, who is now studying at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam found re-reading the book, especially descriptions of Holland, helped her to bring her closer to her Dutch roots. Interestingly enough, even though the new Kolffs gradually spread out to live in many different parts of New Zealand, in recent years five of the first-generation children have returned to the Nelson area and are all now living in Nelson city.
It is fascinating to find out through the internet how the Kolff families have put down their roots in many different parts of the world. No doubt, with today’s fast modern transport, many more will do the same.
Willie Kolff, Denmark