Lloyd Rains (1925-2013) from St. Joseph Island, Ontario enlisted in the Canadian Army at the age of seventeen. He landed in Sicily with his unit and fought his way through Europe until he reached the Netherlands in April of 1945.
With the large number of soldiers having to repatriate, troopship capacity was limited and many Canadians remained in the Netherland for many months after VE-Day. The young soldiers were lonely, far away from home, and bored. They were also fit, exotic in a way, and seemed to have an endless supply of otherwise scarce articles such as cigarettes, chocolate, soap and nylons. Despite the sorrow and trauma of five years of occupation – or probably because of it – the summer of ’45 was party time for many. From lifelong romances to brief flings, Dutch girls and Canadian soldiers found each other.
Almost 1,900 Dutch girls married Canadian soldiers and followed their husbands to Canada. Olga Trestorff was among them. She married Lloyd on Christmas Eve 1945. Two weeks later he left for Canada, where Olga joined him in August of 1946.
But not all liaisons ended in marriage. Current estimates show that in those heady post-war months some seven thousand to eight thousand Dutch children were fathered by Canadian soldiers who soon left for Canada.
In 1980, Lloyd and Olga traveled to Holland to take part in the 35th anniversary celebrations of the Liberation. As he and the other veterans paraded down the Dutch streets he noticed something odd. Among the many cheering and waving spectators were a number of people holding up placards with the text: ‘Where are you, daddy?’ Many of the ‘liberation children’ wanted to know who their father was, wanted to meet him, and were in search of answers to hitherto unanswered questions.
Lloyd and Olga discussed the matter and decided that here lay a humanitarian task for them. They embarked on a quest, which they called ‘Project Roots’ that would have them travel the breadth of Canada and the USA in a makeshift camper van, in search of lost fathers. The reception they got from the North Americans varied widely. Sometimes they were welcomed as the bearers of happy tidings about a long-lost romance and love child, sometimes they got doors slammed in their faces. More often the result of their efforts lay somewhere in between these extremes: they were the catalysts in a journey of sometimes painful discovery by both parties in the reunion.
After a thirty-year quest Lloyd and Olga had traced four thousand liberation fathers, published three books and had several documentaries and a TV drama miniseries made about their work.
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