Part 14: Ilse Matser (51) from Amersfoort

Photo and text Jeroen Hendriks

“Through my daughter Louise I came into contact with the Military Cemetery. For some years now ‘t Atrium, the former school of my daughter, has taken part in the commemoration at the Koedriest monument, which was erected on the spot where on 9 April 1942 the Nazis executed 77 Soviet prisoners of war from Kamp Amersfoort. That gathering so early on the morning of April 9 is very moving and triggered me to immerse myself into the history of the Soviet Military Cemetery.”

 A few more pieces of the puzzle fell into place for Ilse.

“Around the same time I was in contact with lecturer-researchers and students in Russia for my employer Windesheim College. I also paid a visit to Moscow and Nizhni Novgorod. Beautiful cities, very hospitable people and very interesting to work together with Russian students and lecturers.”

Ilse has a clear idea of her involvement.

“I think it important that we keep recounting the contribution of the Soviet Union to the liberation from Nazi-Germany, and the Military Cemetery does just that. Moreover to many Dutchmen Russia is very far away and terra incognita. Pity. My hope is that with the Military Cemetery we can connect people in the Netherlands with those in Russia and other former Soviet republics. That is worthwhile. By adopting a grave I support the work of the foundation.”

Ilse did not just pick a random grave.

“This is the grave of Nicolai Ivanovich Sorokin. When I adopted a grave I asked whether there might be a soldier from around Nizhni Novgorod. Because I had just been there and might go that way again in the future. Who knows, I might be able to visit the family. The soldier was born in Nizhnyaya Yelyshchi, some 3 hours’ drive from Nizhni Novgorod, which to the Russian mind is close by.”