Canada

102-year-old veteran wins campaign for Dutch citizenship after a 70-year wait

For 70 years, Andre Hissink has held a grudge against the Dutch government and has never shied from talking about.

Finally, this week, the 102-year-old Second World War veteran’s persistence paid off – the Dutch king granted his wish for dual citizenship.

“I am back a Dutchman, but still a Canadian,” Hissink told CTV National News after a special citizenship ceremony at his retirement residence in Perth, Ont.

The Netherlands aims to limit dual nationality and to this day, the government warns its citizens that their right to a passport could be automatically revoked if they acquire another nationality. And seven decades ago, that’s exactly what happened to Hissink.

“I got really cheesed off about the fact I had stuck my neck out for the liberation of Holland from 1940 to 1945,” Hissink said.

Born in the Dutch Indies in June 1919, Hissink was eight years old when his family moved to the Netherlands. In 1939, while studying law at the University of Utrecht, he joined the Dutch military.

In 1940, after the Germans stormed the Netherlands, he escaped on the HMS Keith and fought for the remainder of the war with the 320 Dutch Squadron in the British military. He survived roughly three and a half years and 69 war flights as a bomb aimer and navigator on a B-25 Mitchell aircraft over occupied Europe.

For 70 years, Andre Hissink has held a grudge against the Dutch government, but this week, the 102-year-old Second World War veteran’s persistence paid off – the Dutch king granted his wish for a rare dual citizenship.

His wish to regain his Dutch citizenship, though, dates back to the 1950s when he emigrated to New Zealand for work. At the time, a shortage of jobs existed in the Netherlands and a position was waiting for him with the Air Department in Wellington. Hissink was told he should become a New Zealander for the position, but that meant giving up his Dutch passport.

“I said this is a good job and I want it. They said then you will lose your citizenship …. and I’ve been mad with the Netherlands ever since,” he said.

On Thursday, surrounded by friends and family, the Dutch Ambassador to Canada Ines Coppoolse made Hissink a Dutch citizen again. The rare exemption to the government’s dual nationality rules was “tailor-made” for Hissink and personally signed off on by King Willem-Alexander.

“You are Dutch and you will be Dutch again,” the ambassador said as she presided over the special bilingual Dutch-English citizenship ceremony. “You have always been Dutch at heart and so I would be the last person to tell you what it is to be Dutch, because I should probably take lessons from you instead of the other way around.”

“Eighty years it has taken and here you are returning it to me, which I absolutely appreciate. Deeply. Believe me,” Hissink told Coppoolse as she presented him with his citizenship papers. “It was the country I went in the war for and after tried to help build up.”

Now, it’s a country he belongs to again, but not at the expense of his beloved Canadian citizenship.

Hissink – who moved to Canada for work decades ago, and remembers fighting alongside brave Canadian soldiers during the second world war – accepted the Dutch citizenship on the condition that he could remain a Canadian.

“Seventy years being Canadian. I will never get that total years as a Dutchman,” he said.

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