Jeroen received a message from Carla Snethorst and Leon Niemel from Rotterdam. Are we by any chance interested in some violins? The couple heard Jeroen’s live interview from Lesbos and would like to help out in some way, and they happen to have a few left over. A few? Yes, about 5! On Thursday night, Jeroen and I drove to Rotterdam. Quite a strange feeling for me to be sitting there, next to Jeroen, on our way to Leon and Carla whom we’ve both never met, yet who’ve offered us a bunch of violins, just like that!
The inviting living room is lined with a beautiful double bass and piano, sculptures and striking artwork on the walls. Once we’re there, Carla and Leon get directly to the point, put the violins on the table and open their cases. Jeroen takes them out and tries them; the conversation meanwhile goes on about music, about art and life. Both Carla and Leon understand the art of giving. The somewhat uncomfortable feeling on the way over completely disappears over the course of the night, through Leon and Carla’s unassuming and open-hearted way of donating the instruments to the foundation.
‘Jeroen feels most attracted to a violin that has a visible scratch on the front of the body. This violin used to belong to Paul, who was Leon’s father.’
Paul Niemel lives on through the memory of who he was and what he did for others. He was very engaged and active in the community, and he openly opposed the military establishment in Suriname. Two years after the military coup, Paul had to go into hiding and he eventually fled the country.
Paul was a great lover of music and played the violin throughout his life.
This violin, given to us by his son Leon, is the first one that is brought to Bas Maas on the Hemonystraat in Amsterdam, the following day, to be retuned.
In a few days it will be in the young hands of a 14-year-old boy who fled Syria with his sister and is now in an asylum seekers’ centre in the Netherlands. Their father and brother are currently on their way to Sudan; their mother is still in Damascus.
‘And the scratch?’ I ask Jeroen. ‘No, no. We’re not doing anything about that. It’s perfect the way it is.’