Children's author Ann Alma immigrated to Vancouver in 1970. She studied for four years at UBC and SFU, having obtained a teaching degree in Holland. Alma went on to teach in three different countries for more than 25 years before retiring in the Kootenay Mountains. She co-founded The Kalamalka New Writers, a group dedicated to publishing poetry in book form through a countrywide contest, and has been a member of various other groups including the Kootenay School of Writing in Nelson. Summer of Changes is about an eleven-year old named Anneke who takes her border collie and moves into a cave i the Kootenay Mountains when her mother is no longer able to take care of her. Although she knows how to survive and stay hidden, she is shaken by a close encounter with a cougar and a terrifying thunderstorm. She may need to return to her kind foster parents, but hopes the doctors would find a cure for her mother's schizophrenia. In Alma's Summer of Adventures, Book 2, twelve-year-old Anneke's dream of living with her mother seems unlikely. When her foster parents offer to adopt her, Anneke faces some difficult choices. The rescue of a Japanese carving leads Anneke, her dog and her friend Ken on a wild adventure in the unforgiving mountains. Lost in the wilderness, the three manage to survive and to find the true meaning of family.

Ann Alma was born in the small town of Uit-huiz-er-meeden (which translates into English as out-houses in the meadows) in Holland, so she grew up knowing that during the last year of World War II, when the Nazis no longer allowed transportation of food and fuel in Holland, many people died of exposure and starvation. That's the basis for Ann Alma's Brave Deeds: How One Family Save many From the Nazis (Groundwood 2008). After moving to Canada, Ann Alma learned that Frans and Mies Braal had hidden, clothed and fed twenty-six people in a vacation home on the island of Voorne during the winter of 1944-45. The group included Jews, a downed Canadian airman named Philip Pochailo and starving children. Twice their place was searched by the Nazis, and on both occasions they managed to hide everyone in time. They dug an underground hideout and made false identity cards. Frans and Mies Braal survived and immigrated to the USA in 1957. Eventually, in 1969, they moved to the West Kootenays and built a house in the mountains, where Ann Alma met Mies, her neighbour. Every week they talked in Dutch while her husband Frans was in a seniors' home with dementia. "The story came out little by little," says Alma, "and finally, after getting permission from Mies, I wrote the book." Written from the perspective of a fictional child, it is otherwise a true story.

CITY/TOWN: Nelson area (Beasley), B.C.

DATE OF BIRTH: 1946

PLACE OF BIRTH: Uithuizermeeden, Holland

ARRIVAL IN CANADA: 1970

ANCESTRAL BACKGROUND: European

EMPLOYMENT OTHER THAN WRITING: Former school teacher, creative writing teacher

BOOKS:

Kids Who Grow Their Own Food (2013) 978-1-4602-2001-6, Paperback; 978-1-4602-2002-3 eBook
Brave Deeds: How One Family Saved Many from the Nazis (Groundwood, 2008) $17.95 978-0-88899-791-3
Summer of Adventures, Sono Nis Press, 2003
Summer of Changes, Son Nis, Press, 2002
Something to Tell, Riverwood Pub. 1998
Under Emily's Sky, Beach Holme Pub. 1997
Skateway to Freedom, (1993, Orca) reissued, Beach Holme Pub. 1999; reissued by Dundurn press 2008.
Bittersweet Relations (Kalamalka Press, 1991)
Images (American Poetry Assoc, 1989)
Cage (American Poetry Assoc, 1988)

Awards:
Nominated for Golden Oak, 2010, Brave Deeds.
Silver Birch regional winner and honour book, 2009, Brave Deeds
Regional winner and honour book, Silver Birch Award, 2003, Summer of Changes.
Nominated for Red Cedar Award, 2004, Summer of Changes
Nominated for Diamond Willow Award, 2004, Summer of Changes
Nominated for the Chocolate Lily Award, 2003, Summer of Changes
OUR CHOICE books, Summer of Changes.
Canadian Children's Book Centre "Our Choice" Award, for Skateway to Freedom and Something to Tell.
Shortlisted for the Silver Birch Award for Skateway to Freedom.

[Dagmar Dolphin photo, 1995]

[BCBW 2013] "Kidlit"

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“The Nazis can only kill us once.”—Mies Braal

Born in 1946 in the small town of Uit-huiz-er-meeden (which translates into English as out-houses in the meadows), Ann Alma of Nelson, B.C. grew up knowing that many of her neighbours had died of exposure and starvation when the Nazis no longer allowed the transportation of food and fuel in Holland.

That’s partly the impetus for Ann Alma’s young adult novel, Brave Deeds: How One Family Saved Many From the Nazis (Groundwood 2008), written from the perspective of a fictional child but otherwise a true story.

After she moved to B.C. in 1970, Ann Alma learned that her Dutch-speaking neighbours Frans and Mies Braal had hidden, clothed and fed twenty-six people in an unused vacation camp called Het Buitenhuis on the island of Voorne during the winter of 1944–45. Along with Jews in hiding was a downed Canadian airman named Philip Pochailo, as well as starving children.

Having parachuted into a field of Holstein cows, Pochailo was hidden by Dutch farmers and taken to the home of Frans Braal, who was the leader of the Dutch resistance in Oostvoorne. Unable to utilize escape routes due to his burns and an injured ankle, Pochailo spent seven months in hiding with 25 Jews, children and resistance fighters who were sheltered by Braal.

After World War II, Philip Pochailo came to B.C. where he married a St. Paul’s Hospital nurse and raised a family in Vancouver from 1948 to 1958. Pochailo, who twice returned to Holland to celebrate the liberation, died in Ottawa at age ninety-five in 2016, exactly 72 years to the day his plane was shot down.

“They had a lot of rooms with dorms,” writes Alma, “and they realized that the Nazis could only execute them once for hiding people, so they took in a lot of others. Peter Oppenheimer, for instance, was a thirteen-year-old Jew who stayed with the Braals until the end of the war, because his parents were sent to a concentration camp.” During World War II, twice the hideaway was searched by Nazis soldiers and everyone remained undetected in an underground shelter.

President Dwight Eisenhower and Sir Winston Churchill sent certificates of appreciation to Frans and Mies Braal who first immigrated, with their children, to the USA in 1957. In 1969, they moved to the West Kootenays and built a house in the mountains where Ann Alma became their neighbour. Ann and Mies talked in Dutch every week while her husband Frans was in a seniors’ home with dementia. “Their story came out little by little,” says Alma, “and finally, after getting permission from Mies, I wrote the book.”

The Dutch government sent the brave couple a bronze cross in 1982, and George Hees, Minister of Veterans Affairs, presented them with a certificate of gratitude in 1987 for sheltering the Canadian aviator. Frans Braal died at age eighty-nine in Nelson in 2004; Mies Baal died at age ninety in 2007.

The Jewish War Veterans of the Shalom Legion Branch in Vancouver planted fifty trees in Israel to honour the Braals in 1988. The Shalom branch of the Royal Canadian Legion was established in October of 1944 to assist returning Jewish service men and women from World War II.

PHOTO: Canadian airman Philip Pochailo, who later became a Vancouverite, was hidden for seven months by the Braal family on the island of Voorne, west of Rotterdam, after his Lancaster bomber, returning from a mission over Germany, was shot down near the Dutch coast.

[Alan Twigg / HolocaustLit 2021]