‘Ever since I was small,’ says Christina Wahldén, ‘my mother has told me about the Dutch boy who came to stay with her family for nine months in 1945, after the end of the war. She was thirteen, and he was eleven. He became like an extra brother to her and they kept in touch after he went home to The Netherlands again. When, seventy years later at Christmas 2013, my mother and he Skyped with each other in Swedish, I realized I had to write The Tulip Boy. I suddenly recognized that the Dutch war-child was a kind of lone migrant child.’
On 18 December 1945, Wim arrives at Nyköping Station in Sweden. He’s eleven years old and comes from Tiel in The Netherlands. He has been sent abroad because there is hardly any food available in his war-torn country. The so-called Hunger Winter, the last winter of the war, was atrocious in The Netherlands. Homes had no heating and in the end, there were only sugar beets left to eat. Towns were burning, people suffered appallingly and many died. Wim arrives into a welcoming family in Nyköping, and everything is so different from home. There is food and warmth and nobody has experienced the war.
Between 1945 and 1946, Save the Children arranged for more than 10,000 foreign children between eight and ten years old to go to Sweden. More than two thousand came from Holland. Wim was one of them. Christina Wahldén has written a book about a little-known aspect of Swedish and European history, set in the 1940s but chillingly contemporary.