A walk to the well

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15 juni 2019-

My friend and language teacher Laura invited me to celebrate her birthday in their Vikendica in Bistrinci. A small second home, where local people often spend their weekends. The literal translation is Little Weekend. It is localized on the outskirts of town. 30 kilometers away from Osijek. Very close to the little towns Belišce and Valpovo. 

It was already very hot and a family member got us early that morning. Somebody suggested canceling the whole day, because of the mosquitoes. They are so many of them during the Summer months, but luckily, we decided to enjoy the day, despite the mosquitoes.


An uncle is getting us that early morning. He emigrated to Australia, years ago. He could not stay in Germany after the war and in Osijek was also no work for him. He did not see any future for him or his family here. While driving through the fields outside of Osijek, he tells us about his mother who lives in a retirement home. He drives slowly to show us the place, behind the pentecostal church of Bistrinci and he shows the tiny house. Bistrinci has just one street, and after each row of houses, there are endless fields. Such a pretty view in the farmlands. Such space! In this street, there is a house, and it is rebuilt to a church and another house behind the church is rebuild to an elderly care home. And after that: glorious, endless fields. Space!

Two wars.  

“Your mother lived through two wars!”  I say. And uncle start telling: Yes! in the Second World War, she was just 13 years old but old enough to be aware of what was going on. She was living in one of the camps nearby. Gladly not in Jesenovac, hardly anybody survived that camp. My mother is an unusually strong woman.


A little later we arrived at our destination at the vikendica. What a pretty place! The cherry trees are giving their fruits. it is just a minute walk to the river Drava. The fields are surrounded by a little fence, so the kids can play freely. We empty the car, get the chairs out, enjoy the table. (just a wooden wheel of an old car) What a blessing! The simplicity and I breathe it in with full gulps! I am so ready for a bit of breath, during this time of packing.

History of the house

” How did you find such a wonderful place?  I ask the family. Laura tells the story: There was a father who built a house for his son. But the son died during the war and the father became addicted to alcohol, to avoid thinking of his sadness. He sold the house for less than 20. thousand euro and Laura’s family are the happy owners of the house. But I think silently: stories are everywhere here! And so many of them are so very sad.


Holy water from the well

A little later Laura tells me about a well, just a few hundred meters away. Of course, I am eager to see the place! So off we go. It is just a small walk in that hilly area. Many flowers are blossoming and it is so quiet and serene.  The acacia is finished, and the cherry tree is giving is fruit abundantly. We eat just straight out of the tree while walking along. I cannot explain what a connection you feel with the earth if walking and eating fresh fruit from the trees are so intertwined.


Here we are: At the well. It seems to be an ancient place, but on a search on the internet: nothing is to be found about this place. It is not hard to imagine the underground church here in the middle of nowhere. Next to the well, is a small church building. with a bucket and a wheel, you get the holy water. A few meters further is a lovely picnic place to complete the serenity.

We walk slowly back and enjoy the local food, that Laura’s dad ordered. A Slavonian dish with a lot of meat, potatoes, and salad. Springunions are enormous and are eaten as the Dutch folks bite in their apples.

I love it: to share the table with friends. A little peek into plain and joyful living.



15 juni 2020

It is a year later. Laura is celebrating her birthday again. I think of last year and the memories we made and I celebrate at distance. We carry our loved ones in our hearts. And that is very special. At last, we do have the same Well where we get the life-giving water that fills us. 

This well reminded me of another woman at a well. Hagar: 

“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Gen 16:13

Dearest Laura, very happy birthday to you!


Love, Janneke

 Would you like to read more about Laura? Read her story in this link.

Laura’s story is not just “a story” It is a story of a wonderful breakthrough, of renewal, of hope, of new Life.

Learning to live with the wounds of the past and having the courage to pick up the new life every day.

I am honored that she calls me: her friend. 

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