The (un)fortunate ones

by: Jill Paat

We tend to fantasise about our future. We might expect that everything will turn out exactly the way that we’ve planned. But that’s when life happens. What if your expectations don’t match reality?
This was the case for three (un)fortunate ones who, for different reasons, didn’t have a say in what their future would hold.

 Martien Hunnik (59)

Martien has been unjustly detained for eight years after being accused of the murder of record producer, Bart van der Laar in 1981. Even though his innocence has been proven, he still feels like an outsider in society.

“I was only 22 years old back at that time. Moving out at 14 and having a boyfriend who couldn’t keep his hands off drugs and alcohol had a contribution to my unstable childhood. I ended up in prostitution. My whole life I’ve been sad, which eventually led to depression. I felt like a walking taboo, being both gay and a prostitute. People didn’t want to know about these things at the time.

When Bart van der Laar got killed, 600 witnesses were questioned – including me. Bart was one of my clients. One year later, his taxi driver was found dead with a bullet in his head. Coincidentally, he was my taxi driver as well. I decided to anonymously contact the police before they would come to me. That’s where things went wrong.

Two detectives traced my phone call and interrogated me under high pressure. They wanted me to confess that I killed Bart van der Laar. In return, they’d send me to a psychiatric hospital to treat my depression instead of sending me to jail. In the mean time, they wouldn’t give me my medicine and I didn’t have a lawyer. I ended up making a false statement the next day.

I was in pre-trial for two years and spent six years in TBS Nederland as a denying patient. When I got out, I didn’t have anyone, but then I met Ivo. We have been together for 21 years and we even have two children together. He has always told me to tell the truth. It had to come out sooner or later. That’s when I started ghting for justice.

After years of revision cases and new research, I nally got a state apology as compensation for the pain and suffering. I did receive a lot of money, but I would return it right away if it meant I’d get back the years I’ve lost. My 20’s and 30’s would’ve been my best years. I often think of what I could’ve studied or could’ve become if all of this never happened.

I know this will haunt me for the rest of my life, but I’m not pessimistic about the future. I believe my time is now. I’d love to have my own theatre show, with lots of singing and selfmockery. Breaking taboos after all.”

‘This will haunt me for the rest of my life’

Sarah Smit (28)

Sarah was born with Cystic Fibrosis: a genetic disorder affecting the lungs in particular. After her lung collapsed in 2013, her condition got worse – forcing her to quit both her job and education.

“I was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis when I was only two months old, so I’m a kind of used to it. As a child, I didn’t feel very different from the other kids. I just took my medicine and everything was ne. Food was a real struggle, though. I had no appetite and I was very skinny.

As a teenager and in my early 20’s, I didn’t really suffer from my illness either. I was able to work, I was travelling a lot, I studied at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute and I would go out and drink. At times, I’d have infusion treatments at home. My friends would pick me up, pump and all, to take me to the bar.

I really see my collapsed lung as a turning point in my life. After surgery, the recovering process took a long time. My results didn’t change very much, but my condition did.

That rst year was very dif cult. My boyfriend and I moved to Haarlem and I couldn’t work or study anymore. I’ve always been very busy. Now it felt like, I all of a sudden went from ‘normal girl’ to the girl who can’t do shit. I’ve been at home ever since. We got a dog two years ago and she gives me a lot of structure in my daily life.

A lot has changed, but I’m actually very thankful for the way I handled things. I know there are some fellow CF-ers who spent all of their time ‘being sick’, even when they were still physically healthy. They probably don’t see it that way, but I would have slapped myself in the face if I hadn’t appreciated what I was capable of then. Despite not being able to do anything anymore, right now.

That collapsed lung is one of the worst things that happened to me, but it also forced me to think of ways to deal with my illness. I hate how cliché this is, but I probably needed this to happen.

If I had a choice, I wouldn’t be sick. But now that I am, it can’t only be bad – no matter how irritating that sounds. Carpe barf diem.’’

‘From normal girl to the girl who can’t do shit’

Nabeel Waraich (30)

Nabeel is in an arranged marriage with the woman he unintentionally got pregnant. He lives in Canada now, with his wife and daughter, while he often wonders what could have been.

“Three years ago, everything was so different. I was studying International Communication and I just broke up with my girlfriend. I visited Canada to attend my niece’s wedding. That’s where I met her best friend. We started talking. Then one thing led to another. When I came home after six weeks, me and my ex-girlfriend got back together.

One month later, I received a phone call. It was my niece’s bestfriend. She was pregnant. What should we do? She wanted to keep the baby. Besides that, I’m against abortion. This could only mean one thing.

When I told my parents, they emphasised how much of a cultural and religious issue this was. In the Pakistani community, it’s a shame to not be together with the mother of your child. We had to get married.

It took me six months to make up my mind. As a single child, I felt a lot of pressure. If I wouldn’t agree on this marriage, I would abandon my family. I couldn’t live with this thought. I also didn’t want my child to grow up without a father. So after I nished my degree last June, I moved to Canada.

Now that I’m here, I’m trying to make the best of it. At least my family is happy and I can be with my daughter. That’s all that matters to me. At the same time, it feels weird to be married with someone who I barely know. She’s not the woman I’d choose to be with. Sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision. I always saw my future with my ex-girlfriend.

All I can do is stay positive. Of course, I hope things will work out between me and my wife. But love can’t be taught, it should grow naturally. Right now, I’m not in love with my wife – perhaps I never will be in love with her. That idea worries me.

One thing I’ve learned, is that I want to raise my daughter to be free in all of her choices. I’m not a big culture fan anymore. I’d rather be a world citizen. What’s better than bringing different cultures together?”

 ‘She’s not the woman I’d choose to be with’