”We had a complicated relationship. She had a tough childhood. When she was still a baby, her mother tried to jump out of the window while holding her. As a result, she wasn’t affectionate with me. I was nine when I made my first portrait of her. She had the most beautiful, outspoken deep eyes. I would often crawl into bed with her. She would lie, smoking cigarettes and playing pocket solitaire. She wasn’t snappy or anything. She just couldn’t show any signs of affection. I always tried to get close to her, searching for confirmation of her maternal love, but she always kept her distance. So drawing her was the closest I could get to her.

It might sound crazy, but her dementia came as a gift to me. She was in her early eighties when it started. It made her softer, sweeter, and more approachable. When I visited, she proudly showed me copies of my illustrated books translated into Japanese and told me that her daughter had made them. We spent hours in silence while she sat in her chair looking out the window while I drew her. In the past, there were many moments when I could have cut off contact, but somehow I never did. All my life, I felt somewhat incomplete. When you hold a love for someone, but you can never express that love, it’s killing you inside. So with dementia, she allowed me to get close, take care of her, and even bathe her. For the very first time, she allowed me to love her.”

”Our first meeting on the first day of high school was weird but also funny because we had just discovered that we are cousins. We are now good friends and do most of our school projects together. Today we are making a video about Amsterdam for an English assignment. We picked five tourist sights from the Jordaan; we call it: ‘The Jordaan report.’ That’s why we dressed up as reporters. So we are now on the Johnny Jordaanplein, then we go to the Westerkerk, the Anne Frank House, and the Noorderkerk, and we end up at the Old Dutch candy shop. Of course, we must try all sorts of candy for this item. You know, teachers in school expect a lot from us, but sometimes we have to remind them that we’re just 13 and 14-year-old kids.”

“I never had a strong desire to become a parent. Neither did my wife. We took over my parents cafe instead. We worked for more than 40 years to keep the business going. You could say that the cafe was our child. When we retired we had to sell the cafe. It was hard giving up our business. However, we still live above the cafe and the new owners are doing a great job. Now that I am retired, I spend most of my days reading the paper and taking walks around Amsterdam. When I am tired I stay nearby. When I feel adventurous, I explore different parts of town. My wife and I, we do our own thing. We have no rules. Well except for one: Every day at 5PM we meet at the house and we drink a glass of dry white wine in the living room. No matter how far I walk, she knows I’ll be home 5PM sharp.”

‘’Julia studies medicine in Warsaw and I study music composition here at the conservatory. We have been doing this long-distance-kind-of-relationship for a while now. A while ago, I needed to come up with a new concept for an opera. I couldn’t come up with anything when Julia all of a sudden said: ‘’maybe you should do your next piece about the Albatross birds.’’ I had never heard of this bird but she explained that the Albatross is a very strong an independent bird. It is fine with traveling across the world all by its self. However sooner or later it always returns to their significant other just like Julia and I. The Albatross bird teaches us that we need to find our own paradise first before we can truly commit to someone else. The opera will premier in March and it is inspired by the Albatross, by our story and by Julia.’’

(3/4) “Years went by without any information about what happened to Enesa and Sadif. My mom had put the set of bed sheets in a plastic cover under her bed. Once in a while, she would take them out of the cover to wash them. Sometimes she would sew a flower on it. After washing the sheets, she would carefully iron and fold them and then put them back into the plastic cover. We still had hope until we received a phone call from the Missing Persons Institute in 2002. They had found a body in the forest and, based on our DNA, it was a match. My mother and I had to come to the mortuary to identify. When we arrived, a staff member suggested it might be better if my mother didn’t go inside, so I went in by myself. They had found all her bones and, on a table, there was a red piece of cloth and some leather fabric. The doctor asked me if those were the clothes Enesa was wearing the day she left Srebrenica. I told him that I couldn’t know because I hadn’t seen Enesa in years. I went outside and asked my mother what Enesa wore the day she left. My mother said: ‘A red dress and a leather jacket.’ I said: ‘Mom, It’s Enesa’. She started crying. Until the last moment, my mother had remained hopeful. “

“Last summer I traveled with two friends through Eastern Europe. Every time I arrived in a new city I would turn on Tinder kind of as a fun experiment. I was curious just to see what would happen. When we arrived in Ukraine, Maryana and I matched and we started talking. The next day we continued our journey so we were not able to meet in real life. When I got back to Amsterdam I kept in touch with her. After a few months I suggested we would meet and so she invited me to celebrate Orthodox Christmas with her family in Ukraine. The first few days I stayed with her in Lviv, the city where she goes to university. After four days we went to her parents house by train in Ternopil. I really liked her but I was too shy to tell her that so on the train when she suddenly asked if I liked her, I panicked. Instead of answering her questions I repeated her question: ’‘Do you like me?” which made her think I meant I was being sarcastic. Luckily it did not take long before we both understood we really liked each other. We just spend a romantic long weekend here in Amsterdam. Unfortunately I’m about to take her to the airport because she is flying home. I’m really going to miss her but also I know it won’t be long before I see her again.“