A few days ago, Mr Esther, my mini-me daughter (although not so mini anymore at 15 and only 1 cm shorter than me) and I took a day trip to the city of Arnhem, in the east of The Netherlands, not far from the German border. Mini-me had never been there and was curious to see the city. I was last there with Suzy a few years ago, it’s not such a terribly interesting city to me, but this time I suddenly thought of a new reason to go, one I had never really thought of before.
It’s no secret that I am an Audrey Hepburn fan and Audrey actually lived in Arnhem as a teenager during the Second World War. I’ve been rewatching some Audrey movie highlights recently and it suddenly, and for the first time, occured to me to go in search of where she actually lived during the war, when she looked like this (also pictured: her Dutch mother who was divorced from her English father, source of pictures here).
I once visited her grave in Tolochenaz, Switzerland (near Geneva) back in 2002, 9 years after she died…
… so why not also visit the places she lived in during her youth? I have several books on Audrey Hepburn, I consulted the biography by Barry Paris for info on where she lived.
Sure enough, her movements within The Netherlands were documented in that book and so we did a little Audrey Hepburn pilgrimage on the side while we were in Arnhem.
For the last years of the war, 1942-1945 , Audrey and her mother went to live in Velp, a small town that is right next to Arnhem. They lived with Audrey’s maternal grandfather, Baron van Heemstra, in a villa called Villa Beukenhof on the Rozendaalselaan 32 in Velp.
The Baron’s villa doesn’t exist anymore, there is now a new building on the spot where the old villa stood called “De Nieuwe Beukenhof” (“the new Beukenhof”) which houses apartments for the elderly.
After passing through Velp we drove on to Arnhem. We walked through the centre and not too far off from the station we passed by Jansbinnensingel 8A, which is the second address Audrey lived at in Arnhem. The book isn’t quite clear on when exactly Audrey moved there, but it must have been around 1941, I think. An article in the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant (a good, serious paper here), which also describes an Audrey pilgrmage in and around Arnhem, says she moved there in 1940.
Jansbinnensingel 8A (here we always state the house number after the street name) is a store now with apartments above it, I’m not sure if it also was a store during the war.
There is a little gold plaque commemorating Audrey Hepburn, which looks to be beside the other arch-shaped door (7c as someone with a marker wrote on the plaque?), so maybe what is now 7c was then 8A? Or was the plaque only placed there because there’s no actual room to do so right next to door 8A?
In any case, the plaque isn’t quite correct as Audrey didn’t live there from December 1939, she lived at another address then (more about that later). When the war ended in May 1945 she did return to this address from Velp for a few months, according to the book, before moving to and around Amsterdam to further her hopes for a career in ballet there.
According to the book, Audrey and her mother moved to a house on Sickeslaan 7 in Arnhem in December 1939.
The house is a terraced house, situated a little outside the centre (we drove by there on our way home) in the Sonsbeek area in Arnhem.
Near the front door there is an “official monument” badge (shimmering at the bottom left of the little window next to the front door); is this because it was once Audrey’s home or because the houses are a special pre-war build in general? The house was apparently just sold this year, see here for a view inside! How cool would that be, to say you live in Audrey Hepburn’s old house? I also notice that the monument badge is there in my picture but not in the picture of the sale website. Looks like the house has only recently been declared a monument and now Mr Esther, who is researching this as I tell him what I’m writing about, tells me the monument was indeed declared for a block of houses and not specifically only for Audrey’s house.
From Sickeszlaan (as it’s spelled correctly) we drove on to another nearby part of Arnhem, a little park square called the Burgemeestersplein (“Mayor’s square”) which houses a bust of Audrey Hepburn that was unveiled there in 1994.
I don’t think it looks that much like her and the plaque underneath is not very legible. It’s easier to read in this picture than it is when you are standing there.
Still, it was nice to see this little tribute to Audrey.
As we drove on home I remembered we had missed finding the newly named Audrey Hepburnplein (Plein = Square; apparently it was named that in 2017) somewhere in the centre of Arnhem. I looked it up on Google Maps and going by the location, I figured we must have walked there. So, we just now checked Mr Esther’s pictures and sure enough, we were there, in front of the big church that was playing a beautiful Glockenspiel mixed with orchestral music (filmed a video as we walked there)
From the church we walked on to what is apparently the Audrey Hepburnplein. I remember noticing the movie theatre there, but it didn’t occur to me to look to the street name sign! The sign is visible in Mr Esther’s pictures, though.
So, I guess we really did have the full Audrey Hepburn in Arnhem experience after all. 🙂
Recently a new book was published about Audrey’s war years in Arnhem called “Dutch Girl”, which I think I’m going to get myself as a gift. Do I really need another book on Audrey Hepburn, I thought, when I first heard about it a month or two ago? It could at the very least answer the timeline and location questions that were raised for me during this little pligrimage. So yes, now I’m thinking, that I do indeed need to get this book after all.