By Grace Oborne
Martin Hofland’s memoir Warboy is a story about his survival of the Second World War, starvation, and his heartfelt gratitude towards Canada.
The first edition was published in 2016, and has gained a huge following. Many people all over the world have read Hofland’s story of his life as a little boy and his every day survival.
Many are admirers of his narrative, and look forward to learning more about Hofland, and so at 88 years old, he recently spent a month writing the third edition of his memoir.
“It is important to share experiences because the children, the young generation, and even most Canadians, know where and why the Canadians went to war but they never heard the details of what truly happened” said Hofland.
The main difference between editions surrounds the details – Hofland has become more comfortable sharing and elaborating on pieces of his life as time has gone on.
“The first edition did not explain in detail. I forgot a couple of other stories and pictures as well that are worth sharing,” he noted.
Martin didn’t plan on ever sharing his experiences or writing a book. One night, several years ago, he was surrounded by his wife and three children, and decided to talk about it. This was the first time his children had heard their father talk about his childhood.
“They were all surprised because all those years I kept my mouth shut, but sometimes you have to spit it out. You have to get [it] out. My son told me that I should write a book. He said to write a book for the young generation that also did not know,” said Hofland.
Hofland doesn’t plan to write another edition any time soon. He expressed that writing this memoir has been tremendously hard for him.
“It was hard for me. I wrote everything down on a piece of paper first. I put myself back in that time otherwise how can I write it? Tears came down as I wrote, and not because I’m a weak person. No, I’m a strong person, but I’m a realistic person. I have feelings.”
Throughout his publication, Hofland recounted the times that starvation nearly killed him, but positivity and strength kept him alive.
“Starvation stays day and night, eating slowly on your body. As a boy aged 12, I was supposed to weigh from 75 to 80 pounds. As a boy of 12, my weight was [much, much lower],” he said. “The only thing that kept me alive was positive thinking. Maybe tomorrow, and I’m counting on tomorrow, and tomorrow, it will be over tomorrow. Negative people had already given up.”
Every day, Hofland continuously shows his gratitude towards Canada and the people he experienced such trauma with. He wrote the book to speak on not only his behalf, but for others as well.
“I don’t speak only for myself, but everyone who did not make it. I speak for them. I also say thank you to Canada. You fought for our freedom. Thank you to the Canadians. God bless Canada,” Hofland said.
As another way to say thank you to the country he calls home, Hofland gives away his memoirs for free.
“I don’t want to make money out of my suffering. It is my way to say thank you Canada,” noted Hofland.
“Thanks to your family who was involved in the army. I realized after the war that Canadians left their wives, their children, the farms and everything behind to step forward to give me a life. That is why after the war, I married and came to Canada. This is why I give [my books] away for free.”
Hofland often receives letters from people all over the world and they’re from individuals who thank him for sharing his story. Many also write to tell him how courageous and brave he is.
As more people read Hofland’s memoir, the more people want to meet and speak with him. Hofland is now a guest speaker. He speaks mostly to high school students and shares his life story with young adults. By speaking to schools, he has learned how little today’s generation knows about the war effort and the sacrifices thousands of Canadians made all those years ago.
From his life, and writing his book, Hofland has been exposed to important lessons.
“I have learned what hate is, and what love is. I learned compassion, sharing, and responsibility,” he said.
“I have learned to appreciate the simple things and the true meaning of life, about respect and responsibility, about danger and fear, about facing death by starvation, to be strong while you are weak, how to fold my fingers in desperation, and to hang on and survive,” noted in his memoir.
To receive a copy of Warboy, or to talk to Hofland, you can call (705) 457-2382.