The family no one wanted

6th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

Evicted from their home in Amsterdam for a violent conflict with neighbours, the Tokkies have become the Netherlands' most famous "anti-social" family. But help is at hand. Aaron Gray-Block reports.

Hanna Tokkie and her son's girlfriend Jennifer relax at home

Silence from the Amsterdam housing corporation Het Oosten — responsible for evicting the Netherlands' most famous "anti-social" family the Tokkies in January — greeted phone calls placed by this journalist on Thursday.

Not one member of the communications department was available to explain why the Tokkies are still waiting for a home some seven months later.

The company's spokespeople for the issue were all on holiday, not expected back until 16 August and no one from management was prepared to answer questions either. It appears only receptionists were on duty.

Time to call the Amsterdam Council.

This time, a spokesperson said that negotiations are still continuing between the district council, future neighbours and the Tokkies in a bid to find them suitable housing.

The spokesperson did not deny that the family had been forced to live with relatives and friends since being evicted. There was no argument either to claims that they had even been forced to live on the street at times.

So what was being done about?

"It is being worked on".

What is?

"To find an appropriate house."

How long will it take? Can you give a date?

"I can't say when."

Where will they live?

"I don't know where they must live."

The only piece of useful information the spokesperson could give was to agree that that the Tokkies represented a very unusual case.

The Tokkies are not the only problem families that Amsterdam authorities have had to contend to, but how did their fate degenerate so far?

The answer lies in a row the Tokkies had with their Amsterdam neighbours — a row that has reportedly raged for some 20 years. It got so out of hand last summer that family members on both sides fought each other with baseball bats.

Shots were fired at a building and a flat on the Burgermeester van Leuvenlaan was set on fire, allegedly with a Molotov cocktail on the night of 19 August 2003. Five people were injured and police arrested eight people.

Het Oosten eventually had the family evicted from their home in Geuzenveld-Slotermeer.

A media frenzy has since erupted around the Tokkies.

In the footsteps of successful reality TV stars Frans Bauer, Patty Brard and Adam Curry, the life and times of the Tokkie family has been broadcast directly into the homes of Dutch viewers.

Commercial station SBS featured the family earlier this year and public broadcaster IKON later ran a series of reports called "Family Pride: Portrait of a Family Clan".

More than a million people watched the first part of the IKON documentary on 5 July. The same number also tuned into the SBS coverage and it seems Dutch people right across the country were quietly shuddering and perhaps even ridiculing the family.

But what is it about them?

The family bore some resemblance to the caricature fictional anti-social Dutch family Flodder, depicted in a series of Dutch movies in the 1980s.

The real-life Flodders have weight and health problems. Mother Hanna is sick and was on anti-depression pills. Most of the family was jobless and their cause was not helped by bad manners, violence, endless cigarettes and unhealthy living.

Aged in their early 20s, twin daughters Natalie and Natascha have each shared tragedy in losing a child at an early age. Natascha is reportedly renowned for her violence and aggression.

The slightly younger Wesley is sick and cannot find work. He was living at home last year with his girlfriend, while youngest Tokkie son Wimpie ducked school for several years and was placed in a work education program.

The father and man of the house, Gerrie Ruijmgaart — who is divorced from Hanna, but still supports her — had seen his glass installation business fail years before. Nevertheless, he was the only family member with a job, working for the City Council's sewerage department.

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