Foto: Eigen beeld

Justice and friendship prevail

Redactie VU Magazine10 February 2023

Mirjam Deekman-Uitenwerf (46), Marciana Zandvliet (46) and Annemarie van Vulpen (47) all studied law at VU Amsterdam in the 1990s. Although they each work in a different field, their ties were never severed. 

„From the moment we first met at a VU lecture, we never lost sight of each other," says Mirjam, who lives on St. Maarten but is temporarily staying in the Netherlands. „We had seen each other at other lectures in the past and sat next to each other right away. I could never have imagined that we would still be this close 25 years later.

Our friendship began with studying or preparing for lectures together. We would have fierce discussions about current events. Looking back, we were probably all incredibly dorky,” Mirjam laughs. “Later, we started having dinner together, usually at my place in Amsterdam. We were entirely passionate about law and could talk about it for hours.

And we were also connected by the fact that all three of us had been born in the Netherlands but had roots in Suriname. We were three of the few black women at VU Amsterdam at the time, so we were all particularly pleased to see other people who looked like us. It even came up during lectures. During a lecture on the famous ‘Hollende Kleurling-arrest’, about a man of colour who had been wrongly arrested for a crime simply because he was in the area and had run away, we probably had a better understanding of how these things could happen than the other students in the room. 

All three of us wanted to make a difference after graduation, and Marciana - who is now a criminologist - has probably been most successful. Annemarie works for a municipality and works on spatial planning and social issues, such as hearings and objections. I myself am the section head of legislation at the Ministry of General Affairs for the Government of St. Maarten. I review legislation and coordinate the legislative process, making sure that bills that become laws are published on St. Maarten. 

If I hadn't met Marciana, I probably never would have married my husband. While I was writing my final thesis, I went out in Amsterdam with my sister. We ended up at Club Caribbean on Waterlooplein, and Marciana came in shortly after with what I thought was her boyfriend.  He was particularly handsome, but I looked the other way out of politeness. The following day, Marciana called me and said: 'My cousin likes you and asked me for your number'. A few years later, she MC’ed our wedding. 

It was not the last time that Marciana had a major impact on my life. All three of us wanted to study abroad, but didn’t manage to make it happen. Still, the prospect of leaving the Netherlands continued to beckon, until Marciana told me how amazing life was on St. Maarten and how easy it was to find a job. I took my family there for a holiday and we decided to move not much later. Just before I left for St. Maarten, the ladies organised a dinner party. Saying goodbye to them really felt like leaving two sisters behind. Fortunately, Annemarie is incredibly gregarious and prefers to plan our dinners three months ahead, trying a cool new restaurant every single time. Even now that I live on St. Maarten, we talk to each other on Zoom all the time. I’m sure that these women will continue to have a place in my life for a long time to come.”