Rita van Sombeek


Bron: https://bahai.media/images/d/d2/Baha%27i_News_189.pdf#page=7

12 juli 1974 Rita van Sombeek Bleiswijk (rechts op de foto) met Adrie van der Horst en Miep van der Horst


 Bron: http://digitize.gp.lib.mi.us/digitize/newspapers/gpreview/1945-49/49/1949-11-17.pdf


Universal House of Justice, 8 June 1981Picture in Lower Right Corner with the Caption: Rita van Bleyswijk SombeekOn 28 May 1981, one day before the commemoration of the Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, Rita van Sombeek, one of the first Dutch believers, passed away at the age of seventy-eight. She had pioneered for the Cause of God and served Bahá'u'lláh faithfully to the end of her life. Rita was an example for many and her history is inextricably bound up with that of the Dutch Bahá'í community. In connection with her share of service she continually referred to the statement of the Guardian's to the effect that God uses every willing instrument he needs for the promotion of His Cause; it was her explanation for the many wonderful circumstances which had determined her life, a subject which she never tired speaking about:

'The firm I was working for in Amsterdam transferred me to New York. I arrived there on 1 May 1940, just before the May 10th invasion of the Netherlands. Why was I so fortunate? Through another coincidence I then heard about the Bahá'í Faith, and after attending a lecture by Stanwood Cobb1 I was immediately attracted and enthusiastic, and thereafter I hardly ever missed a study class or lecture.' Yet despite her enthusiasm, she did not accept the Faith. 'I attributed my indecision to my atheism and my deep-rooted prejudice against all mission work. Then, in 1945, I heard Dorothy Baker speak about the Administrative Order. I realized, then, that what held me back was my selfishness and a lack of spirit of sacrifice, for I recognized that if I became a Bahá'í, I would feel obliged to return to the Netherlands. I know that my life passed before me in a flash. Suddenly Dorothy Baker stood before me and said, "Now you are a Bahá'í," and, further, "Pioneer!" '

After her enrolment during the summer school at Green Acre, Rita came in contact with Mr. Mrs. Max Greeven,(2) an American Bahá'í couple who, in 1930, moved from New York to Bremen, Germany, and then to The Hague where they remained from 1937 until 1940. Mr. Greeeven was responsible for the publication in Holland of Captain J. A. Liebau's translations into Dutch of The Hidden Words of Bahá'u'lláh and Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era by Dr. J. E. Esslemont, editions of which all but a few copies were, unfortunately, destroyed in the bombing of Rotterdam. At Mr. Greeven's prompting Rita wrote to Shoghi Effendi offering to go to the Netherlands, although she felt inexperienced and she was able to get only a six-month leave of absence, and received a reply written on his behalf on 5 March 1946 stating, 'The need for Bahá'í workers in Europe is enormously great,' and encouraging her to 'do everything possible to bring this Message of hope to people who have endured so much misery and disappointment'. She sold everything she had of value, wanting to be free to devote her life to the Faith.

At the end of World War II Rita's sister, Georgette ('Jetty'),(3) joined her in the United States and eventually became a Bahá'í. In response to the second Seven Year Plan which called for a systematic programme of teaching in ten European countries the sisters left for Europe on 25 September 1946 aboard the Westerdam, sharing a cabin with Edna True, chairman of the European Teaching Committee. In Rita's words: 'While in America, Jerry[sic] had begun to translate; later we worked together on Mr. Esslemont's book after it was decided by the European Teaching Committee not to reprint the old edition. After a long search we found the printer Grapo who received the manuscript in January 1947 after we had worked on it for many hours a day for four months, in an ice-cold room with only school dictionaries available. In April the edition was ready. Also that spring most of the pioneers arrived in Europe and could start the teaching work. On 21 April 1947 the first Local Spiritual Assembly in Amsterdam was formed.'

In 1949 Rita returned to the United States in order to maintain her American citizenship which she greatly prized. From there she went as a pioneer to Sweden. At this time a friendship began with another believer of Dutch heritage, Mrs. Geertrui Bates, who wrote of her, 'Rita was a very attractive, indeed a striking woman, fluent and convincing whenever she talked about the Faith. She was athletic and loved skiing. I met her again in 1951 after she had returned to Amsterdam. With the encouragement of the Hand of the Cause Ugo Giachery, Rita went to Italy and began a study of Italian, but she found her stay there disheartening because there was so little receptivity to the Faith. In addition to English, she was also fluent in German. When1 See 'In Memoriam', p. 814.

I pioneered to Luxembourg in 1956, Rita was there too, and she lovingly offered me hospitality until I could find a place to live. She was always the charming hostess, ever striving for perfection and demanding a great deal of herself. You could always appeal to her for help. She had a noteworthy integrity and would never let the Faith down even if it meant taking on and carrying through to completion projects which she had not originated and which, with her strong sense of realism and practical perspective, she had originally opposed because she recognized that they were perhaps born of the enthusiasm of the friends and in their scope exceeded our capacity to execute them. I have learned much from her.

'Rita had a great devotion to the Faith. In order to be independent of the Fund she relinquished her American citizenship so that she might obtain a permanent position in the Netherlands. Although she never complained, we knew that she was ill, receiving treatments and having to adhere to a strict diet. Nothing was too much for her; she carried out her duties as though she had never become sick.'

Back in the Netherlands Rita settled down together with her beloved sister, Jetty Straub (who in the meantime had become a widow) as the first Bahá'ís of Doesburg. In 1968 Rita went to Doetinchem to strengthen the community there. Her vast experience in teaching and administrative work must have greatly benefited the friends there who formed their first Local Spiritual Assembly at Ridván 1970. From 1973 Jetty and Rita lived in Zeist, serving on the first Local Spiritual Assembly there. Jetty died in 1979. Now they are reunited in the Abhá Kingdom. We Bahá'ís in Europe are greatly indebted to Rita and the other valiant pioneers who came after the war. To Rita we are especially grateful for the large number of translations she made of the Bahá'í Writings; her name will forever remain associated with the translation of Bahá'í literature into Dutch.

(2) See 'In Memoriam', The Bahá'í World, vol. XIII, p. 909.
(3) See 'In Memoriam', The Bahá'í World, vol. XVII, p. 475.page 765
(Adapted from a memoir by LOTTIE TOBIAS)
Bron: http://bahai-library.com/memoriam_bw_18#rvbs