They are Belgian citizens, but they’d rather be in this part of Kerala with its circus legacy than go back to their European roots.
Veteran circus artistes Emile Vanderwielem (66) and his elder sister Gloria Vanderwielem (78) were born and brought up in circus tents in India after their parents reached the country in 1926. They are now happily settled at Kolachery near Thalassery, a town that has produced many circus company owners and artistes. Knowing neither Flemish nor French, their Belgian passports and regular contact with a sister in Belgium are the only connections they have to Europe.
“I am a Belgian citizen who has not been to Belgium even once though our youngest sister Margaret, now in Brussels, has been inviting me to spend some time with her,” says Emile, known as Minni among friends. He worked the horizontal bar, was part of the flying trapeze act and played the clown in various circuses before he retired in 2011. Gloria visited Belgium only once, in 1984.
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