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Background Information for Brukel
By Lifelong Games and 1 collaborators
This brief guide provides some additional information about Brukel's setting for people who are not familiar with the unique history behind the city of Geel and the Brukel farmhouse.
The City of Geel
Geel (Dutch pronunciation: [ɣeːl]) is a city located in the Belgian province of Antwerp, which acquired city status in the 1980s. It comprises Central-Geel which is constituted of 4 old parishes a/o towns: Sint-Amand, Sint-Dimpna, Holven and Elsum.
Bie Verlinden, the elderly protagonist of the game Brukel, was born in Geel in 1925 and lived there all her life. Her grandson Bob spent most of his childhood and teenage years in Geel before moving to Antwerp, Brussels and eventually abroad.

An interesting fact about Geel is that it is home to one of the biggest reggae festival outside of Jamaica[].

Saint Dymphna
Saint Dymphna is a Christian saint. According to tradition, she lived in the 7th century and was the daughter of a pagan Irish king and his Christian wife. Dymphna is the patron saint of the nervous, emotionally disturbed, mentally ill, and those who suffer neurological disorders.

When Dymphna was 14 years old, she consecrated herself to Christ and took a vow of chastity. Shortly thereafter, her mother died. Her father had loved his wife deeply, and in the aftermath of her death his mental health sharply deteriorated. Eventually the king's counselors pressed him to remarry. After searching fruitlessly, he began to desire his daughter because of her strong resemblance to her mother. When Dymphna learned of her father's intentions she fled his court and sailed towards the continent, eventually landing in what is present-day Belgium, where they took refuge in the town of Geel.

One tradition states that once settled in Geel, Dymphna built a hospice for the poor and sick of the region. However, her father would eventually find her and try to force her to return with him to Ireland and marry him. When Dymphna resisted, he struck off his daughter's head.

Mentally Ill Farmhands
Geel is well known for the early adoption of de-institutionalization in psychiatric care. This practice is based on the positive effects that placement in a host family gives the patient, most importantly access to family life that would otherwise have been denied.

Bie had a number of mentally ill patients help on the farm and live with her family. Eventually they became part of the family and Bie has numerous stories about them. In the game Brukel, you can hear her talk about Tjok, one of the mentally ill farmhands that lived with them.

The Colony
In the Brukel game, Bie sometimes refers to "The Colony". This is what the people of Geel used to call the center for psychiatric healthcare that provided care for mentally ill patients, some of which that lived among them.

According to Bie, it was occupied by German soldiers during WW2. Nonetheless, Bie also mentions how the German soldiers that stayed with them felt very uneasy near the mentally ill.
Battle of Geel
Bie was a young teenage girl during WW2. Most of her war stories center around the the Battle of Geel, also known as the Battle of the Geel Bridgehead. This was a major battle between British and German troops in Belgium during the Second World War. It occurred in September 1944 and was one of the largest and bloodiest battles to occur during the Liberation of Belgium.

During this time, the WW2 front line ran directly through the fields surrounding Brukel, and the farmhouse was occupied by both the British and the Germans at various times.
The History of Brukel
The Brukel farmhouse has a long history dating back to at least the early 1300s. Over the years, the property has been passed on from one influential family to the next.

Van Bruekeles
Brukel was first mentioned in 1315 as the property of the Van den Bruekeles, an influential family. They likely borrowed their last name from their residence, which was located in a rather muddy field. Geographically speaking, the “Brukel” area with its “Brukelloop”, created a “breach”, a lowered area between Stokkerakker, Eikevelden and Winkelom.

In the 16th century, the Van den Bruekel family ran out of sons to carry on their name. The last female Van den Bruekel married someone named Paschasius (Paeschen or Van Paeschen) and as a result, Brukel became the property of that family.

Van Gemen
In 1598, Jan Paschasius sold a wealthy horse trader by the name of Amant Van Gemen the “beautiful park and farmhouse, with orchards, large stables, shed, land and field, located next to each other and surrounded by a canal, named ‘The Bruekel’ (sic), where he could station a significant amount of horses.

Pauli, Ooms and Montens
Amandus Van Gemen passed away in 1644. Brukel was then divided among the seven children of his first marriage, who sold and re-sold the property among themselves, until Brukel eventually was torn in two properties. As a result, this signaled the end of the “beautiful park and farmhouse” as Brukel became a farmhouse for lease, albeit a substantial one. Through many marriages and other machinations best left to specialists, the Brukel farmhouse eventually became the property of the Pauli, Ooms and Montens dynasties; three families with a lot of social status and even more possessions.

Van Roye de Wichem of Meerhout
Through inheritance and sales, the Brukel eventually became the property of the lord Van Roye de Wichem of Meerhout by the start of the 20th century. His daughter, Bernadette, married Jacques Henri Van den Hecke and inherited Brukel. She died in 1970 and her husband managed the property in name of their many children, who eventually let the farmhouse fall into ruins after its final tenants abandoned it.
Bie's Family
The Verlinden family became the last tenants of the Brukel farmhouse. During the 20th century, Verlindens farmed at Brukel. The “true Brukels” or "The Ones from Brukel" was how they were known in Geel, and that was supposed to be a compliment: they were “hard workers with strong family ties whose hearts and souls were part of the farm.” In total, three generations of Verlindens worked the Brukel fields, starting with Bie's grandparents and ending with her older brother René.

Bie's Grandparents
The first Verlindens at Brukel were Eduard Verlinden (1860 – 1946) and Maria Van Oijstaeyen (1860 – 1920). They had three sons and two daughters. Jef became a cattle trader in the Stationsstraat and Peer traded coal, a store and a hat store on the Diestseweg (now owned by André Bens).

Bie's Parents (Paps and Mams)
Victor Verlinden and his wife Maria Bens became the next tenant farmers. Unfortunately, Maria died at the young age of 38, leaving her husband with six daughters and two sons. “Thankfully, together we managed to make it work,” says Bie's sister Simonne (who is mentioned in a few of her stories). “The neighbors helped with the harvest. That was how things were done back then.”

Bie's Siblings
The eldest son, René Verlinden-Cuyvers, ended up the last tenant of the Brukel farmhouse and abandoned it in 1982.The oldest son in the picture below is René who is standing between Bertha (left; the older and taller of the two sisters) and Bie (right). Their younger siblings Annie, Cel, Martha, Maria and Simonne are standing in front of them. In the back, we can see the red and white paint on the Brukel front door.

The Verlindens farmed about 30 acres of land, mostly grain, potatoes and hay, enough for about 12-13 cows, a horse and some small livestock. “There was obviously no luxury, but there was a lot of space,” Simonne remembers. “We had no wealth but we made a living for the entire family, a farmhand and two mentally challenged people that we cared for. We all had to help on the field, including during school vacations, but that’s what kept us going.”
A Video Game
While Bie often complained about never having had a chance to go to school and get a degree, her grandson Bob did get these opportunities and made good use of them as well. Equipped with an MFA (graphic design) and a PhD (communication science), he moved to the United States to take on a position as a professor of game design at Miami University.

In the summer of 2014, Bob traveled back to Belgium to visit his family and he decided to start recording Bie reminiscing about her childhood. 5 years later, these audio recordings had been turned into a game that chronicles Bie's life at the Brukel farmhouse. The game won two awards that year, was even shown at the Smithsonian American Art Museum Arcade, and Bie was featured in the national Belgian news.

󠁳⁧⁧󠁳⁧⁧󠁳󠁳 Nov 11, 2019 @ 12:54pm 
Lifelong Games  [author] Nov 11, 2019 @ 12:38pm 
I removed the days so it now just refers to September. Contact Wikipedia to get the dates corrected there and I'll update this guide as well.
󠁳⁧⁧󠁳⁧⁧󠁳󠁳 Nov 11, 2019 @ 11:45am 
Battle of Geel started in 7 september, not 8. Wikipedia is wrong, the germans already had soldiers in Geel.
Lifelong Games  [author] Nov 7, 2019 @ 8:58am 
Awesome! Thanks so much for the help!
luckz Nov 5, 2019 @ 7:25pm 
"Stokkerakker, Eikevelden en Winkelom.": "en" should be "and"
"the Van den Bruekel family ran out of son": "son" should be "sons"
"Eduard Verlinden (1860 – 1946) en Maria Van Oijstaeyen (1860 – 1920).": "en" should be "and"