Mon, 04 Oct 2004

Niños de la guerra

This evening I went with Kiko and Kike to see an exposition about the thousands of children from the areas loyal to the Spanish Republic who were evacuated to different destinations outside of Spain during the Spanish Civil War.

I'm passionate about anything regarding this war, and I really don't know why. At the time of the uprising of the fascists led, the National Labour Confederation, of libertarian socialist ideals had a lot of support in Spain, and led much of the resistance against Franco's forces in Madrid, Barcelona and València. That's probably one reason that makes the Civil War so fascinating to me, but there are others, like the stories of things that happened in Catalunya during those hard years, as told by my grandmother, or the awful life the defeated had after Franco won the war and the long dictatorship started.

The exposition has a lot of material regarding the fate of all these children who's parents sent outside so they could avoid the bombings, hunger and horror of the war. Of the 32.000 children that were evacuated, 20.000 went to France, some other few thousands to England, Wales and Scotland, Belgium, USSR and Mexico. Denmark and Norway didn't recieve any, but funded a few colonies in France. Other non-official initiatives from Switzerland, USA and other countries also sent money in to help them. Of course, this doesn't count the many which crossed the French border to exile with their families, which probably would add a few 300.000 more.

You can see American and English stamps and postcards with "Help the Spanish children" messages for fundraising, and assorted objects like dresses, shoes, dolls, etc. which people kept from the day they crossed the border. The exposition is divided into different areas which explain the details of how things went for these children depending on the different destinations.

The kids sent to Mexico and the USSR probably had a very tough time, because it took a long while for them to return to Spain, if they ever did, as Mexico and the USSR didn't recognize the new Spanish government. Those sent to Russia quickly faced the siege of Leningrad, and those in Mexico lost the government support when their president was replaced. In France, many had to live in refugee camps which were quite bad, and many who were old enough to carry a gun soon went out to fight against the nazis.

Every now and then you could find a letter or two written by a child to their parents in Spain, telling them how well they were being treated, how quick they were learning French, or that they were 10kgs heavier than when they arrived. There was one letter, though, that moved me so much that I was very close to burst in tears. It's a farewell letter of a man in prison, a few hours before being shot by the fascists. He tells her daugher and wife that he's innocent and has nothing to be sorry for, and asks them to redo their lives after his death. The letter ends with a "I will die thinking about you", which made me feel my eyes a bit wet.

There's a nice website with nice pictures and information about the Spanish exile, if you're interested. If you're in València, this is a must see, though.