dilluns, 26 d’octubre de 2009

My life was saved...seventy-one years ago!

Girona, 1938. A nineteen-year-old boy has been summoned to fight in the Ebro's battle, one of the fiercest battles in the Spanish Civil War. His name has been called out loud among those of many other young boys. They stand in Girona's train station, waiting for the train to come, some with fear in their eyes, some with republican conviction to go and kill the fascist enemy. He does not want to fight. I bet he is not really fully aware of war: he is a boy from a countryside house in the Baix Empordà, a place with relative tranquillity. Suddenly, he decides to escape. He does not want to fight. And he becomes a deserter, which is another major danger: if he is caught he is going to be shooted. Anyhow, he takes the risk. He leaves the station. Amazingly, no one notices and he manages to get back home.

Soldiers running in the rail tracks during Ebro's battle

He was lucky. That same night the train was bombed as it whistled its way down towards the south of Catalonia. No bodies could be identified at first sight -
-the train bombing must have been dreadful--, and no DNA test nor any other test was done to check the identity of corpses and, as everyone assumed he actually was on the train, the republican army thought he was one of the casualties. This, the fact that he was officially dead, saved him. No one ever came after him.

He survived war hiding in a barn. I am not sure he knew that he was "dead" at that moment. He surely knew about it afterwards. His "lifeness" must have been restored somehow, as he married, worked and had children, and this of course represents having one's name written in official documents.

The village of Miravet, with soldiers fighting in the Ebro river

This really touches me, as this is the story of my grandfather. I remember him as a quiet man and, unlike his wife (my grandma with amazing beautiful pure white hair), he rarely showed he was fond of grandchildren. But he certainly loved us all, as proven by the fact that he always talked about us with my father -his son- and actually gave sweets and money to him so that he will give them to me, my brother and my sister. I remember him sitting by the fireside, eating milk and bread soup, always with his beret on and sometimes with a toothpick in his mouth. I also remember his old motorbike, which he used to drive from his home to Banyoles, and he was the one who repaired the old 19th century clock of his house. Now I wonder: was he so quiet as an effect of the war he never fought? Did he see he had been lucky? I wish he was alive so I could ask. I realise now I know so little about him.

I learned about all this about eleven months ago, when I went for a short trip with my family to places where the Ebro battle took place. My father told us about the story and I could not help thinking that with running away, grandpa must have saved my life, 46 years before I was born. I know, history-fiction has no sense, but when one is told this, one cannot stop wondering: what if... What if he had actually got on the train that day? Could I say, thanks grandpa? I think so, in a way.

Injured in battle

Why do I tell you this? Has it any relationship to Catalonia? It has, if we think that little personal personal stories is what really builds History in capital letters, in this case the history of Catalonia. The Spanish Civil War was fought by people, current people, our grandparents in fact. Some are still alive to tell and we should record them before they die (which unfortunately they soon will, as they are very old now). We should not repeat this past.

The red point locates Girona on the map. Blue areas hightlight some "comarques"
(areas) where the Ebro battle was fought. In yellow, the Baix Empordà, the "comarca" of my
grandfather. The green point is Martís, where he lived since he married
until he died in 2002.

PS: I haven't got any pictures of grandpa at the moment. But I will certainly look for one in family albums :)

dijous, 15 d’octubre de 2009

A hit on the Internet

Before anything else I would like to warn you: in this post the proud girl inside me is writing. Why? I read something it made me feel proud of my mother tongue.

Catalan has roughly 9 million speakers, which means that it is the 88th most spoken language in the world -out of the more or less 6000 that have been identified nowadays. (One could say, looking at this figure, that Catalan enjoys good health. It is not really the case, however. Anyway, this is would fit much better in another post.)

What catched my attention some days ago was that a minorised language as Catalan is, has an extraordinary presence on the Internet:

- It is the 15th most used language on Wikipedia -or Viquipèdia in Catalan (200,000 entries).
- It is the 17th most used language on web pages.
- It is the 8th most used language on blogs.

I could not believe my ears when I heard and then read this. Especially the figure related to blogs. Even bearing in mind that 90% languages in the world have no presence on the Internet, that makes an impressive number! This is really good for the language, as it indicates that people see it as a normal vehicle of communication. Besides, the Internet, is a powerful tool for less spoken or minorised -made minoritarian- languages: on the net these language can have a voice which reaches the whole world.

There even has been a congress, which discussed this case success and what could be done to take advantage of the Internet in similar cases. The congress was held by the "Casa de les Llengües" (The House of Languages), which is financed by the Catalan government and aims at studying and taking advantage of multilingualism, exploring the richness of languages. By the way, I strongly reccomend you to visit their webpage: it is really complete with all kinds of activities and...it is truly multilingual! (I think I would really love to work there).

Why was I so happy then? I'm sick of hearing offence against Catalan, and Catalans (most of times by politicians and conservative people), I am sick of how little by little our language is blurred by monolingual strategies which disregard it (why some people in Spain see bilingualism as bad?). This piece of new was a new breath of fresh air, something positive among all this.

So this is all: proud girl mode Off :D.

"El català, un exemple a Internet" (Catalan , an example over the Internet)
-Ethnologue, Languages of the world: http://www.ethnologue.com/
-Casa de les Llengües: http://www.linguamon.cat/
- Viquipèdia: http://ca.wikipedia.org/wiki/