dilluns, 26 d’octubre del 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 :)

3 comentaris:

Isabel ha dit...

This is a very interesting personal story on the Spanish Civil War. It's amazing how his decision to walk away resulted in him saving his life and the lives of his future children and grandchildren. Thanks for sharing!

anna ha dit...

Very touching and interesting, Anna. I like it.

Xavi ha dit...

I have heard this story a few times now already, but I also think it is touching. As Anna says, History (with a big H) is made up of a collection of these small and near histories each and everyone of us has.
It is evident that the Civil War had a big impact on the History of Catlonia and Spain (and even Europe), but getting to know it on the smaller scale still makes it more interesting, I think.