On April 15th & 16th 2006 a group of about 60 people walked from Super-la-Illas, a small village in France, across the frontier to La Vajol, a small village in Spain. This was not a group of
ordinary walkers but relatives, friends, and supporters of volunteers to the International Brigade who made similar crossings in 1936/37/38 to join up with others and to fight on the side of the Republicans, the legitimately
elected government of Spain, against Franco's fascist army.
Young men and women from Britain, Germany, Italy, Holland and other European countries and from America, Australia and elsewhere went to Spain to fight and give their lives for a cause they believed in. Perhaps at the time they saw more than most people the events in Europe that were leading inexorably to a War against fascism.
George Orwell wrote “Homage to Catalonia” as a result of his experiences fighting in Spain on the side of the Republicans. Ken Loach based his film “Land and Freedom” on George Orwell's book. C. Day Lewis wrote:
“ It was not fraud or foolishness Glory, revenge, or pay We came because our open eyes Could see no other way ” (“ Overture to death and other poems ”)
The men and women who survived fighting in the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War and who are still alive to-day are few in number. At this commemorative walk we had three of these veteran volunteers with us: Jack Jones, the President of the International Brigade Memorial Trust, Bob Doyle, and Jack Green. They laid wreaths at Memorials at Las Illas, La Vajol and at the Castell San Ferran in Figueres.
At Las Vajols the memorial is 2kms outside the village and commemorates amongst others, Lluis Campanys, the elected President of the Generalitat of Catalunya at the time of the Civil War, who fled Spain as Franco's troops overwhelmed the Republican forces. He followed the same route into France that the walkers followed on the commemorative walk into Spain in April 2006. On arrival in Vichy France he was arrested and sent back to Spain where he was executed in Barcelona in 1940. The memorial was created after the death of Franco when Spain became once more a democratic country.
The Castell San Ferran in Figueres, originally built by Napoleon, was the centre where volunteers first went for their military training before being sent to the war front. A memorial plaque in the grounds of San Ferran, put in place by the Catalan regional government and the Figueres Town Council and unveiled on Sunday 16th April 2006, commemorates all those volunteers who came to fight alongside Spanish Republicans and who lost their lives in the conflicts.
The daughters, sons, grandchildren of volunteers who were present at the commemorative weekend found it a moving experience. The sacrifice their family members made was not in vain. The International Brigade Memorial Trust, based in Britain, was created to keep alive the memory of the volunteers and the ideals for which they fought.
© 2006 by John Comley, Cascastel des Corbières, Southern France.