Wales and the Basque region of Spain have many similarities. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, bringing violence to the Basque lands, the Welsh felt a heighten sense of solidarity with the Basque people. In “Fleeing Franco” Hywel Davis examines how the Welsh showed their support for the Basque by sheltering Basque children during the war. He argues that many factors led to the Welsh taking in these children and that it was a result of the overall Welsh response to the Spanish Civil War.
Once the war began, children could no longer attend school and resources, like food and medicine, became scarce. Parents did not want to send their children away, but it was better than keeping them in a dangerous and possibly deadly environment. The Welsh welcomed these children as members of a fellow “ancient and honoured community” (p.9). When the Basque children arrived in Wales, it gave the Welsh a chance to “transform passive sympathy into a real opportunity to do something”(p.27). Also, there were already Spanish speaking communities in Wales, which made the transition somewhat easier for the children. These people had come as a result of trade between Wales and Basque, another factor that strengthened the feelings of camaraderie between the two communities.
The children were inspected upon arrival, and then shipped to different places. Once they settled in, they were always busy with school and other activities. They became healthier, putting on weight and becoming fit. “Little by little the sobbing died down and the daily rhythms of life were restored, but a dreadful numbness remained”(p.49). Even though the children were treated well, most were still in shock and could not easily recover.
To tell the story of the Basque children in Wales, Davies uses individuals’ stories. For example, he focuses on the stories a few children, such as Alvaro Velasco and Paula Felipe Gomez to explain what occurred (p.37). His sources include primary sources, such as articles and speeches, as well as secondary sources, which are mainly books. His writing is clear and easy to understand. My only criticism is that the stories of the Basque children, the main focus of the book, do not begin until chapter five, on page 37. I understand the necessity of background information, but there seemed to be a little too much.
Even though Wales and Basque are in similar situations, their cultures are very different. So why was there such a sense of solidarity between them?