Fleeing Franco

Fleeing Franco is a book written by Welsh historian Hywel Davies in 2011. It deals with the Welsh repatriation of Basque children during the Spanish Civil War. While the book is well researched, and presents an uplifting thesis about the largely uniform acceptance of the Spanish children in an already poverty-stricken nation, Davies does seem to present a slightly biased view on the matter. For example, he makes a point of vilifying the leading Welsh politicians, by stating their pro-Fascist attitudes, in favor of returning the children to Spain after the War, while stressing his opinion that those working with the children were following a humanitarian call rather than a political opportunity. However, Davies’ hero Maria Fernandez, an extraordinary warden at a childrens home, quotes that her political support of the Spanish Republic played a large role in her decision to join the cause (140). While this does not mean that she would have turned her back on the orphans had the Spanish government not been socialist, Davies’ lack of analysis and research into this statement raises questions about his own objectiveness.

Additionally, in my opinion Davies’ structure is not very good. He starts coherently with a description of the similarities of Wales and the Basque region, but seemingly continues neither thematically nor chronologically. He describes the good sentiment of the Welsh, a few examples of bad behavior by the Spanish children, then continues with the good sentiment of the Welsh. All the while his chronology floats between before and after the fall of Bilbao. While his thesis is fairly clear, I found his structure to be slightly confusing.

Spanish Children Refugees…Future of the Soviet Union?

In the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, Prats-de-Mollo_Children's_HomeStalin and the Soviet Union played an important role in supporting the Spanish Republic. Most directly, Stalin supported the relocation of 3,000 Spaniard children to the Soviet Union. Although this was a move to support the Spanish Republic, Stalin also did this for the benefit of the Soviet Union. By placing these children in the care of members of the Soviet Union, Soviet values were instilled in them, while still maintaining a veneer of their Spanish culture.

When Spain was in turmoil, children were not able to study in Spain so their parents sent them to the Soviet Union. There are not many sources on this subject; if there are, they are oral which can be unreliable sources. Some sources say people in Leningrad greeted them nicely, while others had negative experiences. Many children recall their experience being one of stripping them of their belongings, the only things that they had from home. One woman recalls being stripped of her dress from home and dressed as everyone else in the Soviet Union. Another woman recalls her bible being thrown out, symbolizing how her past religion would not be a part of her new life in the Soviet Union.

Children’s values and ideas are not concrete, they are easily transformed; their minds are like sponges, absorbing all they hear. This is why these children were such great additions to the Soviet Union. They were “specimens of socialist internationalism in practice.” The children had high discipline in their schooling, but that discipline never led to violence. The State believed that positive role models were the only way children would learn Soviet values. Although teachers taught students of their Spanish heritage, Soviet values were the main focus. The Spanish teachers were often seen as less serious, shedding better light on the Soviet teachers, thus shedding better light on the State. This “hybridity” of Soviet-Spanish cultures further reinforces the concept of “nation in form, socialist in content” that we have discussed as a theme in class.