This obituary originally appeared on the website of our Spanish sister-organisation AABI (Asociación de Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales) here. It has been translated and edited for clarity.
Salvador Bofarull (centre, seated) at a tribute event, December 2014.
On 21 February 2021 Salvador Bofarull passed away at 10pm at the Hospital de la Princesa. He had been suffering from a serious heart ailment for some time, forcing him to be hospitalised twice in previous years, the last in 2019. His heart failed this third time.
Salvador was a man with a big heart. Born in Barcelona in 1925, throughout his life he developed a fine sense of humour that he captured in a kind of memoir, which he called ‘Kaleidoscope of memories’. We include, as an example, some of them:
Salvador, the only son of a middle-class family, is born. Of course, I don't remember. According to the custom of the time, deliveries took place at home, with the help of a midwife, and the doctor was only called if complications arose.
At the age of six, Salvador witnesses the arrival of the Second Republic on 14 April 1931:
My father returns excited from work, exclaiming: The Republic! We finally have the Republic! We immediately set off, going down to Gran Vía and continuing to Plaza Universidad, Calle Pelayo, Rambla, Calle Fernando (now Ferrán), ending in Plaça de Sant Jaume. A true human flood. An unforgettable experience. Lots of Catalan and Republican flags. On Pelayo Street, cars could barely circulate, as the crowd had invaded the road… In the square, we looked like canned sardines. We returned home at night, on foot, tired but happy. Alfonso XIII was despised in Catalonia, by the left for representing an unpopular regime and by the puritan right for his licentious life.
At the age of eleven, he became a stunned witness of the fascist uprising aborted by the popular militias and those sections of the Guardia Civil and the Guardia de Asalto that remained loyal to the Republic. Then followed the long war of resistance against fascism. Salvador had to live ‘the long holidays of 36’ and suffer increasing bombardments until the fascist brutes entered the city and imposed total terror.
Barcelona, 1940s. Paseo de Gracia near the intersection with Gran Vía. Mid-morning on a beautiful spring day. On the central sidewalk, coming from Plaza de Catalunya, a group of 20 or 30 boys in Falange uniforms go up, in formation and led by three flag-bearers with the regime's flags. Three or four girls, also in uniform, escort them out of the formation. It is a fairly common show. Passersby have to stop and make the fascist salute as the procession passes. I escape in a portal. From there, I see how an elderly man, elegantly dressed and wearing a hat, continues his march without paying attention. Quickly, one of the escort girls lunges at him, rips off his hat, throws it on the ground and slaps him loudly.
In 1944 Salvador went to Madrid to study the newly created career in Economics.
I finished my last year in 1949. I was appointed Adjunct Professor, colloquially Assistant… The University was at that time heavily infiltrated by Opus Dei. I could not refuse occasional offers to visit one of their ‘centres’. All of them, luxuriously furnished, classic style. On one occasion in their center in Diego de León, near Serrano, there was a small gathering. An elegantly dressed student was brandishing a book and exclaiming enthusiastically: ‘Definitive! Definitive! After this, everything has been said in politics!’ I looked at the book curiously. It was the last work of Oswald Mosley, the head of the British fascist party.
London, 1950. I am enrolled in a summer course at the London School of Economics and I am staying in a university residence in Cartwright Gardens. Many foreign students but also English. In a gathering with English students, determined suffragettes, they ask me: ‘Do women in Spain have the same electoral rights as men?’ I answered affirmatively. They were very incredulous. ‘Do you mean that with a fascist and sexist regime like that of Spain, women have the same right to vote as men?’ I insisted: ‘Exactly the same, neither men nor women have the right to vote!’
Salvador did different postgraduate courses in London and at the Universities of Chicago and Syracuse (United States). He also got a scholarship at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague. He continued working as an adjunct professor at the Faculty of Economics in Madrid and devoted part of his free time to philately, one of his hobbies in which he has achieved international renown.
From 1962 he became an international civil servant at the Ministry of Planning and Development and in later years he went on to work in the field of international cooperation in various United Nations agencies.
Tripoli, Libya, 1962. Working as an international civil servant in the Ministry of Planning. The Spanish Minister of Commerce, Mr. Ullastres, visits the capital. He is accompanied by a host of young assistants, members of Opus Dei . One of them asks me about the Spanish in Libya: ‘I hear most of them are doctors, they will do a great job, I suppose?’ I answer: ‘Indeed, since the health situation was very deficient’. He answers: ‘No, I do not mean this. Have many conversions been achieved?’ I stop to think for a moment and answer: ‘Well, not many, so far three Spanish doctors have converted to Islam’.
A true cosmopolitan, Salvador traveled all over the world (more than 60 countries) and his human sensitivity led him to take an interest in the tragedies experienced by poor countries and to value the example of international solidarity given by the International Brigades.
In 1995 he was one of the founders of AABI, becoming involved in all the activities that took place in subsequent years. Apart from his good work-ethic and companionship, Salvador contributed his great knowledge of various languages to work on Brigaders from less-studied origins: Chinese, Cubans and Arabs.
When George Bush initiated the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, a popular clamour of ‘No to War’ shook the streets around the world. Salvador enlisted in the Human Shields Action, a group of volunteers who travelled to Baghdad to try and dissuade the invading forces from bombing certain locations. It represented a great gesture against the war and for solidarity.
Madrid, 20 June 2007. Yesterday I had cataract surgery. The doctor recommends that I rest and stay home, but I am interested in attending a cultural event and he permits me, but without driving. I call a taxi and they pick me up on time. The heavily rural-looking taxi driver, glass-bottomed glasses, and skeletal complexion, looks like Methuselah's twin brother. I discreetly ask his age and he is about 20 years younger than me. He spoke horrendous Spanish with a strong Andalusian accent. When passing through Cibeles, the square was decked out with Spanish flags and others of a green colour. As my vision was blurry, I asked him if the green flags had a horizontal sword in the center. He said yes. ‘So they are from Saudi Arabia’, I said. The taxi driver replied with an air of indignation: ‘Once again those moors come to ask for money and we are so stupid that we give it to them!’. I told him that the people from Saudi Arabia were rotten with money and did not need to ask anyone. Naturally, he didn't believe me.
We were able to enjoy many years of Salvador’s companionship, wisdom and good humor. In 2014 we paid him a small tribute during a fraternal meal in a restaurant in Madrid. A year later, the magazine Carta de España, from the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migrations, interviewed him.
Despite his increasingly frequent ailments Salvador did not stop giving talks and attending for the International Brigades. He was present at Huesca in June 2017, for a tribute to General Lukács (the Hungarian writer Máté Zalka), who died in the Fifth Strait a day before the start of the Republican offensive on the city.
It was one of Salvador’s last trips outside of Madrid, since his health was beginning to take a heavy toll on him. He relapsed again in 2019 but made it through, thanks to his will to live and his ‘seny’ (Catalan wisdom) that helped him cope with any adversity. Finally, despite the hard work of his caregiver Janeth, his heart gave up and he left the world which he contributed so much to.
Posted on 8 March 2021.