In Negrín’s final footsteps in Spain

Post date: 04/03/2016

Pauline Fraser was one of a group of IBMT members who last month visited Spanish Civil War sites in the Alicante area. The group was hosted by the city’s Commission for the Recovery of Historical Memory and the Labour International Branch which is active among the local British community. This is her report.


Alicante was all about endings: the end of the Republic, the end of hope, the end of life. We were there to commemorate the brave and generous action of one man – Capt Archibald Dickson of the Stanbrook, who took on board the last Republican refugees. So many more were left on the quayside that he had to leave to their fate, a fate that meant at best imprisonment, at worst, death.


We were prepared for that, but there were some unexpected last memories of the Republican government too. Our coach stopped near Pedrer and a member of the Commision pointed to a wood opposite. 


‘You can’t go in,’ he told us. ‘It’s private’. This was El Poblet, the finca (country house) where Dr Juan Negrín who, as last prime minister of the Republic, presided over what was left of the Republican government. 


Every year there is a march to the finca organised by the local IU United Left Party, or Esquerra Unida, in Valenciana. That was the closest we all got.


When we visited the refugio built beside an anonymous-looking block of houses near Monóvar, not far from Pedrer, our guide told us this was the secret hide-out of Dr Negrín, La Pasionaria and Rafael Alberti. It was also privately owned, but one of the owners came out to speak to us. By this time most of the party were back on the coach, and it was getting dark. 


‘Come quick,’ our guide beckoned, and we followed the owner into the house. 


Here was the kitchen, left as it had been on that day in March 1939, when the last holders of the flame of the Republic were whisked away by air, Negrín and Alberti to Paris, then on to London, La Pasionaria to Moscow. 


‘The floor’s original,’ we were told. ‘So is the fireplace.’ Perhaps out of respect for those who had striven against the odds to save the Republic, the furniture and décor echoed that time. 


Then, back out to the twilight, a hurried thanks, and we were off. One of those moments where it’s hard to process what has just happened.


Pauline Fraser is an IBMT Trustee.


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