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The Republican ' Aquarius ' of the 39

Survivors of the voyage of the ' Stanbrook ', who evacuated almost 3,000 Spanish refugees to Oran after the war, revive their history in line with the current migratory drama

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The Republican ' Aquarius ' of the 39

Helia González Beltrán sees news about Aquarius and wrecks. It returns to days of March of 1939 when, with four years, it traveled sitting on a trunk from Alicante to Oran aboard Stanbrook with about 3,000 Spanish Republicans who had lost war. "The drama of Aquarius has removed everything, re are many things that coincide. It is important that people know that y are people full of needs of all kinds, "he says during an interview by phone from his home in Elche, not too far from Mediterranean port where refugees who no one has wanted in Malta and Italy.

More information
  • Last Ship in exile
  • The Odyssey of ' Stanbrook ', 75 years later

The Stanbrook changed oranges, snuff and saffron by defeated on Tuesday, March 28, 1939, after his captain, Archibald Dickson, settled his dilemma between obeying shipowners or his conscience. "Among refugees were all sorts of people, some appeared to be extremely poor and seemed consumed by hunger and ill-dressed, wearing a variety of outfits ranging from monkeys to old and worn pieces of uniforms and even blankets and or Peculiar pieces of cloth. There were also some people, women and men, with a good appearance and who I assumed were women and relatives of officials, " captain would count days later in a letter addressed to editor of Londoner Sunday Dispatch.

Alicia and Helia González Beltrán, passing ' Stanbrook '. Morell Efe

Among m, girls Alicia and Helia González came aboard with ir parents. "The captain received every one of those who were on boat. He took me in my arms and kissed me on cheeks. I'd later know why: I had a daughter my age. The boat was packed, no more people were fit. Some wore trunks and toolboxes, but we went up with nothing, "revives Helia Gonzalez.

The access, initially controlled by customs officials, became a chaos when agents mselves decided to join rest of refugees "throwing ir weapons and equipment to join stampede for coming aboard," according to captain, who had never Attended a similar emergency in his 33 years at sea. "When all refugees were on board, it was practically impossible to give an adequate description of scene that my ship presented, and closest likeness I can give is to say that it looked like some of those holiday vapors of River Thames on a festive day , only that many times worse, "Dickson described in April 1939. "The passengers crowded deck and wineries, and waterline was well below surface," says historian Paul Preston in his book The End of war (Debate).

That ship, conditioned only to accommodate 24 crew members, sails with "about 3,000 people, among whom are Lieutenant Amado Granell, one of those who would free Paris in 1944 in front of nine", explains Rafael Arnal, founder of association Operation Stanbrook, That has rescued history of 20 hours of journey in books and documentaries.

Spanish refugees disembark in Oran in 1939. Pablo Iglesias Foundation

The captain and some officers ceded ir quarters to weak. There were exiles huddled in deck, around chimney, in cellars, in living room. Helia and her family spent night of March 29th in a hallway. Without just moving. "The next morning we arrived in Oran. We spent a couple of days on boat until y let mors, children, elders and sick go down. In Stanbrook remained almost all, including my far, "he says.

The French authorities refuse to accept that passage of despair so ideological as to need to flee from Spain. "They tried by all means to prevent landing of arrivals by claiming no adequate infrastructure to install m. In reality what y feared was presence of Reds that could alter public order, "says Ricard Camil Torres, professor of contemporary history at University of Valencia and curator of exhibition Stanbrook, 1939. The Republican exile to North Africa, held in 2014.

Spanish refugees, aboard ' Stanbrook ' in 1939. Book ' Operation Stanbrook ' 40 days on board

During 40 days, exiles remained aboard in extreme conditions. "The French authorities did not provide food or drinking water. The physiological needs were to be realized in eyes of whole world. The passengers had to be content with what was provided by members of Spanish colony in Oran and French for individual purposes, "adds Torres.

Helia González recalls small boats that approached merchant to provide food to passage: "My far wrote address of some relatives on a smoking paper and handed it to one of those boats. We have not known who did it, but truth is that this note came to Sidi Bel Abbef, 90 kilometers from Oran, where those uncles lived, who claimed departure of my far from Stanbrook. "

After spread of cases of typhus and or infectious diseases, landing was authorized. The refugees were sent to prisons and labour camps. The family of Olimpia Ruiz Candela, a baby of 12 months in 1939, changed overcrowding of Stanbrook by or horrors. "We lived a lot of brutality in fields for four years. My mor was bleeding her hands from washing mats and my far got beat up, "recalls Ruiz. His far was one of 2,000 Spaniards destined to construction of Saharan, "a delirious idea", according to historian Ricard Camil Torres, "to link by means of railroad through desert French Mediterranean ports with ir colonies in Niger ". Ors, like Amado Granell, would end up making history by releasing Paris in 1944.

"I have wept now seeing emigrants"

"I revolt that countries like Italy have that attitude to people so unhappy. I've cried seeing things like that with emigrants. I don't forget what we've been through. I have no grudge against anyone, but it seemed a tremendous injustice to abandon people with such misery, as he did with us France, "says Olimpia Ruiz Candela, one of occupants of Stanbrook with his three brors and ir parents.

The history of sea accumulates some sinister episodes, of voyages condemned to have no end and passages forced to err by sea. Shortly after Stanbrook docked in Oran, St. Louis, a luxury cruiser with 900 Jews fleeing Germany in 1939, was rejected in Cuba and United States and forced to return to Europe. Also exodus, with 4,554 Jewish survivors of Nazism, was rejected by British in Palestine in 1947 and forced to return to Germany.


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