Spanish Refugees from Franco’s War (excerpts from Christian Zozaya’s draft memoir, Culture Shock)

This is the last segment I have of Christian Zozaya’s memoir stretching from the Spanish civil War through WWII and his childhood (and adulthood) in South America.  Here is a brief recap for those of you joining us late: Born in Madrid, six-year-old Christian was evacuated to Barcelona with his family because of Franco’s War. As German troops marched into Austria, Mussolini increased bombing of the Spanish coast and Barcelona became as dangerous as Madrid, thus it was decided to send little Christian to boarding school in England. He was thrust alone into another culture and had to quickly learn English to communicate. The situation in Spain became so dire that his entire family had to escape over the Pyrenees and into France with only the clothes on their backs and whatever they could carry. His parents became separated and more hardships ensued, but strangers helped them and friends loaned them money so they could reunite with Christian now age 8. This is where we left off in his story.

I had not spoken Spanish since the previous September except for the brief visit by my parents in October and I had forgotten how to speak the language. Fortunately I could still understand Spanish, but my answers at first were limited to Si and No.

 Eventually all my family managed to cross the puddle…my grandparents and my uncle and aunt boarded a ship and went to Mexico. Dad chose to go to Colombia (where) two of his former students, Colombians, procured a contract for him with the Ministerio de Trabajo, Higiene y Previsión Social.

margaret johnson_04

(wikipedia.org)

We boarded the ship on May 11th and departed for Colombia. Molly gave me a book  “Great Sea Stories of All Nations”  that I still have it in my library. The M/S Margaret Johnson was a mixed cargo and passenger ship with capacity for sixty passengers and “all modern conveniences” such as electric fans and running water in the cabins. All the passengers were Spanish Republican refugees.

We made land on May 28th at a town called Puerto Colombia… the main port for Colombia since 1893. We stayed in Puerto Colombia a few days until the next riverboat was due to depart (from) Barranquilla on the shore of the Magdalena River. A railway ran between Puerto Colombia and Barranquilla  and we

www.tramz (1)

(www.tramz)

went to Barranquilla the day before the boat was to leave. We boarded the S.S. Pichincha, a stern wheeler with four decks. The main deck was reserved for the cargo; the second deck held the third class cabins, the second class cabins were on the third deck and the first class cabins were on the fourth (upper) deck. The pilot house stood in front of the first class cabins and there was a small cannon mounted on its roof.

The cargo on this trip was about twenty head of cattle so when Father bought the tickets he asked for the first class deck. The man who was selling the tickets asked him if he wanted a cabin. It seems that if you bought the ticket for just the deck that’s where you slept. Father bought the tickets for the cabin as well.

Example of a sternwheeler (notice rear of riverboat). Photo wikipedia.

Example of a sternwheeler (notice rear of riverboat). Photo wikipedia.

The trip up the Magdalena River to Puerto Salgar took eight days. The new experience started when we went down to the dining room for lunch. Hanging large on the back wall of the room was a sign.

SE RUEGA A NUESTRA DISTINGUIDA CLIENTELA

NO DISPARAR ARMAS DE FUEGO

EN EL COMEDOR

 In other words if you are going to shoot somebody please don’t spoil our dinner, do it outside on deck.

The diet was unusual for our European tastes. The first course of the meal was not a bowl of soup but a glass of pawpaw juice and then followed a soup like we had never had before. It was known as “mazamorra” and it had ingredients such as yucca and corn that had never formed part of our diets. After a more or less normal main course we had guava preserve for dessert.

During the afternoon the ship’s “orchestra” assembled on the deck in order to entertain us. This ensemble consisted of people who couldn’t afford the fare to so they agreed to pay by playing in the “orchestra” for as long as they were aboard. The group consisted of five people and they only had two songs in common; one was the “Guabina Chiquinquireña” – I forget what the other one was. They all wanted to go to Bogotá which meant that we listened alternately to the two songs for every afternoon of the eight days that the trip took.

We had to retire to our cabin when the sun set because the people who had paid to be on the first class deck, but had not paid for a cabin pulled out canvas cots, opened them, took off their clothes, put on their pajamas and went to sleep.

wikipedia.org

Rio Magdalena ending in Barranquilla

On the eighth day we arrived in Puerto Salgar and it was time to leave the ship and board a train. When somebody asked what the fare was the station master lined us all up pointed to each Spanish refugees with his forefinger as he counted us and pondered for a while. He hemmed and hawed and came up with a figure; the group tried to pay it proportionately to the size of each contingent. The train chugged up the slopes of the Cordillera Oriental until we reached Bogotá.

The President of Colombia was Eduardo Santos (1938 – 1942). He had been instrumental in allowing Spanish Republican refugees into the country against the opposition of several members of his Cabinet. Colombia received us with mixed feelings. The political world was divided into, the Liberals and the Conservatives. The Liberals liked us because to a greater or lesser degree we were from the political left, but disliked us because we came from Spain, the colonizing power. The conservatives disliked us because to a greater or lesser degree we were from the political left but liked us because we came from Spain. There was also the fear that the Spaniards would take jobs away from the Colombians.

My parents did not want me to forget the English that I had learned during my stay in England so they enrolled me in the Anglo-American School (attended by expats from all over Europe). Being taught in two languages was good for me. Leaving a class in say geography that was taught in English and ten minutes later receiving a class in Spanish forced me to switch not only languages but my whole train of thought …

On September 1st (1939) World War II began. It had been well rehearsed by Germany and Italy in my home country. (Meanwhile) Dad was working on the malaria campaign which meant that he had to travel through the lowlands of the country: Los Llanos, through which the best means of transportation was often by boat. Not a steamboat such as the Pichincha, but a dugout canoe fitted with an outboard motor.

DrZozaya on his way to work circa 1940.

Dr. .Carlos Zozaya on his way to work circa 1940. (Zozaya Collection)

 

To get where the boat was he had to fly by commercial airliner and very often all three of us went to see him off at the airport.

 

Mother and I see Dad off at Techo airport.

Mother and I see Dad off at Techo airport. (Zozaya collection)

Sometimes Dad had to go to very remote places where there were no commercial flights close to where he wanted to go. One of these was Leticia, a town situated where the borders of Colombia, Brazil and Peru meet. The area of course is called Las Tres Fronteras. The southern tip of Colombia is the only place where it reaches the Amazon River and Leticia is one of two major ports on the Amazon, the other being Manaos in Brazil.

The Colombian army had a base there and the place was reachable only by float plane. The planes approached the town by following the river, flying just over the tops of the trees. When they reached the clearing they dived down and straightened out just in time for the floats to touch the water. The city has an international airport now and there are three Colombian airlines as well as several international ones that reach the city but at the time that was all the transport available.

During one of Dad’s trips a soldier had an attack of appendicitis. There was no hospital but an army doctor decided to operate. The operating room was a mud brick shack with a dirt floor, open windows, and the operating table was a door resting on two wooden boxes with a mattress on top.

The spaces outside the windows were full of curious people looking in while the doctor operated and his assistant stood by with a tray full of instruments covered by a cloth with which he would occasionally shoo away the flies. The soldier did survive.

One of his trips to Leticia Dad was told that he could not return on the plane because one of the pontoons was leaking. Sure enough when the plane took off he saw that water was coming out of one. What annoyed him was that he was the only person who was asked to leave the plane. When he asked when the next plane was due he was told that he would have to wait for a week. Dad didn’t complain but he sent President Santos a telegram. The next day a tandem cockpit biplane arrived in Leticia. The weather was dreadful (but) Dad climbed in the plane and flew back to Bogotá.

www.skyfighters.be

This is what the biplane may have looked like. (www.skyfighters.be)

On another trip he met an itinerant salesman… another Spaniard who was selling hand-powered sewing machines to the women in the bush. How he carried the machines I do not know but he walked through the forest plying his trade. He told Dad that once he walked into a huge clearing and found a city in the middle of the jungle. The place had public transport and an opera house. The man had stumbled into Manaos.

This is the tale of Christian Zozaya’s disrupted early childhood as an expat. The Zozaya family later moved to Venezuela where Christian will eventually meet his wife and both become professors. But before that he will return to Europe and travel the continent. Thank you to Christian for letting us share these excerpts of your unusual life.

This memoir is so interesting we can only hope he decides to publish it so we may read it in its entirety.  (I am re-posting this  blog which was popular a few years ago – with minor edits.)  It seems to echo the experiences of refugees today.

 

 

 

A 7 yr. old Refugee to England 1938-1939 – EXPAT Files (continued excerpts from Christian Zozaya’s draft memoir, Culture Shock)

When we left off Christian Zozaya was 6 to 7 years old and his family had evacuated to Barcelona because of the Spanish Civil War. Nonetheless he narrowly missed being hit in a bombing raid that killed another school-mate.   As German troops marched into Austria, Mussolini’s Italians increased their bombing of the Spanish coast and Christian’s school was badly damaged.

1938…and that was the end of the school year for us. (Mother’s friend) Molly Stephenson wrote, “Put the boy on an airplane and I will pick him up at the airport in London.

Molly lived in a small rented flat in Paddington fit for a single woman and it had a sofa in the living room in front of the fireplace. If you pushed a hidden button in the back of the couch the back folded down and you had a bed for your guest(s.) Molly taught me what toothpaste was. I don’t remember how I brushed my teeth in Spain but toothpaste was a luxury not available during the Civil War. She pulled out a tube of Gibbs toothpaste and taught me to put a little bit of it on my toothbrush and then brush my teeth with the brush moving in circles.

Molly’s brother took us out in his car for a ride around the town… it was a two-door, four-seat (convertible) with doors cut out at the top so that they sloped down backwards sharply. It was either a Morgan 4/4 Roadster or a Lagonda Tourer. Although I had ridden in cars several times including that famous overnight trip to Valencia I had never seen turn indicators. They consisted of two arms hinged to the top of their respective housings that rested vertically on the hood (bonnet in English parlance) on either side of the windshield. When the driver flicked a lever on the steering wheel toward either side the corresponding arm would flick up.

Chris with Molly Stephensen in England

The Manor House School was in Little Bookham, a town near Leatherhead (where Molly’s parents lived). Molly spoke to the headmistresses and Miss Green and Miss Wheeler invited us to discuss our situation over tea. The tea was accompanied by canapés which are itty bitty little sandwiches. I complained to Mother, “¡Mamá, es que estos sandwiches son muy pequeños!”   I was still hungry from the Civil War.

As a result of our visit Miss Green and Miss Wheeler agreed to cut the school fees in half. Molly was a generous and caring woman. She knew that my parents couldn’t pay the remaining half of the fee so she paid it herself.

I was to be a boarder and I shared a room with a boy named David. When I realized that I was going to be left at the school and that Mum was going away I started crying. It broke Mother’s heart because for all she knew she (might) never see me again, but she was doing it for my own good. She and Molly saved me from some very miserable times that Mum and Dad had to go through. That night I was allowed to play with my toy speed boat in the bathtub.

I had precious little knowledge of the English language and my home room teacher known as “Jane” did her utter best to see to it that I learned it. (A. Z. Granville-Johnson aka Jane was a former girl.) Nobody at the school spoke Spanish…but thanks to her efforts and Molly’s coaching, I managed to acquire a good knowledge of the English language.

i

At breakfast I was introduced to such peregrine fare as herrings, and beans laced with sugar. I was also introduced during my meals to Marmite, a yeast extract with a very tangy taste. I believe it took the place of peanut butter in England.

Every Saturday the school lined up and we walked to Little Bookham. There was a store in the town where we could buy sweets and comic books. Molly gave me a weekly allowance of two pence; a comic book cost one penny and the other penny went for candy… this is where I first read of witch doctors and a plane which folded its wings and plunged into the sea to become a submarine. Nothing can beat science fiction

 

(His parents were able to visit 7 yr old Christian only once that year when his father attended an International Congress on Tropical Diseases in Amsterdam)… He and Mother were granted diplomatic passports. Many people in Spain thought that they would take advantage of the situation to leave the country but they’d always had a deeply ingrained sense of duty. They returned to wait for the final disaster.

On December 8th the school gave me a torch (i.e. flashlight) for my birthday; it had a red and a green filter that you could slide into place to change the color of the light. At supper time I found a cardboard castle from Molly.

At Christmas recess I spent a delightful vacation with Molly and Terry, the boy next door as my constant companions. Terry had all the accouterments to play cricket and he did his best to introduce me into the secrets of the game but I am afraid that I did not learn very much. My Christmas present was a pirate costume complete with eye-patch and wooden cutlass.

The Manor House School Magazine” was published in April, 1939. Everybody wrote an essay or a poem. I wrote about my situation as a war refugee… The situation was dire and it was obvious that the family would be forced to leave Spain.

In September my mother brought me to the Manor House School because there was a war in Spain.  I am still in the school because Franco has taken Barcelona and I have no chance to go back home.  My father is in Paris and my mother in Villa Pourcon.  My uncle, aunt, grandfather and grandmother are in Paris too.                                                                 Christian Zozaya (age 8) Form II.

… Like hundreds of thousands of others my family crossed the border into France; all they had with them were the clothes on their backs except for Father, who carried a packet of medical books in one hand and a violin in the other. Feeling extremely tired he pondered which one to drop. He figured that if the worst came to the worst he could always earn a few ‘sous’ by playing the violin. He dropped the books. For the moment I’ll spare you the details of their stay in an “internment” camp until they were taken in by some hospitable French people. At first only women and children were allowed to cross the border. ( CCM’s note:The couple was separated and endured more hardships before reuniting with Christian.)

unlabeled-photo-fr-hawaiian-libertarian-blogspot

Eventually all my family managed to cross the puddle…my grandparents and my uncle and aunt boarded a ship and went to Mexico. As they boarded the ship Lady Astor, who was the head of the British Committee for Aid to the Spanish Republican Refugees, helped my grandmother to cross the gangplank and board the ship.

sp-men-in-exile1

I am re-posting this “EXPAT File #7” For those of you who may not have seen it originally – it was very popular. Let me know if you are interested in me posting the next segment of Christian’s disrupted early childhood as an expat.arriving in Colombia circa 1940.

from Franco’s SPAIN to COLOMBIA

via from Franco’s SPAIN to COLOMBIA via England: EXPAT Files #6

I posted this about Christian Zozaya memoir in 2014, shortly after I started blogging.  At the time I had fewer followers; some have left but many others have joined the journey. I think it is such a fascinating story that I have decided to revisit it for those of you who may not have seen it. 

I met Christian Zozaya a few years ago online through my school, Colegio Nueva Granada’s (CNG), website. He read a chapter of my book and asked to read the whole thing even though it was not yet edited – much less published. To my surprise and delight he wrote back with helpful cultural comments and edited some grammatical mistakes he had found in the Spanish.

He is writing a memoir of his fascinating life. I have two posts from Prof. Zozaya, the introduction from the draft of his memoir, Culture Shock and the text he wrote to commemorate the 75th anniversary of CNG (he was one of the first students). At the recent reunion in Bogota I was very pleased to run into several of his classmates and hear stories about the old days (my parent’s generation and the earliest days of CNG).            Cinda

Culture Shock

Born in Madrid the son of intellectuals (my father was an M.D. and my mother a Licenciada en Filosofía y Letras – roughly equivalent to a Master in Arts) my life was expected to be that of a well educated Spaniard……It was going to be a nice, orderly, settled life but fate would not have it so.

The onsets of the Spanish Civil War, and afterwards of World War II were to change not only my life but that of millions of people. This book is about what it did to me and to a lot of kids who found their lives changed forever…

Click above for more and to see his photos from the early 40’s.

A 7 yr. old Refugee to England 1938-1939 – EXPAT Files # 7 (continued excerpts from Christian Zozaya’s draft memoir, Culture Shock)

When we left off Christian Zozaya was 6 to 7 years old and his family had evacuated to Barcelona because of the Spanish Civil War. Nonetheless he narrowly missed being hit in a bombing raid that killed another school-mate.   As German troops marched into Austria, Mussolini’s Italians increased their bombing of the Spanish coast and Christian’s school was badly damaged.

1938…and that was the end of the school year for us. (Mother’s friend) Molly Stephenson wrote, “Put the boy on an airplane and I will pick him up at the airport in London.”

Molly lived in a small rented flat in Paddington fit for a single woman and it had a sofa in the living room in front of the fireplace. If you pushed a hidden button in the back of the couch the back folded down and you had a bed for your guest(s.) Molly taught me what toothpaste was. I don’t remember how I brushed my teeth in Spain but toothpaste was a luxury not available during the Civil War. She pulled out a tube of Gibbs toothpaste and taught me to put a little bit of it on my toothbrush and then brush my teeth with the brush moving in circles.

Molly’s brother took us out in his car for a ride around the town… it was a two-door, four-seat (convertible) with doors cut out at the top so that they sloped down backwards sharply. I suspect it was either a Morgan 4/4 Roadster or a Lagonda Tourer. Although I had ridden in cars several times including that famous overnight trip to Valencia I had never seen turn indicators. They consisted of two arms hinged to the top of their respective housings that rested vertically on the hood (bonnet in English parlance) on either side of the windshield. When the driver flicked a lever on the steering wheel toward either side the corresponding arm would flick up.

 

w MOlly in ENgland

Chris with Molly in England

The Manor House School was in Little Bookham, a town near Leatherhead (where Molly’s parents lived). Molly spoke to the headmistresses and Miss Green and Miss Wheeler invited us to discuss our situation over tea. The tea was accompanied by canapés which are itty bitty little sandwiches. I complained to Mother, “¡Mamá, es que estos sandwiches son muy pequeños!”   I was still hungry from the Civil War.

As a result of our visit Miss Green and Miss Wheeler agreed to cut the school fees in half. Molly was a generous and caring woman. She knew that my parents couldn’t pay the remaining half of the fee so she paid it herself.

I was to be a boarder and I share a room with David Corroder. When I realized that I was going to be left at the school and that Mum was going away I started crying. It broke Mother’s heart because for all she knew she (might) never see me again but she was doing it for my own good. She and Molly saved me from some very miserable times that Mum and Dad had to go through. That night I was allowed to play with my toy speed boat in the bathtub.

I had precious little knowledge of the English language and my home room teacher known as “Jane” did her utter best to see to it that I learned it. (A. Z. Granville-Johnson aka Jane was a former girl.) Nobody at the school spoke Spanish…but thanks to (her) efforts and Molly’s coaching, I managed to acquire a good knowledge of the English language.

At breakfast I was introduced to such peregrine fare as herrings, and beans laced with sugar. I was also introduced during my meals to Marmite, a yeast extract with a very tangy taste. I believe it took the place in England of peanut butter in the United States.i

Every Saturday the school lined up and we walked to Little Bookham. There was a store in the town where we could buy sweets and comic books. Molly gave me a weekly allowance of two pence; a comic book cost one penny and the other penny went for candy… this is where I first read of witch doctors and a plane which folded its wings and plunged into the sea to become a submarine. Nothing can beat science fiction.Sci fiimages

(His parents were able to visit 7 yr old Christian once that year when his father attended an International Congress on Tropical Diseases in Amsterdam). He and Mother were granted diplomatic passports. Many people in Spain thought that they would take advantage of the situation to leave the country but they’d always had a deeply ingrained sense of duty. They returned to wait for the final disaster.

On December 8th the school gave me a torch (i.e. flashlight) for my birthday; it had a red and a green filter that you could slide into place to change the color of the light. At supper time I found a cardboard castle from Molly.

At Christmas recess I spent a delightful vacation with Molly and Terry, the boy next door as my constant companions. Terry had all the accouterments to play cricket and he did his best to introduce me into the secrets of the game but I am afraid that I did not learn very much. My Christmas present was a pirate costume complete with eye-patch and wooden cutlass.

“The Manor House School Magazine” was published in April, 1939. Everybody wrote an essay or a poem. I wrote about my situation as a war refugee… The situation was dire and it was obvious that the family would be forced to leave Spain.

In September my mother brought me to the Manor House School because there was a war in Spain.  I am still in the school because Franco has taken Barcelona and I have no chance to go back home.  My father is in Paris and my mother in Villa Pourcon.  My uncle, aunt, grandfather and grandmother are in Paris too.                                                                 Christian Zozaya (age 8) Form II.

… Like hundreds of thousands of others my family crossed the border into France; all they had with them was the clothes on their backs except for Father, who carried a packet of medical books in one hand and a violin in the other. Feeling extremely tired he pondered which one to drop. He figured that if the worst came to the worst he could always earn a few ‘sous’ by playing the violin. He dropped the books. For the moment I’ll spare you the details of their stay in an “internment” camp until they were taken in by some hospitable French people. At first only women and children were allowed to cross the border (They were separated and endured more hardships before reuniting with Christian.)

unlabeled photo fr  HAwaiian libertarian.blogspot

unlabeled photo of Spanish refugees (from Hawaiian libertarian.blogspot)

Eventually all my family managed to cross the puddle…my grandparents and my uncle and aunt boarded a ship and went to Mexico. As they boarded the ship Lady Astor, who was the head of the British Committee for Aid to the Spanish Republican Refugees, helped my grandmother to cross the gangplank and board the ship.

 

Sp men in exile

(Christian’s grandfather second from left)

Next month: the Zozaya family arrives in Colombia.

(Next week I am leaving for Europe and hopefully will have some pictures and stories to share. We start in Frankfurt and make our way to Budapest along the Danube River via Vienna.     Cinda)

The Spanish Civil War Begins: 1936: EXPAT Post #7

Christian Zozaya’s memories as a five year old boy.  (Continued from his draft memoir, Culture Shock.)

Madrid, Spain:  The year started as usual; the winter was cold and I was still going to (kindergarten) school (Institución Libre de Enseñanza (I.L.E.). This was a lay school that had been founded in 1876 by a group of liberal-minded professors who objected to the governmental policies on education.) The novelty was that I started taking piano lessons.

 

Christian's (Swedish ancestry on his mother side) blond hair stands out among his schoolmates.

Christian’s (Swedish ancestry on his mother side) blond hair stands out among his schoolmates at ILE.

The political situation in Spain was SNAFU… there’d been all sorts of strikes, disturbances and riots. The right was reasonably compact but the left, was split into several factions ranging from the moderate Republicans to the Socialists to the Communists and Anarchists. Although some of the strikes were of an economic nature most were politically motivated…

In the midst of this situation, of which I was totally unaware, I gave my first and only piano concert. My parents’ intimate friends were invited and sat in the living room as I proudly poked at the keyboard with one finger. And so matters stood until July 18th. …Life was never going to be the same again.

CZ w DadIt was a Saturday and Dad had taken me for a walk on the Sierra de Guadarrama, north of Madrid… We took a rail car in the morning, but before lunch Dad got restless that we should return to Madrid – a good decision because we caught the last train to the city. That day rebel troops under General Francisco Franco occupied Spanish Morocco and Sevilla. The generals misjudged the situation and their clean, surgical operation degenerated into a bloody civil war that was to last almost three years.

On the night of August 28th we heard a lone plane flying overhead. It was a biplane with tandem cockpits; the pilot was in one and the bombardier threw hand grenades over the edge of the second. We went downstairs and took refuge under the stairs. The rest of the neighbors stayed in their apartments and derided us. A few nights later the air raid sirens sounded again; now the raiders were not two fellows with hand grenades but a squadron of Italian SM79 trimotors and the bombs were for real.

The following morning we found a corpse in the empty lot across the street. The poor fellow was either a Fascist or suspected of being one. The scene was repeated several times. September rolled around and we went back to school. The killings continued. At age five I was well aware that all life had to end in death and somehow I wasn’t shocked.

On November 6th we abandoned Madrid for Valencia with the Republican government…via Alicante. The trip on the train was a classical trip in Spain. Every now and then somebody would shout, “¡Que viene un túnel!” and everybody would rush to shut the windows. The locomotives were steam driven and the cinders and ashes would cover everything and everyone unless you closed the windows while the car you were riding in was in the tunnel… Father found a car and driver in Alicante to take us to Valencia. We left at night with the headlights blued out and the bulbs removed from all the other lights.

Things got tough in Valencia. Food was hard to get even though it was rationed. I remember going one night from restaurant to restaurant trying to get something to eat. It’s the only time that I cried because I was hungry… Father spent a lot of time in the field. Although mother and I worried because he had to spend a lot of his time on the front lines there were advantages. Every time he was out on the countryside he would try to bring vegetables back home. It might be potatoes, or carrots, or once a huge cabbage.

Picasso's Guernica

Picasso’s Guernica

On April 26th 1937, the Condor Legion bombed Guernica. This was an experiment by the German Luftwaffe to find out what effect carpet bombing would have on a civilian population. (Thus) in May, 4,000 Basque children were evacuated.

Guernica after the bombing.( Photo: www.albavolunteer.org)

Guernica after the bombing.( Photo: http://www.albavolunteer.org)

On October 28th the Republican government moved from Valencia to Barcelona…Two Italian cruisers shelled Barcelona during December. Mother went out shopping and I was with Consuelo (the maid). I could hear the shells whistling as they passed over the city and the explosions as they hit the buildings. I was afraid and I started crying. Poor Consuelo didn’t know how to console me in spite of her name. I stopped crying when the women returned home. The sense of relief was enormous.

…food was still scarce and it was rationed very strictly. Because I was a child I was allowed one egg a week. One day Mother couldn’t stand the temptation; she made a one-egg omelet and split it between the three of us.…(there was) a female cat with a litter of kittens sheltering under a bush and one day the cat and its kittens disappeared mysteriously – someone probably ate them.

In December the Italian Air Force operating from Majorca started carrying out a series of air strikes against Republican ports especially Barcelona…The school, L’Ecole Française, was in downtown Barcelona and the air raids sometimes took place in the day-time. I was standing by a door watching some airplanes fly overhead. (My friend) Trini saw me and came to warn me.

“Please come inside,” she said. “They might be enemy planes and you’d be in the way of any shrapnel that might fly this way if they bombed the city.”    I answered, “They’re not enemy planes; the air raid sirens didn’t sound.”

Burnt out cars Barcelona 1936.

Burnt out cars Barcelona 1936.

 

Trini was firm. “You know very well that the air raid warning system hasn’t been working very well lately. Come inside.”         I did as she said and another boy took my place at the door. Two minutes later he was dead. Thank you ever so much for saving my life, Trini. I’ll never forget you or that day.

Next time: Christian is evacuated to England and separated from his parents.  Can you imagine what it must have been like for a child so young to deal with bombs,death and hunger?

Barcelona: Spanish civil war (photo from  www.english.illinois.edu)

Barcelona: Spanish civil war (photo from http://www.english.illinois.edu)

from Franco’s SPAIN to COLOMBIA via England: EXPAT Files #6

I met Christian Zozaya a few years ago online through my school, Colegio Nueva Granada’s (CNG), website. He read a chapter of my book and asked to read the whole thing even though it was not yet edited – much less published. To my surprise and delight he wrote back with helpful cultural comments and edited some grammatical mistakes he had found in the Spanish.

He is writing a memoir of his fascinating life. I have two posts from Prof. Zozaya, the introduction from the draft of his memoir, Culture Shock and the text he wrote to commemorate the 75th anniversary of CNG (he was one of the first students). At the recent reunion in Bogota I was very pleased to run into several of his classmates and hear stories about the old days (my parent’s generation and the earliest days of CNG).            Cinda

Christian's friends dancing the Sevillana

Christian’s friends dancing the Sevillana

      CULTURE SHOCK
Born in Madrid the son of intellectuals (my father was an M.D. and my mother a Licenciada en Filosofía y Letras – roughly equivalent to a Master in Arts) my life was expected to be that of a well educated Spaniard. I would go to the Institución Libre de Enseñanza (a liberal school); college would be followed by graduate studies with a scholarship from the Junta de Ampliación de Estudios. Eventually I would be a respected professional living a life of comfort with the occasional trip abroad. I would probably speak, apart from my native Spanish, French and possibly have a good knowledge of the Germanic languages. It was going to be a nice, orderly, settled life but fate would not have it so.

The onsets of the Spanish Civil War, and afterwards of World War II were to change not only my life but that of millions of people. This book is about what it did to me and to a lot of kids who found their lives changed forever…

The Spanish Civil War broke out on July 18, 1936 and the government moved in November, first to Valencia and then to Barcelona. My family all tagged along. My grand-parents went because Antonio was a prime candidate for a firing squad given his Republican antecedents 1., and my parents because father worked for the government as head of the civilian anti-malaria campaign….

…in the spring of 1939 I was in England where my parents had sent me. Like hundreds of thousands of others…. (… to be continued)

1. Cinda’s note: Christian’s grandfather, Antonio Zozaya, was a columnist for liberal newspapers in Madrid.

~~~~

Slide3

Riding through a cafetal on horseback.

     

Reflections on the Earliest Years of Colegio Nueva Granada in Bogota (I attended from 1939- 1946)

I went to Colombia after having spent a year in England while my parents stayed in Spain to the bitter end of the Spanish Civil War. My parents did not want me to forget the English that I had learned during my stay in England so they enrolled me in the Anglo-American School in Bogota.

The school was backed by the oil companies. Exploration was intense in the Magdalena River valley and the companies had hopes of finding a second Lake Maracaibo. Their employees came to Colombia with contracts for several years. This was too long a time to keep a family apart or to interrupt the kids’ education. The solution? The Anglo-American School.

Slide2

I bore the school flag for the Independence Day parade.

The school changed its name from The Anglo-American School to Colegio Nueva Granada during his period. The Colombian government had declared a state of neutrality during WW II and all the international schools had to adopt names that did not reflect nationalities. Le Lycée Français had to change its name as well; I think it became l’Institut Pasteur.

With time Colombia changed its neutral stance against the Axis powers. When the school moved into a building previously occupied by the German Club, the occupants vacated it in such a hurry that they left a photograph of Der Füehrer hanging on the wall. Eventually there was another move, to the former Japanese Embassy. It was on Carrera 3 and Calle 75, a steep climb from the end of the tram line to the gate. That’s when the school bought its first bus.

Although the principals were professional educators the faculty was made up to a great extent of the children’s mothers. One of the teachers was an English lady who had her ship torpedoed under her by a German submarine as she was crossing the Atlantic from East to West. Mrs. van Schjeik, a Dutch lady, spoke excellent French and she taught us during the first year. Mr. Righthouse, a South African lawyer (we all suspected he was working for MI6 – British Intelligence) taught us a second year of French as well as algebra and geometry. Whether professional educators or not they were all excellent teachers with a full grasp of the subjects that they taught.

Slide4

With fellow Spanish emigres in the mountains. (Christian is on the left).

In 1947 my family moved to Venezuela. In the ensuing years I had several encounters with people from the old days in Bogota. Fast forward to today. My wife and I are retired university professors and we live in Venezuela and Baton Rouge.

Christian Zozaya

Cinda:   Time will tell if Christian is able to live out a peaceful retirement in Venezuela. I find his story fascinating and urge him to keep working on Culture Shock.                                                                                                                    Want to read more of his disrupted life after Franco and Hitler came to power?