Between 1936 and 1938 volunteers from 53 countries around the world went to Spain to support the Republican government, fight the fascist insurgents and stand up for democracy. Many made their way to Spain from France by climbing the Pyrenees at night, using the smugglers’ paths to avoid the border patrols.
On the 3rd June 2012 a group with members from Britain, Ireland, USA, Puerto Rico, Spain, Holland and Germany retraced the volunteers’ journey over the Pyrenees from France into Spain. Ceremonies were held at Las Illas and at the Coll de Lli where the volunteers crossed over the border into Spain.
Throughout the day members of the walking group gave readings from the memoirs and poems of the Brigaders.
A ceremony was held at the Lluis Companys memorial at Coll de Manrella, with speeches by: Narcís Ventura, Town Council of Agullana; Dolors Manzanera, Mayor of La Vajol; Sònia Martinez,Mayor of La Jonquera; Josep-Lluis Fernandez, President of the “Comisió Actes Lluis Companys; and Pauline Fraser IBMT.
A plaque was presented to the IBMT which was re-presented to Brigader David Loman in London at the annual IBMT commemoration on 7th July 2012.
The walkers visited La Camelia community centre in Vajol and, in the continuing downpour, saw the monument to the Exiles, based on the famous photograph of a crippled girl and her father.
The next day, Monday 4th June 2012, the walkers assembled at the International Brigades memorial at St Ferran (St Ferdinand) Castle in Figueres. There were speeches, and wreaths were laid by Jordi Palou, Director del Memorial Democratic de la Generalitat de Catalunya, Santi Vila, Mayor of Figueres and Pauline Fraser for the IBMT.
Joanjo Bosk sang ‘Ay Carmela’ an old folk tune from the Napoleanic wars, which, with new words, became an ‘anthem’ for the Republicans during the Civil War. It was also sung by the International Brigades both in Spanish and in an version called ‘Viva La Quince Brigada'(‘The Fifteen Brigade’). Joanjo’s own composition ‘Cançó per Elna’ (‘A Song for Elne’) accompanies the credits. Elne is a Swiss maternity hospital in the small French village of Elne where many Spanish refugee women gave birth far away from home and away from their homeland. The song is dedicated to Elisabeth Eidenbenz for her humanitarian work in the hospital between 1939 – 1944.
Organised by the IBMT and dedicated to the memory of International Brigaders Jack Jones, Jack Edwards and Bob Doyle; and to Maggie Comley who did so much to organise the first Pyrenees Commemorative Walk in 2006.
The first Pyrenees Commemorative Walk took place on 15th April 2006 the day after the anniversary on the 14th April of the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic. The memorial was unveiled the next day, Sunday 16 April 2006, by Jack Jones, on behalf of the IBMT and Maria Jesus Bono, of Memorial Democratic and dedicated in a ceremony at Sant Ferran (Saint Ferdinand) with speeches and singing.
The walkers also visited MUME, the Museum of the Exiles, in La Jonquera. Half a million Spanish people were forced into exile by the insurgent advance and the Franco regime; many crossed, in reverse direction, by the routes taken by the Brigaders over the Pyrenees. The group was addressed by Jordi Font Agulló, Director of MUME and Margaret Townsend, who also provided translations for all the ceremonies. For further information about The Museum of the Exiles, the MUME website is http://www.museuexili.cat/
The Pyreness Walk 2012 was organised on behalf of the IBMT and led by Pauline Fraser.
The film was made by Marshall Mateer.
Apology and Amendment One of the rolling subtitles in the film incorrectly states that MUME, The Museum of the Exiles, is in La Vajol; it is of course, as given in the film credits, in La Jonquera. Apologies to friends in both towns.