Granddaughter of a Spanish Republican, it was important to me to keep the memory of this exile known as La Retirada alive. I invite you to follow me to dive into history and discover places of passage during a hike organized by our team.
With my colleagues Bernadine and Babeth, we have set up several “memory hikes” on the theme of Exile, including the one that took place on August 16 between Port-Bou and Cerbère:
“La Retirada and the paths of exile”
In the footsteps of exiles...
We had arranged to meet the hikers at the Cerbère station for a departure by train to the neighboring village of Port-Bou in southern Catalonia.
This village was a place of passage for the Spanish Republican exiles from 1939 to 1945 but also for the Jews fleeing Nazism and the French joining the troops of Free France.
Before starting the hike, the municipality of Port-Bou was waiting for us with churros and coffee on the seafront where other hikers joined us. We are now ready to start our visit towards the Col des Balitres. We follow the GR92 to reach the Retirada Memorial located at the border.
A moment full of emotions...
After visiting the place we discussed this episode of the end of the Spanish Civil War and some of us related different stories of our respective families.
The debate continued on current events where exile unfortunately still holds a large place. The border of the Col des Balitres and the villages of Port-Bou and Cerbère are still witnesses to the passage of exiles 83 years later...
We started our hike again along the coastal path to go down to Cerbère. Breathtaking landscapes allowed us to somewhat forget the sadness of the words mentioned at Col.
On arrival in Cerbère, an aperitif offered by the municipality was waiting for us. This allowed us to exchange a few addresses and get feedback from our hikers, all happy to have discovered beautiful landscapes and a little-known story.
A story of friendship...
To close the day on this theme, the screening of the film “Josep” took place on the Place de la République in the evening, with the presence of Georges BARTOLI, Josep's nephew, anti-Franco fighter and exceptional artist.
A very emotional day
Personally, I fulfilled a promise I had made to myself by sharing the stories of my grandfather, and by bringing to life the memory of those hundreds of thousands of refugees thrown on the bombed roads, in the cold of that winter of 1939. and ending up in internment camps in France with terrible living conditions.
Little icing on the cake, during these guided hikes we meet people (adults and schoolchildren) who are very interested and who are often surprised to learn about this rather dark and unknown part of our common history.
Many thanks also to Alain Canovas for his support and help in our research.
Let's not forget that exile is more topical than ever and let's stay united!