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?Viva Franco? MAG
Spain is a beautiful country in southwest Europe withrolling hills and vineyards. But in 1936, when dictator Francisco Francogained power, the country suffered three years of civil war.
Asmy Encarta encyclopedia describes this period: "During the years ofensuing civil war, Franco proved an unimaginative but careful andcompetent leader, whose forces advanced slowly but steadily to completevictory on April 1, 1939. The war was bloody, with numerous atrocitieson both sides."
My great-grandmother, 91-year-old Spanish nativeJulia Gonzalez-Ortega, was 26 with two children under the age of twowhen the fighting broke out. Her husband worked at a car company.
"My family and I were vacationing in the mountains," shesaid. "We went by the train station, and a man was there. When wewere getting close to the train the man yelled, 'Stop! Don't go anyfurther! Go back home. A war has been proclaimed tonight.' Then we wentto the village and people were running around with guns yelling, 'War!War!'"
The country was split in two, one side fighting for theRepublicans and the other for Franco. Since Julia and her family were inthe north, they were automatically on the Republican side whether theyliked it or not.
"The Republicans came to my husband's bossand told him to hand over all the company's cars. When the boss refused,they told him they would kill him if he didn't. They took the cars touse as ambulances. Since few people knew how to drive, my husband had todrive an ambulance. His boss had him use his best car so he could get itback after the war.
"Tragically, he never got any carsback. When the boss was sleeping one night, the Republicans came andcaptured him, pajamas and all, because they wanted him to make some sortof declaration since he was a pretty powerful man. No one ever saw himagain."
There were bloody atrocities, too. "I wentshopping with my friends to try and get some necessities, and a trainwent by overflowing with potatoes and dead bodies," Julia recalled.Everything in Madrid was closed, and there was nothing to eat. She waslucky because her mother owned a bread store. The whole family movedinto the store; the only way they could survive was to eat the bread andbarter for other food.
"We had to go to bed half-dressedbecause there were always airplanes ready to drop bombs," Julia said."When the sirens went off, we had to run outside and hideunderground. I never really understood this, because by the time theypulled the siren it was usually too late. My sister got so sick andtired of doing this that when the sirens kept going off she said,'Forget that! I'm not going anywhere.' She pulled a mattress over herhead and said, 'I don't care what happens anymore.'"
Thepolitics of the war were awful. The country was split in half, and if afamily from the north had a son on vacation in the south when the warstarted, he had to fight for Franco instead of going home and fightingfor the Republicans with his family. Father and son were fightingagainst each other on the front; they'd yell across the thin red lineand tell the other side they wanted to talk. Then everyone would stopand let them hug and talk for a few minutes, but then they had to goback and fight each other. If they didn't, other soldiers would killthem.
"My husband, all the brothers, my father, all the menin my family, were fighting on the front line," Julia said. "Everyso often we had to go to the city hall and check the list of those who'ddied to make sure no one in our family had. We were sure a guardianangel was watching over us because nobody in my family was killed thewhole three years they fought."
Franco was eventually victorious.When asked if she was glad he won, Julia replied, "At that point,nobody really cared, as long as it was just over." With deep sorrow inher eyes, she added softly, "I'd rather die than be in anotherwar."
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