Three months turned into a lifetime.
When the Spanish Civil war started, every one thought it would not last for more than three months. In the North of the Country, many parents sent their children abroad to avoid them the horrors. “It will only be for three months”, they said as they waved their children at the port, “see you in three months time”.
The war lasted for three years. But some of those children never saw their parents again. They had either been killed, or jailed, or were too broken to be able to bring up their children. Repression played a role too.
Rosa, and her daughter Rosi, were a bit luckier. Rosa could make the journey with her daughter, in her role of minder of a group of children that escaped the war to the UK. When it was clear that the Republic had lost the war, she decided to stay there with her daughter and try to make a living in London.
“It was extremely difficult at the beginning”, she sais. “I did not speak a word of English, the same as Rosi, my daughter. Although she did learn it a lot faster than me, because he was only seven and children learn languages better”.
She still has a thick Spanish accent, and she thinks in Spanish then translates every word to English. Rosi, however, has adopted the language, and now speaks Spanish with an accent. Basque pictures all over the house remind the visitor of their nationality, and they keep up to date with their birth land wathchin the International Channel.
“Then the other war came” continues Rosa. “this time I had to send Rosi away, with a family in the North of England. She was ok with them, she learnt English well, she was safe… but I missed her so much.”
When the Second World War finished, mother and daughter reunited. Rosa got a job in a London factory. She had learnt how to make shoes back in Spain, from his socialist father. “I earned a lot less than the men. I complained and they said it was fair because they had to maintain a family. But what about me? I had a daughter to maintain too! They were very unfair to me, in that and in more things too”.
Basques are well known for their good eating. Rosa had learnt how to cook delicious food with not too many ingredients, and when she ate her lunch at the factory the other women took notice: “i knew they were mourmouring about me and my food, things like ‘oh this bloody foreigner, how well she eats’. But I didn’t know enough English to reply to them. I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t. It was very frustrating”.
She has since prospered and lives in a detached house in Finchley. She says she has adapted to the English manners and that she drinks tea at 5 -which she does. But she also misses Spain so much, she spends there three months a year, in the North, from where she had to escape.