for the Spain they believed to be better: in La Vajol
According to the website of the Museu Memorial de l’Exili "on 26 January 1939 the rebel troops of General Franco occupied Barcelona. The Spanish Civil War had practically come to an end and the victory of the rebel army was imminent. However, for all those who had fought on the side of the democratic legality that the Republic embodied, a period marked by repression and silence was beginning. In order to avoid this situation, thousands of citizens – both soldiers and civilians (men, women and children) – had to flee and leave behind their work, home and family.
It is estimated that between late January and early February 1939 some 350,000 people fled to France through El Pertús, Portbou and other parts of the district of Alt Empordà. If we add the rest of the citizens who crossed the border using routes in the districts of La Cerdanya and El Ripollès, the number of people who went into exile reaches almost half a million. Once they had crossed the border, a journey marked by uncertainty, cold, hunger, fear and death began.
Owing to the measures taken by the French government, which basically consisted of internment in unsafe concentration camps that did not provide the most basic habitation or health conditions, despair and frustration overwhelmed the Catalan and Spanish refugees. It was not long before half of them returned to Franco’s New Spain.
Those who remained in exile – some 200,000 – suffered the effects of the Second World War and, in some cases, even deportation to the Nazis’ camps. In the end, the majority of the exiled Republicans established themselves in France and also, to a lesser extent, in the Soviet Union and other European countries. However, some significant groups ended up in various countries of America."
A monument dedicated to those exiled to France is located in the Catalan village of La Vajol. This monument, made by the artists Lola Reyes and Joan Garcia-Codina and inaugurated in 2000, is inspired by a photo taken by the photographer Roger Viollet and published on 18th February 1939 on the newspaper L’Illustration.
The family that appears in this photo is the Gracia Bamala family. On the foreground the father, Mariano Gracia, with Alicia, his 6-year old daughter who lost a leg because of a bombing. On the second term, the two other children: the younger one Amadeo Gracia,
without a foot and the older one, Antonio. Of the three brothers, this was the only one who came out unharmed from the bombing they lived when they lived in Montsó, Huesca. Due to this bombing on 20th November 1937, their mother died, and Alicia and Amadeo were mutilated. This image was taken in early February 1939: The family had crossed the border on foot from Camprodon, had passed through the Coll d’ Ares and they were arriving in Prats de Molló.
The documentaries El petit Amadeo directed by Dani Freixas in 2008 and Éste, el de la foto soy yo directed by Cuini Amelio Ortiz in 2004, whose main character is Amadeo Gracia, offer accurate information about their exile and la Retirada.