In late January/early February 1939 nearly half a million Spanish civilians and soldiers fled to France. The word Retirada (Spanish for Retreat) was adopted by historians to signify this exodus, which was the biggest single influx of refugees ever known in France.
The former ‘Maison Mazard’ in Le Soler, now destroyed, was a safe house for Dutch refugees, Jews and resistance members fleeing the nazis in the 1930s.
During the Retirada, Spanish Republicans fleeing the Franco regime poured over the border into the P-O. But it wasn’t just people, many important pieces of artwork joined the exodus.
The shameful camps, over crowded, in-humane, crammed to overflowing with desperate Republicans escaping Franco’s Spain seem an unlikely place for art to flourish. But artists were there as can be seen in the Museum in La Jonquera. And they did not go un-noticed in Perpignan either.
1939 was a difficult year for France. Not only did it experience the indignity of an invasion on its North East border from Hitler’s hordes late in the year, the country suffered a very different incursion in its far South-West in the early months of the year.
la Jonquera Exile Memorial Museum (MUME), an immaculately kept and poignant reminder of the Retirada, a place for ‘memory, history and critical reflexion’.
The Pat Line was named after the man who got it up and running as a reliable escape route for as many as 600 escapers and evader
Perpignan has been elected ‘Capital de la Sardana 2019’ as the official dance of Catalonia is elevated to the rank of art.
A “Lest we Forget” drive around the Pyrenees Orientales can be the moment to visit or revisit some of the villages and enjoy the autumn colours whilst taking in some of the fascinating War and anti war Memorials.
The poppy is a powerful and iconic symbol of remembrance in England, but did you know that the French have an equivalent, ‘Le Bleuet de France’, their own poignant reminder of the First World War?