Spanish Civil War Evacuees To Honour Welsh Fighters At Museum

By Graham Spicer | 28 August 2007
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photo of three elderly ladies with arms around each other

(l to r) Mila Gilbert, Fita Thomas and Pilar Murga (nee Rodriguez), who were evacuated to Britain in 1937. Photo courtesy Rhondda Cynon Taf

Three sisters who were evacuated from the Basque Country to Britain during the Spanish Civil War are to help open a new exhibition at Rhondda Heritage Park marking the 70th anniversary of the conflict.

The Rodriguez sisters, Pilar, Mila and Fita, were evacuated in 1937 along with all children who lived near Guernica in the Basque Country after the city had been heavily bombed by German planes in league with General Franco’s nationalist forces.

They were among several thousand Basque refugees to arrive in Britain and, although at the time thought they would only be gone for three months, never returned home, and now live in Wales.

“We thought we were going on holiday and would go home but we never did,” said Pilar, now aged 80. “Our mother and a six-month old sister fled to France and we were reunited ten years later.”

black and white photo of three teenage girls

The Rodriguez sisters as teenagers. Photo courtesy Rhondda Cynon Taf

“It was heartbreaking, of course, but we were all in the same situation and you just have to make the best of it.”

Now the sisters will pay tribute to their friends and family who were left behind in Spain and to the many Welshmen who travelled to Spain to fight against Franco in the International Brigades, many of whom never survived.

“We are all looking forward to coming to Rhondda Heritage Park for this special occasion,” said Pilar. “We may not be here for the 80th anniversary and it’s important people do not forget the sacrifices that were made all those years ago.”

The exhibition, Wise and Foolish Dreamers, opens on October 2 and runs until November 4 2007.

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