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The University of Southampton

Oral history features in animated film about child refugees of Spanish Civil War

Published: 27 September 2012

Recordings of refugees speaking about their memories of being evacuated to England as children during the Spanish Civil War feature in a new animated film. The recordings made by the University of Southampton’s Dr Alicia Pozo-Gutierrez’s team of volunteers help illustrate the emotions and experiences of 4,000 Basque children who fled to Southampton in 1937.

Alicia, who is a Modern Languages lecturer at the University, says: “The children of 1937 are now in their 80s and 90s and the oral histories were intended as a record of their experiences for future generations. To have some feature in a film in this way takes this one step further, bringing their memories to life, while adding authenticity and power to the animation.”

The child refugees, or niños, sailed on the ship SS Habana from Bilbao to Southampton to escape bombing in the Basque town of Guernica. On arrival, they were housed just outside Southampton in a huge make-shift camp at North Stoneham near Eastleigh, before eventually being sheltered in orphanages or hosted by English families.

The Spanish children were looked after at a camp in North Stoneham near Eastleigh
Refugees at Eastleigh camp

The film ‘To Say Goodbye’ tells of the emotional impact of the evacuation on the refugees – the loss of childhood, the hurried separation from their parents and how families were torn apart by a brutal conflict.

The film’s Producer Izaskun Arandia comments: “I was writing a film script about the Basque evacuee children of 1937 and while looking for information I came across Dr Alicia Pozo-Gutierrez’s research. The interviews recorded in her project moved me so much that I knew there and then that the children’s voices needed to be included in the film – they had to tell their own story.”

Most of the children returned to Spain after the civil war, but some remained, having lost their families in the conflict, or were prevented from returning when the Second World War began. The film concentrates on the experiences of fourteen of the 250 who never went back to Spain.

‘To Say Goodbye’ is produced by IZAR Films and Rec Grabaketa Estudioa and is directed by Matt Richards. It has been selected for the 60th San Sebastian International Film Festival, where it will have its world premiere on 28 September 2012, participating in the Zinemira section and competing for the Serbitzu Award.

In May 2012, the University of Southampton hosted the Basque Children of '37 Association’s 75th Anniversary Reunion and held a symposium examining the story of the children as told through documentary film. A special exhibition by Modern Languages and Special Collections at the University was also held in the Hartley Library.

Modern languages

Alicia Pozo-Gutierrez

To Say Goodbye

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