Guest Speakers: Spanish Civil War Refugees

In the 1930s, a turbulent Spain finally declined into the civil war that had been brewing since their loss in the Spanish-American War. In 1937, two girls were sent out of the country on a French cargo ship to the USSR, along with hundreds of others. Their names were Araceli and Angelina Ruiz.

There, they were moved around the country as the Second World War broke out. Although separated, the two sisters retained their strong patriotism. Some 20 years later, Angelina managed to return to Spain. For her sister, it would be 43 years before she even left the USSR.

However, Araceli was destined for other, bigger things. When the USSR went to Cuba during the Cold War to place nuclear missiles there, Araceli went with them to work as a translator, in 1960. There, she was present to translate the talks between the Russians and Cubans, living with her husband and daughter in the outskirts of Havana.

The excitement wasn’t over for her. During her time in Cuba, she met the legendary Che Guevara. He was an Argentinian Marxist, who was killed in Bolivia after travelling there from Cuba. Guevara had travelled across South America and seen great suffering and tragedy across the continent, leading to his hate of capitalist regimes. In Cuba, he fought to throw off American influence and was vital in the organisation of the missiles coming to Cuba. Araceli told us about how inspirational a man he was, and how it was an honour to have met him.

Despite being refugees from the ages of 13 and 5, these sisters have lead incredible lives. They survived one of the most brutal wars in human history, being evacuated from cities such as Leningrad as they were bombarded by the Nazis. Even though they were kicked out of their country by Franco, they consider themselves Spanish, through and through. Truly inspirational characters, these sisters are pushing for us to accept the refugees coming to Europe, even if we can only accept children. They were accepted by the USSR with open arms and were raised by a foster country. Why can’t we do that for the Syrian Refugees as well?


A massive thank you to Cristina Costa for translating everything!