Caerleon brings together Basque children exiled from the war in 1937

The town in Wales commemorates the 85th anniversary of that act of solidarity with different events.

The Spanish Civil War altered the lives of a whole generation of children for life. Many were forced into exile. Almost 4,000 Basque children became refugees in Great Britain. This Friday and Saturday, the French town of Caerleon is bringing together children who fled the war in 1937. In the same town where a refugee camp for Basque children was set up, a programme of activities is being held to commemorate the 85th anniversary of that act of solidarity.

Everything is part of the programme organised throughout this year by the Basque Children of 37 Association to commemorate the 85th anniversary of the bombing of Gernika and the evacuation of 4,000 Basque children to Great Britain. On both days, an exhibition will be held at the Priory Hotel in this town located eight kilometres from Newport, where books, DVDs, badges, posters, etc. will also be on sale. In the National Roman Legion Museum, Eddie Butler’s documentary Wales and the Basque Refugees: The Children’s Stories will be shown every hour. Folklore also has its place these days with performances by Kezka Dantza Taldea, Irantzu Garamendi and Asier Berrojalbiz, who will be performing as part of the Tredegar House Folk festival.

In her speech, the Secretary General for External Action of the Basque Government, Marian Elorza, recalled the medieval wool trade between the Basque and Welsh coasts, the navigation between them in the 19th century that brought the mines and steelworks of both countries into contact and the role of the British Consulate in Bilbao in the evacuation of 1937. The Basque Executive wanted to accompany the descendants of those boys and girls and the Welsh authorities on this commemorative date. “It is an act to remember the experiences of those children, whose childhood was cut short by a war”, he said.

Among the events planned, football is also taking centre stage. On both Friday and Saturday, primary school matches have been played in the Caerleon AFC grounds. There are also debates, panel discussions and talks including From Euskadi to Symru by Chris Thomas, Carmen Kilner, Adrian Bell, Hywel Davies and Gail Giles. This Sunday another event will be held by Gail Giles, Christopher Evans, Ed Packard and Eddie Butler.

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