Hunt on to find lost Spanish 'war kids' in Chile

7th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

7 September 2005, SANTIAGO — Madrid is searching for the children who were sent abroad during the Spanish Civil War to tell them they can claim a pension in their own country.

7 September 2005

SANTIAGO — Madrid is searching for the children who were sent abroad during the Spanish Civil War to tell them they can claim a pension in their own country.

Though by now they are all well over 70, Spaniards who as children were sent abroad to spare them the suffering of their nation's 1936-39 conflict are still referred to as "war kids".

To spare them the dangers of the war, about 100,000 children were evacuated from Spain.

Some of them left alone, others along with their families, in an epic flight that until recently was one of the almost forgotten elements of the Spanish conflict.

Most of the children were sent to Russia, but many went to Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, Belgium, France and Britain, among other countries, where they restarted their lives, eventually married and had children of their own.

In June, 66 years after the war ended, the Spanish parliament brought the exodus back from obscurity and approved, with the votes of all political sectors, a law to provide special pensions to the now-elderly evacuees that the war drove from their homeland.

The exiles, whose ages vary roughly from 70 to 80, will receive a special pension of some USD 8,000 a year if they have an annual income lower than that figure.

About 200 children went to Chile, mainly settling in Santiago, although a number of them were dispersed throughout the provinces, a fact that makes the task of locating them now all the more difficult.

Some of the children arrived on the famous ship Winnipeg, on which the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda transported to his country more than 2,000 Spanish Republicans.

The difficult task of finding the war children, registering them and delivering the pensions to them has been in the hands of the Spanish Embassy in Chile.

The labour advisor at the Spanish embassy, Francisco de Diego, said that in the past month he had received between 50 and 60 requests for pension eligibility and that 110 of the evacuees in the South American country had been located already.

The task of verifying that individuals are, in fact, pension beneficiaries has been difficult because many of them do not have papers pertaining to their exit from Spain or their entry into Chile.

However, those who are tentatively identified as evacuees may present witnesses - either other Spaniards or Chilean citizens - to corroborate their claims of Spanish origin.

The aim is to make sure that everyone who is entitled to it receives the historic pension.

"This was really a forgotten group," said De Diego, adding that "now they have to be compensated for the harm they suffered when they were children during the war, for the breakdown of history that snatched from them the right to live in their homeland."

"This law is the first step toward fully integrating these people, making them feel that Spain has changed, that it is something else (now) and that they are an integral part of that Spain," De Diego emphasized.

During the Spanish Civil War, 33,000 children were evacuated alone from the country, and the exodus in early 1939 added another 70,000 children who left the country with their families, according to official Spanish figures.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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