An unpublished collection of letters reveals the hidden landscapes of the Spanish republican exile in France

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the European Observatory of Memories of the Fundació Solidaritat UB presents the multimedia installation “Franchises Postales”, by filmmaker Carolina Astudillo. The production aims to make visible the results of the research project Letters from Spanish Republicans Refugees and Exiles in France (Carexil), promoted by the Paris 8 University and the National Archives of France. The event will take place on March 7 and will begin with an itinerant dance performance created by choreographer Katarina Rampackova.

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Barcelona, March 6, 2024 – As part of the International Women’s Day activities in Barcelona, the European Observatory of Memories of the Fundació Solidaritat UB proposes to reflect on the resistance and resilience of republican women in exile and in Franco’s prisons. It will do so with an activity of memory, art and activism in which the choreographer Katarina Rampackova, the activist Anna Maria Batalla, the filmmaker Carolina Astudillo and the researcher Marta López Izquierdo, from the Paris 8 University, will take part. The meeting will take place at the Center Civic Tomasa Cuevas (Les Corts, Barcelona) on Thursday 7 March at 6pm. Space is limited and prior registration is recommended using this form.

In the first act, Katarina Rampackova and activist Anna Maria Batalla will perform a unique traveling dance performance. The itinerant dance action was created especially for the occasion and is based on the prison-to-prison correspondence between Anna Solà Sardans and Josep Batalla Salvat, Anna Maria’s mother and father.

In the second act, filmmaker Carolina Astudillo and linguist Marta López Izquierdo will present the multimedia installation Franchises Postales. This production by Isolda Films has the collaboration of EUROM and aims to disseminate the results of the research project Letters from Spanish Republicans Refugees and Exiles in France (Carexil), promoted by the University Paris 8 and the National Archives of France. Written mostly by women and previously unpublished, the correspondence dates from February 1939, coinciding with La Retirada, when approximately 500,000 people left Spanish territory fleeing the Francoist army, until the summer of 1940.

The locations chosen for the production are marked by the past presence of Spanish refugee camps that have mostly disappeared physically or are literally hidden in wooded areas and even underwater. The focus of the installation is to highlight the connection between these contemporary landscapes and the letters written by Spanish refugee women during a crucial period in European history.

Prioritizing lesser-known fields, where no visible tracks remain, adds a layer of mystery and rediscovery to the experience. These places, in themselves, become part of the narrative, since the reading of the letters that will be done in these environments reactivates the past and makes it present through the voices of another generation.

A crucial part of the production involves the search for witnesses, mainly Spanish refugees who lived the experience of concentration camps during their childhood or who are sons and daughters of survivors of these places. The inhabitants of the French villages where the refugees arrived also share their testimonies, which will further enrich the understanding of historical events and human interactions in this context.

About the Carexil research

The Carexil project began in 2019, promoted by the Laboratory of Romanesque Studies of the Paris 8 University, by the subject of Romanesque Studies at the University of Nanterre, by the National Archives in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, and by the Paris Lumière University. It is coordinated by Marta López Izquierdo and its historical manager is Mercedes Yusta Rodrigo, both from the Paris 8 Vincennes Saint-Dennis University. Filmmaker Carolina Astudillo is also part of the research team.

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