“I hope the memory lives on”: the girl in the box of threads returns to Elna’s Maternity Hospital

The author, Remei Oliva, and the Minister of Justice in Elna. | XAVIER PI / ACN

Remei Oliva is the last living mother of all those who gave birth at Elna Maternity Hospital. At the age of 102, he returned yesterday for the presentation of the Catalan edition of his memoirs. The girl in the box of threads traces the exile she lived when, in the winter of 1939 at the age of 20, she had to leave her house behind in Badalona and closed the doors to her life as a seamstress to flee to France. .

Her memoirs trace the fifteen months she spent in the camps of Algiers and Sant Cebrià, the birth of her first child (Rubén) in the Swiss Maternity Hospital in Elna and the difficult integration into a France immersed in the Second World War. “I hope the memory lives on,” Oliva said of the book during the ceremony at the Maternity Hospital, “and never forget the barbarity of war and exile.”

El llibre es va publicar per primer cop en francès el 1988. Fa 16 anys va sortir en castellà i ara n’ha arribat la traducció al català. It has been published in the Memories collection published by the Democratic Memorial.

Oliva recalled that who drove her to write was one of her young women. To sort the memory, pencil sentences were written down and then structured chronologically. “Because I kept everything in my memory I was able to write it down as it was,” he said during the presentation. Oliva was grateful for what Elna’s Motherhood meant to all those who lived in concentration camps. With Elisabeth Eidenbenz (who helped give birth to 597 children), he corresponded there and later found her. “She deserves it all,” he said.

Symbol of “all women”

The Minister of Justice, Lourdes Ciuró, stressed that Oliva’s story is a “very valuable testimony”, a symbol of the courage and dignity of exiled Republican women. “It gives us a clear picture of all the women victims of that forced exile, often too forgotten,” she said. “Her feminine perspective gives a qualitative value to her testimony,” said the counselor, adding: “She tells us about life in the refugee camps, about the girls who had children, about the absence of the children’s father.” of families, diseases and pests. Of how everyone struggled internally to survive in subhuman conditions and how, despite adversity, life was making its way.

Ciuró stressed that Oliva’s memoirs are “history in capital letters”, which “must be told to our young people so that they are aware of how fascism trampled on the human rights of several generations”. “And be aware of preserving individual, collective rights and democracy; because what the victims of the Civil War experienced, unfortunately, reappears today in other places, with the same objectives of spreading hatred, inequality and social insolidarity “, he concluded.

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