Vol. XXXIX, No. 4
December 2022 Building Peace in Bosnia p 11 A New Civil War Museum p 13 Garibaldi’s Mixed Legacy p 20 Teresita, la Cubana An Intersex Soldier in the IB
images: The IB Hospital in Denia; “Crónica” magazine featuring Josefina Díaz
FOUNDED IN 1937 BY THE VOLUNTEERS OF THE LINCOLN BRIGADE. PUBLISHED BY THE
ABRAHAM LINCOLN BRIGADE ARCHIVES (ALBA)
Founded by the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade
239 W. 14th Street, Suite 2 New York, NY 10011 (212) 674-5398 www.alba-valb.org
Editor Print Edition
Peter N. Carroll
Editor Online Edition www.albavolunteer.org
“There are now states in this country where this document cannot be taught,” a teacher remarked pointedly at one of the two workshops we taught in November.
We were discussing a letter sent from civil-war Spain by Canute Frankson, a Jamai can-born mechanic who in April 1937 left his home in Detroit to join the fight against fascism. “I’m sure that by this time you are still waiting for a detailed explanation of what has this international struggle to do with my being here,” he writes to a friend. “All we have to do is think of the lynching of our people,” he points out: “We can but look back on the pages of American history stained with the blood” of African Americans, “stink[ing] with the burning bodies of our people hanging from trees.” “Here, where we’re engaged in one of the most bitter struggles of human history, there is no color line,” he adds.
Our teacher was right. Frankson’s letter, which suggests that this country’s past is “stained with blood,” would be controversial in the 36 states that have restricted education on “divisive concepts” such as racism in U.S. history in high schools—and, in some cases, college—or are in the process of doing so.
Manuscripts, inquiries, and letters to the editor may be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The editors reserve the right to modify texts for length and style.
Books for review may be sent to Joshua Goode Claremont Graduate University Blaisdell House, #5, 143 East 10th Street Claremont, CA 91711
The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA) is an educational non-profit dedicat ed to promoting social activism and the de fense of human rights. ALBA’s work is inspired by the American volunteers of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). Drawing on the ALBA collections in New York Universi ty’s Tamiment Library, and working to expand such collections, ALBA works to preserve the legacy of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade as an inspiration for present and future generations.
IN THIS ISSUE
We always knew education was important. But we honestly never imagined that it would be the battlefront it has become, as state legislatures are censoring—and censuring— teachers while local school boards are banning books by the dozens. At the same time, we hear politicians discredit the student loan forgiveness program by ridiculing college students as lazy moochers. What happened to the conservatives who once championed college as a road to social advancement? Or who, for that matter, believed that democracy stands and falls by the people’s right to vote and for their vote be counted?
Education is at the center of all we do. Not only our programs for teachers, but also our Perry Rosenstein Cultural Series—film screenings, workshops, music, and book talks for a general audience—and even this very magazine. In this issue, you can read about our inspiring Bay Area gala (p. 3), militiawomen in Spain (p. 15), and the educational work done with multi-ethnic youth in Bosnia and Herzegovina (p. 11). Robert Llopis shares his fascinating research about an intersex Cuban volunteer in the International Brigades (p. 8). We’re also thrilled when community members write to us with discoveries, wheth er it’s Aaron Lopoff’s long-lost Catalan gravesite (p. 4) or the identity of a Spanish soldier in an iconic photograph of Steve Nelson and Oliver Law (p. 10).
Since we last wrote, our community registered painful losses, including Corine Thornton, Jim Skillman, and Gwendolyn Midlo Hall. We commemorate their activist lives on pages 18 and 19. They will be missed. Now perhaps more than ever, we need everyone to be at the ready: not just to fight for new rights but to defend those human rights that we thought were safe, at least in this country.
All of us in ALBA are directing our energies, our programs, and our publications toward that single, overarching goal. We cannot do this without you. Thanks, as always, for your generous, steadfast support.
P.S. (1) Don’t forget to check out our online edition, with longer articles, color illustrations, audio, and video.
P.S. (2) A great way to help ALBA is through a monthly donation. You can sign up online at alba-valb.org/donate.
To the Editors:
It was dear of you to remember Benedicta in the September issue. Unfortunately, one important word was left out. Her Order is not Catholic but Episcopal. In as much as the Spanish Catholic church was directly involved in the assassination of our mother, I think this is an important distinction.
THE VOLUNTEER December 2022 2
Sebastiaan Faber Associate Editor Aaron B. Retish Book Review Editor Joshua Goode Graphic Design www.eyestormx.com
Editorial Assistance Phil Kavanaugh
Sebastiaan Faber & Peter N. Carroll
p 3 ALBA News p 4 Aaron Lopoff p 5 Sephardic Jews p 6 Wilfred Mendenson p 8 Intersex Volunteer p 10 Iconic Photograph p 13 Spanish Civil War Museum p 15 Milicianas p 17 Growing Up Scared p 18 Gwendolyn Midlo p 19 Jim Skillman p 19 Corine Thornton p 20 Book Reviews p 23 Contributions
Nora Guthrie Featured in Susman Lecture on December 4
Join us on Sunday, December 4, at 3PM EST/12PM PST, for a live Zoom presentation with Nora Guthrie, daughter of singer and activist Woody Guthrie (1912-67), whose recording of Jarama Valley is legendary, and who in 1952 wrote a series of songs against Franco. Ms. Guthrie began her career as a modern dancer, founded the Woody Guthrie Archives in 1992, and is president of Woody Guthrie Publications. The event will be a conversation between Guthrie and ALBA Board Member Peter Glazer, followed by a Q&A with the audience. A recording of the event will be available on ALBA’s YouTube channel.
Stay Tuned for ALBA Workshops and Screenings in the Spring
As this issue goes to press, the ALBA office is busy finalizing the event calendar for January, February and March, which will include online workshops and film screenings as part of the ongoing Perry Rosenstein Cultural Series. To stay informed, keep an eye out for our email newsletters (sign up through info@ alba-valb.org) or connect with us through social media (Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram).
San Francisco Bay Area Gala Inspires
Drawing close to 1,000 viewers, ALBA’s Bay Area gala on October 15 offered an inspiring mix of history, music, and activism. Richard Bermack moderated the online event. Activist Jeff Chang presented a powerful keynote address (available at albavolunteer.org), linking the struggle against racism and fascism today with the values and commitments of the men and women who confronted fascism some 80 years ago. Pat Riccards, Executive Director of Life After Hate (LAH), explained how the organization works to move potentially violent people into more peaceful lives. LAH received this year’s ALBA/Puffin Human Rights Activism award. The $100,000 award is among the world’s largest annual prizes and aims to keep alive the spirit of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who fought in Spain to defend democracy.
ALBA associate Nancy Tsou presented a slideshow about the various Asian volunteers who joined the International Brigades, part of her deep research project with her husband Len. Last year, ALBA’s Board issued a statement condemning the rise of anti-Asian violence in the US.
The highlight of the day was the musical program led by Bruce Barthol, Peter Glazer, and Richard Bermack, ending with Salud! Salud! Salud! The entire event is available for view on ALBA’s YouTube channel.
Holocaust Round Table Highlights Spanish and IB Role in World War II
On October 20, a panel of ALBA scholars treated an online audience of 250 to a fascinating conversation about the connections between the Spanish Civil War and the Holocaust, including the role of Spanish and IB veterans in the anti-Nazi resistance, their deportation to Nazi camps such as Mauthausen, and Franco’s close relations with the Axis powers. After presentations by ALBA board members Gina Herrmann and Robert Coale, as well as scholars Sara Brenneis and Joshua Goode (our book review editor), a lively Q&A with the audience followed. The entire event is available for view on ALBA’s YouTube channel.
Workshops in Pittsburgh and New York
On November 2 and November 8, ALBA offered two teaching workshops at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh) and New York City to a combined audience of around 100 teachers and students. Focusing on the relationship among fascism, antifascism, and human rights, the participants—including both K-12 and college teachers—worked with primary courses ranging from the Spanish Civil War, World War II, the Cold War, and the contemporary period in order to develop lesson plans for History, Spanish, English, and other subjects.
New Online Teaching Workshop March 2-April 15
Continuing its successful model, ALBA is once again joining with the Massachusetts-based Collaborative for Educational Services to offer a five-week online teaching workshop on “The United States and World Fascism from the Spanish Civil War to Nuremberg and Beyond—Teaching Human Rights Today.” To sign up, go to alba-valb.org/education/teaching-institutes Optional graduate credit is available.
Photography and War: An Online Conversation
As part of the Perry Rosenstein Cultural Series, on November 16 ALBA Chair Sebastiaan Faber held an online conversation with Carole Naggar, whose biography of the Polish-American photographer David “Chim” Seymour appeared earlier this year. The conversation focused on Chim’s work in the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and the postwar years, as well as the way his work reflects a deep commitment to humanism.
ALBA Joins Three Conferences
On November 2, ALBA Board Member Nancy Wallach and Executive Assistant Dennis Meaney gave a presentation about ALBA’s teaching workshops and Watt Essay Contest at “Antifascism in the 21st Century,” a two-day conference organized by Fraser Ottanelli and Mary Anne Trasciatti at Hofstra University in Long Island. In early September, Meaney also attended the Socialism 2022 Conference in Chicago on ALBA’s behalf. On September 14, Wallach presented at a Symposium on the Visionary Art of Ralph Fasanella at Michigan State University.
December 2022 THE VOLUNTEER 3
Aaron Lopoff’s Grave Located
Catalan Government Hosts Info Session on Retrieving IB Remains
On September 18, ALBA and the Catalan government hosted a joint information session about the Alvah Bessie Program, through which Catalan authorities seek to locate, exhume and—if desired— repatriate the remains of International Brigade volunteers who died in Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War. Based on the event, which was attended by close to 200 people, Jordi Martí and Eulàlia Mesalles Godoy of the Directorate for Democratic Memory have compiled a FAQ document that is available at albavolunteer.org.
Spanish Government Publishes ALBA Curriculum Guide for High Schools
The Spanish government has just published a 60-page guide and students as part of a new series, Cómo hacer memoria (How to Make Memory), designed for high school teachers and students interested in engaging with the Civil War and its aftermath. Authored by James D. Fernández and Sebastiaan Faber, the guide includes six modules featuring primary sources— including text and image— related to the U.S. volunteers in Spain, connecting them with contemporary questions. The guide closes with a series of prompts inviting students to develop their own projects. The guide will be made freely available under a Creative Commons license through the Spanish government and ALBA’s website.
New Spanish Memory Law Invites IB Descendants to Apply for Citizenship
When the government of Catalonia decided to name its program aimed at locating and recovering the remains of International Brigade volunteers who died there after Alvah Bessie, it did so because when Bessie returned to Spain in the 1960s, he had tried to find the grave of his friend and comrade Aaron Lopoff. He wasn’t able to, and the exact location of Lopoff’s burial place remained an unsolved mystery for decades. Recently, however, Ray Hoff found a document in the Comintern Archives from the Military Hospital authorities in Girona stating that Lopoff died in the town of Santa Coloma de Farners.
Santa Coloma de Farners is a little town near Girona, in Catalonia. Its name during the Spanish Civil War was “Farners de la Selva.” A building that used to serve as a spa, called “Termes Orion,” served as an IB hospital known as the Clínica Militar number 5 from April 1938 until January 1939. Since it was a hospital for wounded who were recovering or in the process of being evacuated (it was close to the French border), the number of soldiers who died there is small in compared to base and campaign hospitals.
Based on the documentation from Ray Hoff, theCatalan GeneralDirectorateforDemocraticMemory contacted the civil registry in Santa Coloma de Farners, which was able to locate Lopoff’s death certificate. The certificate gives Lopoff’s place and time of death as 4AM on September 1, 1938, in Termes Orion, and states that he was buried in the town cemetery. The document further identifies him as a lieutenant of the International Brigade, not married, who died without leaving a will.
Following a majority vote in the Senate, Spain’s new Law of Democratic Memory went into effect on October 21. Presented as an update to the 2007 memory law, the new legislation seeks to strengthen the support for victims of the war and the Franco dictatorship, including the exhumation of mass graves. The law also offers Spanish citizenship to those descendants of members of the International Brigades who have distinguished themselves through a “sustained effort to disseminate the memory” of the volunteers and “the defense of democracy in Spain” (“una labor continuada de difusión de la memoria de sus ascendientes y la defensa de la democracia en España”). The law stipulates a 2-year window for submitting an application. At press time, the Spanish consulates in the US are in the process of establishing procedures for Spanish nationality requests based on the new law. Until those procedures are set, the consular services will not respond to requests for information. At ALBA we will keep a close eye on developments and keep the ALBA community informed through The Volunteer and our email newsletters.
THE VOLUNTEER December 2022 4
Santa Coloma Cemetery
Why Does the Spanish Right Want to “Recover the Historical Memory” of Sephardic Jews?
By Daniela Flesler and Michal Rose Friedman
Spanish conservatives who have rejected any accounting for Francoist crimes are nevertheless willing to make amends with the descendants of the Sephardic Jews who were expelled five centuries ago. The contradiction is only apparent.
“You have no historical memo ry, you don’t know anything about the past, and you cannot contribute anything to the future,” the conservative Spanish minister of Justice, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, told Cayo Lara, leader of the leftist Izquierda Unida, in September 2013, after a heated exchange in the Spanish parliament over the 1977 amnesty law. Lara had argued for the revocation of the law; Gallardón against. To score his point, Gallardón quoted the legendary Communist politician and union leader Marcelino Camacho, who
in 1977 had expressed his support for amnesty, which, he said, would “open the road to peace and liberty.”
The idea that building a democratic fu ture requires the past to remain closed has been mobilized ever since to justify the silencing of Francoist repression. In fact, it is the main argument invoked by the Partido Popular (PP) to oppose the Law of Historical Memory, passed in 2007 under the then Socialist government. This law recognized the victims on both sides of the Spanish Civil War, gave rights to
the victims of the dictatorship and their descendants, provided a path to Spanish citizenship for political exiles and their descendants, and formally condemned the Franco regime.
While critics to the left of the PSOE and the United Nations special rappor teur criticized the law for not going far enough, the PP voted against it, claiming that it served to weaken the political consensus of the transition to democ racy and weaponized the Civil War for political propaganda. The PP and the
December 2022 THE VOLUNTEER 5
Sephardic symbol in the shape of Iberia, Segovia. Photo Javi Sánchez-Blanco. CC BY-SA 4.0.
far-right party Vox have since proposed an alternative “Law of Concord” to “close the wounds” of the past—and all further debate on the topic.
Strangely, the PP’s unwillingness to debate the victims of fascism has stood in sharp contrast to its position on revisiting Spain’s Jewish history. In fact it was Gal lardón himself, as minister of Justice, who helped craft legislation (Law 12/2015) that granted an expedited path to Spanish citizenship to the descendants of Jews expelled from the Iberian Pen insula in 1492. The law’s preamble stressed “the shared determination to jointly build a new space of peaceful coexistence and unity in contrast to past intolerance.” The law, in other words, positioned democratic Spain as a nation looking critically at its in tolerant past from a pluralistic vision of national identity.
When the law was approved in June 2015, Spanish officials and the leaders of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain emphasized its restorative function, celebrating “a new period of reencounter, dialogue and coexistence.” The Spanish law, much like a similar law passed in Portugal, expands “our under standing of reparation” as it offers “nonresidential dual citizenship with the goal of reconnecting a people wronged long ago to its roots,” Dalia Kadiyoti and Rina Benmayor argue in the introduction to their forthcoming book Reparative Citizenship for Sephardi Descendants.
In 2021, we had the chance to interview Gallardón. The law, he said, was meant to “ask the descendants of those affected for forgiveness” and to send “a message to the new generations that there are things that should never be repeated.” He also stressed how important it was that all political parties supported the law—an ironic position in light of his party’s steadfast opposition to the law of Histor ical Memory. In fact, he framed his law as “recovery of historical memory,” invoking the phrase championed by the Spanish memory movement in its demands for full accountability for Francoist crimes.
In other words, while the idea of repara tions for Francoist repression, including amending the amnesty law of 1977, remains taboo among the Spanish Right, apparently it is acceptable to publicly address the memory of Jewish persecution and expulsion, albeit cursorily. In fact, it was the PP that took the initiative. How do we explain this paradox? What is it about the memory of the expelled Sep hardi descendants that makes it accept able to the Spanish Right?
resent a convenient memory,” Holocaust scholar Alejandro Baer told us in 2021. “They don’t seek any revenge … They don’t challenge you and allow you to bolster the idea that there are others who should be forgotten.”
Thus, we witness a situation in which the historical memory of the Sephardic Jews—painted as a community that has maintained its love and loyalty for Spain despite persecution and expulsion, and that should be repaired for past wrongs—serves to delegitimize and undermine the historical memory of the victims of Francoist repression, along with the claims for historical reparation made by other minori tized groups over the course of Spanish history.
Here it is important to remember that in earlier periods, particularly during the Franco era, Jewish leaders in Spain were pressured to lend legitimacy to particular government actions. Franco government officials believed in the existence of a “US Jewish lobby” influencing interna tional public opinion. Accordingly, they viewed any “gesture of goodwill” toward Spain’s Jews as potentially helping Spain’s relations with the United States, which in turn proved crucial to overcome the regime’s international isolation after 1953. Some of these older assumptions— and relations between the Spanish Right and Jewish representatives—are still at play today. They were also implicit in the creation of Law 12/2015. “The Jews rep
The truth is that the law for Sephar di descendants pays little more than lip service to a democratic, tolerant, or multicultural vision of Spain. In practice, Spanish citizenship remains a privilege difficult to attain, as applicants are asked to meet a series of specific expectations and bureau cratic requirements. In the end, the Spanish Right’s wholesale rejection of the Law of Historical Memory regarding the Spanish Civil War and its reparative gestures towards the memory of Sephardi descen dants spring from the same source: a vision of nationhood built on a limited notion of “concordia” that does not truly examine the past but uses it to further cement conservative notions of unity and Spanishness.
Daniela Flesler is Professor in the Depart ment of Hispanic Languages and Literature at Stony Brook University. Michal Fried man is the The Jack Buncher Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies at Carnegie Mellon University. This essay is based on research for their chapter “Negotiating Historical Redress: The Spanish Law of Nationality for Sephardi Descendants and Spain’s Jewish Communities,” in Reparative Citizenship for Sephardi Descendants: Returning to the Jewish Past in Spain and Portugal, ed. Rina Benmayor & Dalia Kandiyoti, forthcoming with Berghahn in 2023.
THE VOLUNTEER December 2022 6
Maimonides statue in Córdoba. Photo Marco Chiesa, CC BY
CITY COLLEGE REISSUES TRIBUTE TO LINCOLN VOLUNTEER WHO DIED IN SPAIN
By Isabel Estrada
Wilfred Mendelson (1915-1938), better known as “Mendy,” was one of thirteen CCNY students, faculty and staff volunteers, out of a total of 60, who died fighting in support of Spain’s democ racy during the Spanish civil war. A moving 1942 tribute to Mendy from his friends, Let My People Know, is now avail able online in a new critical edition prepared by CCNY faculty and students. The 96-page pamphlet was originally edited by Joseph Leeds.
A son of Ukrainian immi grants who settled in the lower east side of NYC, Mendy was a charismatic leader who had joined the labor movement that emerged from the discrim ination of Jewish workers in Eastern Europe. Before joining the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, he wrote about the threat of fascism in college publications and lectured in New York City in favor of freedom of speech in the USA.
Our annotated edition of the pamphlet—one of whose few existing copies belongs to the Cohen Library of the City College of New York (CCNY)—features the political activism of Jewish students but also highlights the strong bonds of solidarity between Jewish and African American communities in the 1930s. The writing of CCNY students in the 1930s demonstrates the shared social agendas of the Jewish and the African American communities at the local level (specifically in Harlem, where the CCNY campus is located) as well as nationally and internationally.
Through a variety of testimonies, we learn that over 1,000 students rallied to protest the dismissal of Oakley Johnson, a Black English professor who supported student activists and was publicly known for his communist sympathies. Noteworthy, too, are references to the book The Negro Question in the United States (1936) by James S. Allen, which articulates the communist position on the problem of race relations. Allen argues that in the South of the United
States, modes of functioning derived from slave society are still present, which capitalist development has failed to erase. He suggests the need to transform the South into a popular democracy as a key step towards Black liberation.
The pamphlet closes with one of Mendy’s own essays, “World Politics and Ethiopia,” which positions him as a mature political thinker fully aware of the dan ger of fascism for African independence. Mendy decries the expansion of fascist imperialism in the African continent, fram ing Italy’s occupation of Ethiopia as the continua tion of the “white-man’s burden” and echoing Langston Hughes’s observations from civ il-war Spain. “Fascism,” Hughes wrote, “preach es the creed of Nordic supremacy and a world for whites alone.”
Let My People Know, a unique document about the CCNY volunteers who fought and died in the Spanish Civil War, is an invaluable teaching tool to reflect on the role of college students in the shaping of democracy.
Isabel Estrada is an Associate Professor at CCNY. The crit ical edition of Let My People Know: The Story of Wilfred Mendelson (“Mendy”), Student Leader, Organizer, Jour nalist, Anti-Fascist Soldier Who Fell in Spain July 28, 1938, was annotated by Prof. Estrada, Stefano Morello, and the students in the Spring 2022 course “Activism and the Col lege Experience” at The City College of New York (CCNY). It can be accessed online at https://cuny.manifoldapp.org/ projects/let-my-people-know.
December 2022 THE VOLUNTEER 7
Teresita, la cubana An
Intersex Volunteer in the International Brigades
By Robert Llopis Sendra
In 2013, while doing research on the International Brigade’s medical services in Benissa en Dènia (Valencia), I inter viewed Joseph Almudéver Mateu, the French International Brigade volunteer of Spanish descent who died in May 2021. Almudéver told me an interesting anecdote about a Cuban lieutenant named Teresa, whom he had met in January 1939 on the deck of a ship that was evacuating international soldiers from Valencia to Barcelona.
“When I came up to the deck, I saw a woman standing there. I walked up to her and introduced myself. After a while, she said: ‘I’m lieutenant Teresa, cubano.’ It turned out he was a Cuban dressed in [civilian] women’s clothes. We then switched to speaking in Spanish.”
The story immediately made me wonder about the gender identity of this Cuban volunteer. Who were they? What was
their story? In the years since, I’ve combed the archives in search of clues.
Not long after speaking to Almudéver, I found a crucial lead in the 1943 book War Is People by the American journalist Lorna Lindsley. Published at the height of World War II, the book narrates the author’s personal experiences in civil-war Spain, British Palestine, and France. In the thirteenth chapter, titled “Teresita,” Lindsley tells us about the time in Denia when she met a Cuban volunteer of the International Brigades who presented herself as Teresa and dressed in women’s clothes. My research so far seems to confirm that this is the same person Almudéver met on the ship.
Lindsley does not specify on what date she met Teresa, but I have been able to track down the authorization she received from the Valencia Propaganda Office to visit the IB Hospital in Denia, which is dated October 7, 1938. At that point in time, the Republican zone was split into two separate zones, as the Francoist army had occupied the area north of Castellón since April of the same year. Since May 1938, Denia had housed the only IB Hospital outside of Catalonia.
“I first met Teresita in Denia,” Lindsley writes:
I was walking down to the port with some convales cent IB’s and a nurse from New York called Rose. Rose cried: “Look, there’s Teresita! Now you’ll have some fun, she’s a scream. Oiga Teresita!” Coming towards us was a strange figure. She was a tall, thin, light-skinned Negress. On her head was an officer’s cap; her sleezy silk dress looked strangely out of place on her long muscular arms and above her thin legs and feet, which were shod in discolored mules, feminine slippers, with a wisp of wilted ostrich feather still on them. On her left breast were sewed officer’s stripes and she wore two military decorations. She carried a home-made fishing pole in one hand and a tin pail in the other; the pail was half-filled with water and a tiny fish flopped listlessly in it. […] Her name was Teresita Lamoneda, but her accent was best Pullman-car American. She breathed heavily when she stopped walking, and the beads of perspiration on her forehead were a sign of her weakness […] She was born in Cuba of Afro-Cu ban parents. She was a dancer by profession […] She has worked in small vaudeville acts from Florida to Texas and had once even got as far as Fresno on a tour.
THE VOLUNTEER December 2022 8
Nine years ago, Robert Llopis accidentally came across a Cuban volunteer who went by Teresa but whose gender identity was unclear in the archives. A report on his research so far.
“Crónica” magazine featuring Josefina Díaz Puerto, another Cuban miliciana
She told me she loved Texas and that she was an Amer ican citizen.
Teresa told Lindsley she’d been born in La Habana and had come to Spain to work as a dancer in Madrid. The 1936 mili tary coup surprised her in Toledo, where she was staying with her partner, a young man from Galicia. Her partner was cap tured by the rebels but managed to escape in a rescue operation that involved Teresa, who in the process got shot in the groin by a fascist guard. After her recovery in a hospital in Republi can Madrid, she joined the militias as a volunteer and was sent to the front at Talavera de la Reina (Toledo), along with her partner. Teresa told Lindsley she’d received two medals, one for being wounded and another after she’d been declared unfit for military service. She had also been promoted to lieutenant, which explained the stripes on her cap and dress.
The lists of international combatants hospitalized in Denia between April 1938 and January 1939 do not include anyone named Teresa Lamoneda. Still, there are other oral testimonies of her presence in Denia during the Civil War. As Lindsley explains, Teresa was quite popular and beloved by the people of Denia. An oral history published in 2019, for example, includes the testimony of a local man, Juan Pérez Tamarit, aka Carrasca, who recalled that “among the Internationals was a black wom an, or a man who was a woman… It was a mystery that had people excited” (“junto a los Internacionales, había una negra o un negro que era negra… era un misterio y hacía expectación”).
Although Teresa Lamoneda’s name does not appear among the combatants who were convalescing in Denia, that does not mean she wasn’t there. In fact, I am certain she was listed under a different name. The military documents from the period be tween July 1938 and January 1939 list, in different variations, a Juana Tomás Llamacero, who is alternately named Juana Llama cero Tomás, Tomás Llamacero Juana, or Tomás Juan Llamacero. The archive is also ambiguous about this person’s nationality, which alternates between Cuban and American, while one document lists her as Spanish. All the documents list her rank as soldier, except for the declaration of unfitness for service, from the Permanent Military Medical Tribunal in Alicante, dated May 27, 1938, which identifies her as lieutenant.
The diagnosis that was adduced to justify the verdict of unfit ness for military service was double: “hermaphroditism and pulmonary tuberculosis.” In her book, Lindsley writes that Teresa presented as a “genuine lady hermaphrodite” and suffered from lung disease. She also describes how Teresa’s fellow IBers saw her: “They all agreed with me that Teresita was an enchanting person, but they couldn’t vouch for any of her story save the fact that she had fought, and fought bravely. She had been wounded twice, and decorated, but they did not think she was a lieutenant […] Her heroism was incontrovertible, but her sex was still a matter of controversy.”
What we know is that Teresa, or Juana, was 33 years old in 1938, that she was 5’7” tall and wore a shoe size 7.5. According to Lindsley, she was a “light-skinned” black woman, while Al mudéver called her “neither black nor white: a mulatto.” In all the documentation, she’s listed as a member of the XV Interna tional Brigade.
The last time Lindsley saw Teresa, sometime in October or November 1938, the journalist passed on her address in Paris. Teresa told her that, after the war, she planned to go to Russia, as long as her doctor thought her lungs could stand the climate. Lindsley also tried to help her by contacting the US Consulate General in Valencia, but they were unable to confirm Teresa’s US citizenship. The Consulate appears to have found records of a Cuban passport under the name of Manuel Lamoneda, but Teresa denied she was Manuel and insisted that she was a hermaphrodite woman. (To confuse matters further, there is a Manuel Lamoneda in the archives; he was an officer in the Re publican army who, after the war, spent six years in a Francoist prison.)
Several people spoke with the Consulate to confirm Teresa’s identity as a woman, but the Consul, who was ready to help, could find no legal basis to do so. Finally, he decided to submit Teresa to a private medical exam to establish her biological sex. The exam concludes she was a man, contrary to the Republican military health authorities, which, as we saw earlier, had identi fied her as a hermaphrodite. In March 1939, the Consul wrote to Lindsley to report what had happened. He was sorry, he said, to see Teresa leave so “desperately ill.”
What came of Teresa? We know that she spent an uninterrupted four months at the Denia military hospital, from at least July 6 to November 15, 1938, when she was released. On December 20, the documentation somewhat enigmatically registers her return to Denia from the “war industry.” Given her health, it is very unlikely she worked in a factory. Possibly, the phrase served to cover up the time she spent in Valencia working with the Consulate. In any case, she then stayed in Denia until her evacuation on the ship where she met Almudéver, entering the Barcelona harbor on January 18, 1939. It is possible that, from there, she was able to cross the French border, but I have found no records to confirm that. Lindsley writes in her book that she heard Teresa died in the concentration camp at Gurs, in south ern France, but the archive only mentions one deceased Cuban there by the name of Florencio Villaray-Suárez, who was 54 when he died. Nor does Teresa appear among the five Cubans who were deported from Gurs to Nazi extermination camps during the Second World War. Her trail disappears in 1939, in the chaotic refugee exodus to France.
Teresa’s story recalls those of other Republican combatants, such as Florencio (Teresa) Pla Messeguer, aka La Pastora, the anti-Francoist guerrilla fighter who was raised as a girl but identified as a man, and Rosits, a transsexual Spanish soldier in the Ortiz Column identified as such by the researcher Gonzalo Berger. Although the archive has so far only yielded fragments of Teresa’s case, the story of this intersex combatant in the Inter national Brigades certainly deserves further research.
Robert Llopis Sendra is a social worker in Altea (Valencia) and a researcher on the Spanish Civil War and the International Brigades in the Valencia region, topics about which he has published several books. He can be reached at email@example.com. For a Spanish, footnoted version of this article, see our online edition at albavolunteer.org. Translation by Sebastiaan Faber.
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ICONIC PHOTOGRAPH PROMPTS UNKNOWN STORY
By Alfonso Repullés Buj
The helmet-wearing soldier in this photograph is my father, Daniel Repullés Marín (1910-1989). Born in Mirambel, in the Teruel province, my father trained as a blacksmith. The first time he left his town was when he was called up for military service in 1931, the same year the Second Republic was proclaimed. After completing his service, he returned home to work in his trade, but jobs were scarce in the 1930s.
When the war broke out, he was living in a local town, Iglesuela del Cid. From there he joined the Republican army as a Spanish soldier in the XV International Brigade, including the battles at Brunete and the Ebro. Although he suffered all the hardships that come with life at the front, he was never wounded and survived the POW camp.
The years after the war were marked by fear and silence. The adults, especially the defeated, preferred not to speak of the war. It was the best way to protect themselves and their families. By now, having done a fair share of reading about the war, I understand why my father chose not to tell me about his experiences when I was young. How does one explain the barbaric things suf fered in places like Brunete or the Ebro?
According to the records of the military tribunal, my father was imprisoned on November 15, 1938, and released on parole on July 27, 1943. Because, at that time, he was interned at a labor camp near Coll de Nargó, in Lérida, he went into exile to Andorra (I am not sure exactly how or when). His authorization for return indicates he reentered Spain in January 1947, and in late March re ported to the Mirambel city hall and the Cantavieja post of the Civil Guard.
It wasn’t until October 2011 that I discov ered my father in one of Henry Buckley’s photographs—which until then had been unpublished—of the goodbye ceremony organized for the International Brigades at La Espluga de Francolí (Tarragona) on October 25, 1938. That day, the 35 and 45 Division had concentrated there to avoid an enemy air attack. Among the troops there were the legendary battalions of British and U.S. volunteers. There were speeches and a parade. Three days later, the same troops
Shortly after returning to the Battle of the Ebro, my father was captured. Thus began another ordeal.
Truth be told, it was the discovery of that photograph that prompted me to begin reading more about the civil war. One day, when I’d finally gathered the courage to go to the Provincial Archive, I came across a folder with documentation about Daniel Repullés Marín, my father, with many bureaucratic papers. Among them, I found things like a Civil Guard report from June 1940 stating that my father has “always had leftist tendencies” or a report from the municipal judge that he was a Communist and “against religious ideas.”
To conclude, I would like to state that my father was a good, noble, and honor able man who was loyal to his ideals. He was honest and trustworthy, always ready to help, but very marked by the war and his experiences afterward. As General De Gaulle said on a private visit to Toledo, “The worst that can happen to a country is a civil war, because the end of the war does not mean the arrival of peace.”
Alfonso Repullés Buj, son of Daniel and Genoveva, was born in 1953 in Miram bel (Teruel). His family moved to Barcelo na when he was 10, but he returned to his hometown after his retirement. He enjoys reading, writing, nature, and his and his wife’s occasional visits with their two daughters in Barcelona.
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along the Diagonal Avenue in Barcelona.
this year, ALBA received a note from Alfonso Repullés Buj, a Spaniard in his late sixties from Aragón, about the iconic photograph from the Spanish Civil War in which Steve Nelson has his right arm around the shoulder of Oliver Law.
Repullés in 1931.
Oliver Law, Steve Nelson, and Daniel Repullés. Tamiment Library, NYU, ALBA Photo 184, Box 1,
Human Rights Column Building Peace in Bosnia
By Vahidin Omanović, Mevludin Rahmanović, and John Sturtz
Our way is peace. The motto of the Center for Peacebuilding that we founded in Sanski Most (Bosnia and Herzegovina) 18 years ago, is more than that: It is also how we aspire to live, work, and treat others. It is at the heart of everything we do. And it fuels our hope for the people of our country and the world.
When we founded the Center in 2004, our objective was to help communities and people, especially youth, overcome divisions, heal, and reconcile. As the former Yugoslavia broke apart in the early 1990s, Bosnia, the most ethnically diverse republic, initiated plans for independence but dissolved into a bloody civil war among the three main ethnic groups: Bos niaks, Croats, and Serbs. The conflict, which claimed around 100,000 lives, ended with the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995, but not before its people experienced some of the most grievous atrocities the world had witnessed in Europe since World War II.
While the Peace Accord helped end the violence, it also etched ethnic tensions into law. Since then, Bosnia has found itself
Memorial site for the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, 2010. Photo Matsj, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
torn between conflict and peace. As the prospect of reconcili ation among the country’s 3.2 million people remains elusive, the ethnic tensions from the war in the 1990s remain and, in some ways, have become institutionalized.
The Center for Peacebuilding was founded by survivors of ethnic cleansing who wanted to help the local community, Sanski Most, in north-western Bosnia, heal from the conflict and ensure that ethnic cleansing and genocide never happened again. Since the Center’s founding, we have seen the impact of our work expand. What started as a localized effort has grown to include many international connections. While the primary focus of our program is still local, we have developed partner ships and programs both near and far. These efforts are made possible with the help of friends and donors through the Glob al Giving platform. Over the years, we have found ourselves connected to people who, like us, wish to live in a world that is rooted in peace, who yearn for stability and sustainability in their communities, who would rather spend their time sowing seeds of unity and dignity than spreading hate. We now work with more youth from a broader range of communities. This
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Twenty-seven years after the Dayton Peace Accords ended the bloody war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, ethnic tensions in the region have been etched into law. The Center of Peacebuilding builds bridges through interethnic dialogue.
means that we are cultivating connections. People outside our community come to know us, and, in turn, people in our com munity grow to know others. These opportunities create more relationships that line the path to peace.
Our Garden of Opportunities in Sanski Most embodies our mission. Over the years, we have made it our organization’s centerpiece. Like a farmer who is deeply connected to the earth and tends his or her land season after season and year after year, we have made great efforts to cultivate our organization, facilities, and programs. Our Center is environmentally con scious and engages in sustainable efforts with self-sustainability as our goal. We envision a better-equipped place to host the programs we already offer and accommodate programs we hope to provide.
The Peace Camp—a week-long retreat that brings together individuals from different ethnic backgrounds, especially youth—is one of our most exciting programs. With the help of peacebuilders, participants meet and discuss challenging topics related to the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Participants have the rare opportunity to meet with other youth, often from different ethnic communities, to discuss the history of the war and ethnically based prejudice in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Key components of the peace camp structure include helping participants learn skills in non-violent communication, active listening, prejudice reduction, and mediation. For many participants, the peace camp represents a rare opportunity to interact with individuals from different communities and engage in necessary dialogue. Moreover, the participants can engage in these critical activi ties and efforts in a safe and peaceful environment. Building
trust is the foundation of the peace camp; and administrators trained in nonviolent communication act as facilitators and guides. These camps have been beneficial in the past, but actual progress requires sustained effort. A significant outcome of the peace camps is to inspire and train participants to become peacebuilders themselves and return to their communities with an increased capacity to help those around them grow from post-war divisions.
We also use the land for our International Peace Week pro gramming, which coincides with the United Nations Inter national Day of Peace and features speakers, participants, and workshops from local and international backgrounds.
By including international visitors to the peace week, we are cultivating more awareness in our community. Our visitors are harvesting and taking the lessons they learn with us in Sanski Most. It is incredible to see so much growth and potential in our corner of the world.
We can connect with the earth by bringing young people from Bosnia and Herzegovina together in the garden. We can help the next generation root themselves in peace. We can till the seedbed of the next generation by helping them develop critical and creative thinking skills, allowing young people to see past misinformation, recognize corruption, and reconcile with other youth who also want to find a way rooted in peace.
Vahidin Omanović and Mevludin Rahmanović are the co-found ing directors of the Center for Peacebuilding in Sanski Most. John Sturtz, an Associate Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College, serves as international advisor to the Center.
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A significant outcome of the peace camps is to inspire and train participants to become peacebuilders themselves.
Multi-ethnic youth engages in conversation at the Center.
Scholars Launch Online Museum of the Spanish Civil War
By Sebastiaan Faber
More than 120 objects displayed in five galleries, with each object accompanied by a 350- to 500-word mini-essay available in both English and Spanish: The new Virtual Museum of the Spanish Civil War is in its first phase but already has a lot to offer to a curious visitor.
The result of eight years of work by an interdisciplinary team of seven experts based in Canada, Spain, the United States, and the United Kingdom, the online project (available at www.vscw.ca) aims to provide a global audience with an accessible, reliable, and free source of information and reflection on the many dimensions of the Spanish conflict.
Launched in the fall of 2022, around the time the Spanish Senate approved the new Law of Democratic Memory, the project immediately drew attention of the Spanish and international media, with articles in El País and The Guardian. In late October, I spoke with three team members: Adrian Shubert (York Univer sity, Canada), Andrea Davis (Arkansas State University, US), and Alison Ribeiro de Menezes (University of Warwick, UK).
Your first phase includes 123 objects divided over five galleries [sidebar]. What’s next? And, perhaps more importantly, what will the museum look like when it’s done?
Adrian Shubert (AS): Honestly, I don’t know if we can answer that question. This is an ongoing project. We’ve already started to work on new galleries, but we’ll also be adding objects to the existing galleries. In theory, the sky is the limit. Since this is not a brick-and-mor tar museum, we are not bound by physical space limitations. Plus, an online museum is surprisingly inexpensive to maintain. In the end, we are only bound by our and other people’s willingness to devote time to it.
Andrea Davis (AD): In terms of next steps, what I am most excited about is our plan to create what we call an “open gallery.” The idea is to invite diverse audiences to help build the next phases of the project, so that this can become a living museum in which people from Spain and elsewhere get to contribute, and talk about, their own objects. We want to find ways to include students and other scholars as contributors as well. For me, it’s thrilling to think about building the mechanisms to allow for that kind of participation.
Alison Ribeiro de Menezes (ARM): We think it’s important to convey the idea that memory is a process, an ongoing di alogue. In that sense, it helps to include objects in the museum that can serve to spark a debate or discussion. Once peo ple can begin uploading their own items, and explain why they matter, we’ll start to get a different sense of the texture of what people regard as being their or their family’s memory of the war. So far, most of our objects are loans from institu tions—with all the copyright complica tions that come with that, though many institutions have been quite generous. Engaging the public more actively will no doubt spark its own set of questions about curation. It will be a challenge all of its own, but a tremendously exciting one.
Who is your intended audience? I noticed that the museum does not currently include a broad introduction to the war: the viewer is invited to dive straight into any of the modules. Additionally, given that the texts of the
modules are the same in both languag es, it seems you’re not assuming that English- and Spanish-speakers may arrive to the site with different levels of previous knowledge.
AS: That’s an interesting point. To be honest, with regard to the text we didn’t really discuss alternatives. What I can say is that we aim to reach the broadest possible public. In terms of language, one of our goals is to make the entire museum available in Catalan, Basque, and Galician as well, covering all of Spain’s co-official languages. It’d be nice to have it in French, too, but that’s a lesser priority.
AD: It’s true that the site does not pro vide one single path for visitors to follow. But that is exactly attraction of a digital project like this one. Every visitor can chart their own path. And we are work ing on features that will build even more ways of access. Already, for example, visi tors can click on the metadata associated with the objects to see other objects from the same geographical area or the same lending institution.
Speaking of accessibility, have you considered adding some kind of reference feature, like a glossary, that will allow visitors to look up items or names they may not be familiar with?
AD: We have discussed creating a kind of thematic thesaurus, yes. The challenge is to do that while maintaining the integ rity of the gallery approach.
ARM: We’d also like to introduce links for visitors who want to dig deeper into
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“We cannot claim that this is the substitute for something that Spain hasn’t done.”
a particular topic or object—or students, say, who wish to under take a research project. We want to encourage the audience to think, inquire, and investigate on their own, engaging more deeply with the subject matter.
Your launch coincided with the adoption of Spain’s new Law of Democratic Memory, which, as we know, has been quite controversial. A coincidence?
ARM: Yes, it’s a coincidence, but I would say it’s a felicitous one. That said, our project is not linked to any kind of government policy. Ours is an academic effort aimed at public engagement. We’re also hesitant to call our project “demo cratic” simply because it’s online. Digital poverty is real: not everyone has equal access to the internet.
The format you’ve chosen—explaining the war through meaningful objects and short, accessibly written texts— has forced you to strike a difficult balance between completeness and concision. At the same time, it seems you’re also trying to strike a balance between the authoritative voice of the seasoned investigator who confidently conveys the scholarly consensus, and a more open-ended approach that leaves room for debate and interpreta tion, for indeterminacy and multiple viewpoints. How did that balance play out in the team? Did you have disagreements?
AD: In a way, this is many projects in one. We agreed on common guidelines, but beyond that everyone was left in charge of different galleries and objects. Each of us brought our own knowledge and voice to the table.
AS: It’s also important to point out that not all of us are historians. Alison does cultural studies, for example, while Alfre do González-Ruibal is an archaeologist. We are all coming from different places. But that’s something we embrace.
ARM: In addition to the interdiscipli narity, the scholarly dimension of this work also posed a challenge. For exam ple, we debated the extent to which we should include statistics, like numbers of victims. That quickly lands you in a debate: one scholar says X, another says Y. There is only so far you can go in that direction: footnotes have no place in a museum like this. While each of us has approached our work from our own disciplines, we share a commitment to fairness and transparency, rather than to promote one particular kind of narrative about the war.
Given the controversial nature of the war in Spain and elsewhere, you must have received interesting reactions already.
AS: We’ve received a lot of positive feedback, as well as offers from indi viduals who have objects they’d like us to include in the museum, which is great. Perhaps surprisingly, there have only been two negative emails. One, written in all caps, asked: “¿QUIÉN OS PAGA?”—Who’s paying you? That one clearly came from the Spanish far right. I think they didn’t realize there has almost been no Spanish government money involved in this project. (Laughs.)
AD: Some other emails have really compelled us to think. One person wrote to us about one of the objects in the museum, a photograph loaned to us by a public archive. The person writing explained to us that, in fact, the picture had been taken by their grandfather. This brings up interesting questions about provenance and about the stories that are lost or silenced when objects become
part of an official archive. But those are exactly the stories that we hope to highlight.
Some of the Spanish media coverage of your project underscored the ironic fact that Spain itself still does not have a proper national museum of the Civil War. What’s your view on that?
AS: Antonio Cazorla Sánchez, who is part of our team, has an interest ing take on that question. Compared to other European countries, he says, Spain has a real shortage of history museums altogether—especially when it comes to the twentieth century. The absence of a Civil War Museum, in other words, is really a symptom of a larger issue.
ARM: As an Irish person, I don’t think it’s right for me to opine about what museums Spain should or should not have. That’s not what our project is about. We merely seek create a space for information and reflection, and for voices that may otherwise not be heard or articulated. We want to engage the au dience. And in a way, reactions like the one we received about the photograph that Andrea mentioned earlier do exactly that. No doubt Spain will someday have a museum of the Civil War. The time may not be right yet. But who am I to make that determination? In my own country, Northern Ireland, we don’t have a Museum of the Troubles. And any time they try and put on an exhibition of the Troubles, it must balance both sides so equally that it isn’t particularly incisive or insightful. But that is done for a good reason: namely, to avoid destabilizing things. Personally, I’m happy to sacrifice the Museum of the Troubles if we have a peace process. Spain, too, has to decide its own process towards the consolidation of democracy and the confrontation with its history. Our project can provide a view that is informed, in part, by out side perspectives. But we cannot claim that this is the substitute for something that Spain hasn’t done. That would be incredibly arrogant.
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“We want to find ways to include students and other scholars as contributors as well.”
Andrea Davis, Alison Ribeiro de Menezes and Adrian Shubert.
“Popular Culture Has Flattened the History of the Milicianas”
Gonzalo Berger Pays Tribute to the Republic’s Women Soldiers
By Sebastiaan Faber
The Catalan historian Gonzalo Berger, who’s spent years researching the participation of women in the antifascist militias and the Republican army during the Spanish Civil War, has just published a new book, Milicianas, that tells some of these women’s stories for a non-spe cialized audience.
This is not Berger’s first effort to bring the topic to the attention of the general public. In 2018, he collaborated on the docu mentary Milicianas, directed by Tània Balló and Jaime Miró; in 2021, he helped create the online Museum of the Woman Soldier (Museo Virtual de la Mujer Combati ente, www.mujeresenguerra. com).
The subtitle of your book suggests these women have been “forgotten.” How so?
The efforts to recover the memory of the Second Republic and the war has often focused more on men than on women. It’s true that the women soldiers have a certain place in public’s image of the war as well as in the historiography; books by
scholars like Mary Nash and Lisa Lines have been important. Still, their stories are rarely touched in high school curricula. And even if these women do appear, they tend to do so in a very superficial and anecdotal way, either as heroines or the opposite, or merely as symbols in the Republican propaganda. In my view, they deserve better. More attention should be given to the actual roles they played in the war effort, their impor tance in terms of emancipation and equal rights, but also to the contradictions and complexities that emerge when one studies them as autonomous, politically engaged individuals.
Would you say that contemporary feminism has also forgotten about these pioneers?
Not at all. What is true, though, is that contemporary feminists have tended, in some cases, to paint them too simply in a heroic light, erasing their evolution and contradictions. What makes these women interesting, moreover, is not so much their individ ual stories as their collective impact on the society of their time and subsequent generations.
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Miliciana at the Círculo de Bellas Artes, Madrid. Foto Remazán. CDMH
The image of the militiawoman has fascinated Spanish writers and film directors for years. I’m thinking, for example, of Vicente Aranda’s 1995 film Libertarias.
The problem in films like these is that the women soldiers are often infantilized. Time and again, we hear that these were very young women who often followed their male partners or family members into the war. This angle severely undervalues these women’s level of political autonomy. Similarly, we often see the women portrayed as nurses or cooks—as if that was all they did, or as if those roles were any less important for the war effort. Finally, popular culture tends to flatten history by resorting to gender stereotypes. For example, we often see an exaggeration of women soldiers’ sexuality to the point where it’s suggested that most of them were prostitutes. This is especially true of Libertarias, which, frankly, has had a hugely negative impact on the general public’s view of the milicianas.
In our last issue, we interviewed Esther Gutiérrez Escoda, whose research questions the whole notion that women were “relegated” to the rearguard when the militias were integrated into the Popular Army of the Republic. What does your research show?
Esther’s work is very important, and her book will mark a turning point in the way we think about gender in the Spanish Civil War. My research certainly aligns with her key argument, which is that many women continued to serve in the Republican army throughout the entire war.
Your book is structured as compelling series of portraits and vignettes. Why did you choose that format?
Because I think it’s the most accessible to a nonspecialized audience. It’s true that this means I’ve had to sacrifice the more theoretical part of my work, including some statistics and the extensive bibliography I’ve used, but there’s plenty of room for that in my more scholarly articles on the topic.
You’ve already hinted at the importance of getting these stories into the high school curriculum. If you
had the chance to convince a 16-year-old why she should want to know about this chapter of Spanish history, what would you tell her?
I’d tell her that these women make clear that no one has the right to tell her what her place in the world is—and that, if some one does try to do that, she has the right to reject that imposi tion, just like the women in my book did. It’s also an important chapter in our history because it shows to what extent a culture of violence and authoritarianism can lead to war and blood shed, the worst experience a human being can have. These women, who lived precisely such an expe rience, should interest us because we can learn from them. It’s the least we can do to honor them.
The recent debates around the Law of Democratic Memory in Spain have shown how much the memory of the war is still divided among party lines. Is it possible for a self-identified right-wing person in Spain today to appreciate the legacy of the women who fought for the Republic?
Although you are right that memory is still partisan—which also explains why memory policies shift radically every time government power changes hands—I do think that it is possible for a conservative Spaniard to appreciate the value of these women’s lives and experiences. On the other hand, machista attitudes are not exclusive to the Right; they exist on the Left as well.
The emotions have definitely been mixed. Although I’ve felt admiration, a certain melancholy is also unavoidable: after all, there is so much that could have been achieved and wasn’t, so many opportunities lost. It’s hard not to empathize with the defeat they suffered, as women and as antifascists. Those who survived were often forced to resign themselves to a world that was very different from the one they fought for.
Sebastiaan Faber, Chair of ALBA’s Board of Governors, teaches at Oberlin College.
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What has it been like from an emotional point of view to write about these women’s extraordinary lives?
“It’s hard not to empathize with the defeat they suffered, as women and as antifascists.”
Centro Documental de Memoria Histórica, FC-CAUSA_GENERAL,1547,Exp.1,N.307.
Growing Up Scared: A Memoir
By Margo Szermeta
I’m not like the other girls in my neighborhood. It’s not just because I’m Jewish, it’s because I have a secret.
Imagine knowing your parents could be taken away from you for their political beliefs. Imagine the FBI coming to your door and terrorizing you. This is one of my strongest childhood memories.
My sister and I shared many things, but it wasn’t until recently that we learned that we were both scared as children and young adults. When I was asked to write about growing up as the daughter of a veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, I was at once thrilled and scared at the same time. I live in Texas, which is a very conservative state. I didn’t wish to expose myself, but I finally realized that it was time.
I feel like I’ve been in hiding for most of my life, and that’s not a very good feeling. Very few people know what my childhood was like and frankly, I’ve not been inclined to share it.
When I was very young, I remember my parents talking about politics at home and admonishing us to NEVER discuss what we heard to anyone outside our family. My parents were both members of the Communist Party when my father got involved and decided to fight in the Spanish Civil War.
My sister and I hadn’t been born yet, however, my father’s decision to go to Spain and fight Fascism, made him and his family targets of the FBI. My father was in actuality a “little fish.” He wasn’t an organizer, or a leader during the war, but his name was on the government’s rolls as a Communist, not because he’d been a party member, but because of his decision to fight Fascism.
I remember a number of times when the FBI would come to our door and ques tion our parents to see if they had been holding any political meetings. This was during the early 1950’s, the McCarthy era. The fear was everywhere.
We lived on the South side of Chicago, 7900 on LaSalle. It was a white mid dle-class neighborhood, with a few black families that moved in when I was in sixth or seventh grade. People in my neighborhood were mostly conservative Christians and a few Catholics. They didn’t discuss politics or religion and the consensus was that one “just didn’t do that.”
I was an outspoken child of 8, when I told some of my classmates that the FBI had come to our door. Evidently, one or more of the children told their parents and my mother had to come up to the school to talk to the principal. Honest ly, I think the principal thought I was telling stories, my mother allowed the principal to think she was right, so our beliefs could remain hidden.
I learned at an early age to hide the truth about our family. Unfortunately, it gave me the impetus to see lying as a means to get along better with others. It took me a long time to finally come to terms with this and to this day, I have omitted many facts about my life when talking to others. I don’t actually lie; I just don’t reveal everything.
There were drawbacks, but also some real advantages to my upbringing. Both my parents believed education was every thing. My father spoke out about how many of the world’s problems would be solved if people were educated and well informed. I remember going to a concert to hear Paul Robeson and getting to shake his hand, I was only about 3 or 4 years old. I remember sitting at Pete Seeger’s feet when he gave a concert to a small group of people. My sister and I attended a summer overnight camp called “Abraham Lincoln Center Camp.” It was a fully integrated camp in Janes ville, Wisconsin, which had been part of the Underground Railroad. I was very young, about 7 or 8 years of age when I attended and in the 1950’s, an integrated camp was unheard of. It never crossed my mind that it was different from other camps. I attended for 2 years, and I think at the time, the name of the camp reminded me of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.
Another advantage was being able to have real discussions with adults when I was still a child. We had many friends and acquaintances that were sympathetic to the same causes as my family. No one called people names, like so many do today. Even when people disagreed, they did so with grace and sometimes, humor. We believed and practiced the axiom that All Men Are Created Equal.
My father was a fervent believer in giving everyone a chance to improve them selves. One of his favorite sayings was, “You can’t tell a book by its cover.” He taught us to ignore what people looked like, that a person’s character was far more important. I was “color-blind.” I didn’t care if someone was a different color, race, religion, or political belief; I only cared about them as an individual. Thanks to this upbringing, I have not changed the way I view other people. Finally, because we were raised in a family that fought against fascism, we
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What was it like to grow up as the daughter of a Lincoln vet in Cold-War America?
circa 1938, in VALB uniform
always sought to right any wrongs we felt were happening. I remember marching against segregation in the early 60’s, writ ing letters to various leaders, supporting causes and marching for peace. I was and am basically a pacifist. Even though my father fought against Fascism in Spain,
Margo and her sister Dolores have another connection to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade: their stepmother Lois Lord Romero was married to Nathan Meyer Schilling. Lois and Nathan met at the University of Chicago and married in April 1937. The couple were still newlyweds when Nathan volunteered to
he felt that war was not the answer to the world’s problems. So to continue his and my mother’s legacy, I will always stand up for my fellow man and keep myself informed on what is happening in the world.
My father lived long enough to see Franco pass away and to see hope for the future of Spain and the rest of the world. He died in March 1978.
Margo Szermeta is the daughter of Ernest J. Romero.
serve in the International Brigades. Na than sailed to Europe bound for Spain on May 15 the same year. In Spain, he was attached to the newly formed Mack enzie-Papineau Battalion and received training as a sniper. He was killed in his first action at Fuentes de Ebro on October 13, 1937. A month later Lois
received the news that she was widow. In an interview she stated that “Humanity and progress meant more to him than life.” When asked if she was sorry that he went she stated “I’m not sorry he went. It’s what we both felt he should do.”
Dr. Gwendolyn Midlo (1929-2022)
By Chris Brooks
Civil rights activist Dr. Gwendo lyn Midlo Hall died August 29, 2022, in Guanajuato, Mexico. As a member of a politically liberal family, she engaged in activism from an early age.
She was born June 27, 1929, in New Orleans to Herbert Midlo and Ethel Samuelson. Her father was a Jewish im migrant, from what is now Poland, who built a successful legal career defending African Americans, labor organizers and others who most of the legal community shunned.
Dr. Hall is best known for her groundbreaking database on enslaved blacks in colonial America. She spent most of her academic career teaching Latin American history. While conducting research in a small Louisiana courthouse, she came across records listing detailed information on enslaved people transported to Louisiana. She searched for similar records in dusty courthouses and archives in France and Spain. Her initial research was published in 1992 as Africans in Colonial Louisi ana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century.
After retiring from teaching in 1993, Dr. Hall devoted the next seven years to assembling records of 107,000 enslaved persons into the Louisiana Slave Database and Louisiana Free Data base1719-1820. The database is now available as part of Slave Biographies: The Atlantic Database Network. Her work helped pave the way for greater study of the history of enslaved people in American.
While her database is of great historic im portance, her work promoting the legacy of her husband Harry Haywood is of special interest to the ALBA community. Gwen dolyn met Harry Hall, better known by his party name Harry Haywood, at a May Day event in 1951. They married in 1956. Though they later separated, they remained on amicable terms and never divorced. Haywood was the highest-ranking Amer ican Communist to join the International Brigades. He was an alternate member of the American Party’s steering body, the Po litburo. In Spain he served as a staff officer in the XV Brigade and as the Commissar for the short-lived Anglo-American regiment during the Brunete campaign.
In 1978 Haywood released his autobiography Black Bolshevik: Autobiography of an Afro-American Communist. He was the author of two other important texts: Negro Liberation (1948) and the pamphlet For a Revolutionary Position on the Negro Question (1959).
In 2012, Dr. Hall published a revised edition of Haywood’s autobiography. The much slimmer volume, A Black Communist in the Freedom Struggle, reintroduced the public to Haywood and his role in the struggle against racism at home and fascism in Spain.
Dr. Hall is survived by her son Haywood Hall, Jr., daughter Rebecca Hall and four grandchildren. Her son Leonard Yuspeh died in 2020.
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James Douglas Skillman, beloved husband, father, grandfather, lifelong soldier in the fight for social justice, and longtime member of the ALBA board and honorary board, passed away October 20, 2022, at the age of 76.
Jim was born January 24, 1946, to Mary Noreen Skillman (nee Yeargin) in a Miami, Florida, Army hospital. After a short time in Montgomery, Alabama, Jim moved to Georgia and spent his youth in Marietta and Atlanta’s Cascade Heights neighbor hood. From Bert Adams Scout Camp to watching the Allman Brothers at Piedmont Park, Jim was a product of an old Atlanta that is long gone. Jim loved reminiscing about the sights and sounds of the Royal Peacock, the soul music extravaganzas at Ponce de Leon Park, Lawson General Hospital, Alley Pat on the radio or the Frito Lay factory.
It was the old army induction center on Ponce de Leon Jim reported to, when, weeks after graduating high school in 1965, he was drafted into the Army. He was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma until he was deployed to Vietnam where he served in an artillery unit in the central highlands. His experiences overseas disillusioned him about the war in Vietnam, and on his return home he dedicated himself to anti-war causes including joining Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) and Vets for Peace. As a student at Georgia State University, Jim co-founded the school’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and met his first wife Peggy.
Jim’s trade was printing and packaging. From his first Boy Scout’s badge for printing to running a press for the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) offices on Auburn Avenue to running his own shop, City Printing, in Birmingham, Alabama, printer ink was in Jim’s blood.
While printing was Jim’s occupation for most of his life, political activism was his passion. He could always be counted on to man a picket line in support of work ers’ rights, to pass out literature protesting the School of the Americas at Ft. Ben ning, or to join a vigil for peace. He loved a good political debate which he entered into with zeal and a keen knowledge of current events as well as history. His po litical activism took him first to Chicago, then Birmingham where he lived with his second wife Jennie, until 1990. He returned to Atlanta in 1991, married Trisha Renaud and helped raise her two children.
Jim was a prodigious reader with a sharp mind, quick wit and warm heart. He was also known for his tasty Brunswick stew and fluffy waffles, and he relished the boisterous chaos of family gatherings at holidays.
Jim worked in the packaging/printing business until retiring in 2008. He never, however, retired from fighting for the causes he believed in. In Atlanta, he helped rejuvenate the local chapter of Jobs with Justice and was arrested in 2012 during a civil dis obedience action to protect union jobs at AT&T. Until the end, the fire Jim had in him to fight for justice and equality burned bright. As his health faltered, he gave what time and energy he could to those efforts. He never wavered from his abiding sense of duty to forge a moral world.
Corine Hodges Thornton (1922-2022)
By Don Santina
She lived in California most of her life but never lost the distinctive accent she learned as a daughter of the heartland. Legend has it that she was related to Jesse James, an early proponent of the redistribution of wealth, and that she knew the story of Mary Yellin Lease, the prairie populist who exhorted farmers to “raise less corn and more hell.” These were her roots.
Corine Hodges Thornton, hell-raiser for the working class and longtime Executive Secretary of the Bay Area post of the Veterans of the American Lincoln Brigade, left us on August 11
Corine and Nate Thornton on their way to Cuba to challenge the US blockade, 1993. Photo Richard Bermack.
of this year, less than two months short of her 100th birthday. She is survived by two of her six children, fourteen grandchildren and eighteen great-grand children. She was preceded in death by her husband of over twenty years, Nate Thornton, a Lincoln Brigade vet.
Growing up in Kansas City during the depths of the Depression, Corine was deeply moved by the poverty around her and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. As a teenager, she read a newspaper account about the attack on democracy in Spain and became a lifelong anti-fascist and supporter of the International Brigades.
December 2022 THE VOLUNTEER 19 Jim Skillman (1946-2022)
After WWII, Corine landed in San Francisco and with her husband, the muralist Neal Hoskins, and became a mem ber of the Communist Party. That didn’t last long. She was kicked out for “questioning authority,” a quality that endeared her to many of us and irritated some of us. She was once described as a “contrarian,” but also as someone who “didn’t suffer fools.” An old friend from Women for Peace recalled that “Corine endured longwinded opinions but delivered her own crusty blurbs resetting the condition of the world . . . often with a twinkle in her eyes.”
Corine worked as a union waitress for many years and was fiercely involved in the struggle against the class system. “My mother was proud of her union pension,” her daugh ter Shirley Hayes said, “because it was rare for a waitress and represented what she believed.” (Shirley provided loving care for her mother during the waning years of her life.)
Corine’s activism was wide ranging: the School of the Americas Watch, Grandmothers for Peace, VALB, the Fort Point Gang, the ILWU’s “Bloody Thursday” commemora tions, the Hayward Democratic Club, Women for Peace, and the Marin Inter-faith Task Force, to name just a few. She often wore her “Thank God I’m an Atheist” button, but strangely enough, was a good friend and loyal supporter of radical Catholic priests Roy Bourgeois, Charlie Liteky, Bill O’Donnell, and Louis Vitale.
Corine was the kind of organizer whose work sometimes goes unnoticed. She made the calls, sent the notices, deliv ered the goods, did the follow-ups. She ferried carloads of activists to picket lines and protests in a car plastered with leftwing bumper stickers. Martha Jarocki, whose father Leonard Olson was a Lincoln vet, regarded her as a men tor. “She was the last of that generation,” Martha noted, “and she wanted to show the way to the next generations.”
In the immortal words of Tom Joad that so stirred the young Corine Hodges: “Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there . . . and when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in houses they built—why, I’ll be there.”
She was there. ¡Salud!
Don Santina is a political writer and novelist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enrico Acciai, Garibaldi’s Radical Legacy: Traditions of War Volunteering in Southern Europe (1861–1945). Translated by Victoria Weavil. Abingdon, Oxon./New York, Routledge, 2021. 195pp.
Reviewed by Karen Rosenberg
In 1936, the Italian unit of the Internation al Brigades named itself the Garibaldi Battalion. Arguably, this was a signal to its fighters, who held differing political opinions, not to oppose each other any longer, since the famous General Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) sym bolized the need for unity to defeat a foe. A charismatic figure in his time, Garibaldi had attracted and led volunteers to battle for an indepen dent and unified Italy. But national unity was only one part of his legacy. Garibaldi was also a proponent—and a prac titioner—of transnational warfare. As Enrico Acciai shows in Garibaldi’s Radical Legacy, even after his death, his name was invoked when men from various countries volunteered to fight outside the Italian peninsula for values like freedom and social justice. The list of places where his influence was felt includes Poland, Crete, Greece, France, and the Balkans as well as Spain. Although Acciai doesn’t discuss all these insurrections in detail, his short book sheds a new light on left-wing internationalism in the 1930s.
In many ways, the Garibaldi’s 19th-century followers an ticipated the ethos of the International Brigades. They were motivated not by material rewards, but ideals opposed to the established order. Some left their own countries to join conflicts in other lands. Mostly non-professional soldiers, they often arrived with scant training and discipline; howev er, once they had built their military skills and strong bonds of comradeship, governments feared them. That’s why, after they had left the scenes of battle and had returned to their homes or sought refuge in exile, they were often kept under surveillance. (Acciai and other scholars have scoured archives for the reports of police informants about the lasting ties and new activities of so-called subversives.) With time, many Garibaldians changed their political stripes, adopting new ideologies. Nonetheless, their pride in their revolutionary
THE VOLUNTEER December 2022 20
past was often conveyed orally, especially to their own fam ilies—a custom that, as Acciai shows, shaped later genera tions of radical thinkers, activists and volunteers.
Personal contact was not the only mode of transmission of radical values, histories, and traditions. Books and period icals, too, were central to the maintenance and growth of such national and transnational networks. Propagandists joined the effort to recruit volunteer soldiers and to raise funds for their arms. The women who joined in this work made important contributions to transnational warfare, and it is regrettable that their role is understudied and, therefore, undertheorized. Historian Lucy Riall, whom Acciai praises, has done groundbreaking research on this topic. Her book Garibaldi: Invention of a Hero (2007) demonstrates that female writers and readers were crucial to the construction and spread of the mythic Garibaldi.
In part, Riall argues, Garibaldi’s was a cult of self-sacrifice: some of his followers were drawn into fights with small chances of success. As in a civic religion, strategic calcula tions were often trumped by belief and enthusiasm. Acciai, in turn, traces the way the famous surname Garibaldi, car ried by his sons and grandsons, led people into various and sometimes opposing political directions. Indeed, I wish that Acciai had written more about the fascist affiliations of Ezio, Ricciotti Jr. and Peppino Garibaldi, whose cases point to significant strains at the very center of the Garibaldian tradition.
Because Acciai’s book raises important issues about how left-wing internationalism grew and survived, despite re pression, it would be a pity if it were read only by university students and scholars. That said, the text places considerable demands on a general audience. Anyone not well versed in European history should be prepared to look up terms like the Risorgimento, the Paris Commune and syndicalism. In Italy, where Acciai teaches, it may be common knowledge that “the Hero of the Two Worlds” is an honorific expression to refer to Garibaldi, who served as a military leader in both South America and Europe. But when it’s used without explanation, as it is here, not everyone will understand. The problem of intelligibility is compounded by typos that occasionally transform the text into an erudite guessing game. (Can you recognize “Porudhon” as a garbled version of Proudhon?) Perhaps one function of a reviewer nowadays is to remind publishers that when we buy or borrow a book, we expect that it has been well proofread.
Karen Karin Rosenberg is a working on a book about the writ ings of Russian revolutionaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Isabella Lorusso’s Fighting Women: Interviews with Veterans of the Span ish Civil War, a trans lation of her 2019 book Mujeres en lucha, chronicles the experiences of eleven left-wing women involved in the body politic of 1930s Spain. An indepen dent scholar of the Spanish Civil War, Lorusso interviewed anarchists, members of the POUM, a communist, and a Catalan feminist living in Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, and other locations in France in 1996, 1997, and 2010. Many of the women were Catalan by birth while others hailed from central Spain. They all participated in left-wing activities in Catalonia during the Second Republic in Spain and the subsequent civil war.
In the brief introduction and prologue, Lorusso identifies the “direct gendered vision” of the conversations she had with her subjects, which focus on “emotions enriched with historical memory.” She also recognizes the difficulty of doing interviews with individuals who are asked to remem ber their personal involvement in an extraordinary era six decades prior. The book, she writes, should encourage the reader to “try to honor these women who gave their lives for a dream of love and freedom.” The foreword by Beatriz Gimeno, a deputy for Podemos in the Spanish parliament, and the afterword by Elisabeth Donatello position the publi cation as a testament to the feminism and activism of the women interviewed.
In their interviews, the women paint a picture of a society during the Second Republic and the civil war that was both expectedly chaotic and surprisingly normal. In some cases, life proceeded as usual. There were public dances, love-matches, and marital vows. Some of the women were studying when the war began, while others were in the workplace. When female suffrage was granted during the Second Republic in 1933, some of the subjects rushed into politics and the traditional world adapted. Several of the women were introduced to politics by their fathers, com plicating traditional patriarchal rules and gender relations. Manola Rodriguez, a communist from Madrid, for example, remembers that although she sat alongside her father at se
December 2022 THE VOLUNTEER 21
Isabella Lorusso, Fighting Women: Interviews with Veterans of the Spanish Civil War. London: Freedom Press, 2020. 185pp.
Reviewed by Jessica Davidson
With time, many Garibaldians changed their political stripes, adopting new ideologies.
cret political meetings, “as a man he had his own contradic tions: at home he was the master and we had to obey him.”
Pepita Carpena recounts her early political involvement in the Anarchist movement and her eventual move away from the CNT and towards feminism. At age 14, already employed as a tailor and influenced by the local presence of the CNT, Carpena joined the textile trade union. Her politicization began at a young age, but she argues that her militancy took time to take shape, first as a member of the Libertarian Youth and then as a member of the Anarchist Free Women (Mujeres Libres). From the beginning of her involvement, Carpena faced sexism and the “strong machis mo” polluted her early experience with anarchism. Although she credits the CNT with encouraging women to follow their intellectual and political interests, she claims that “all men are the same” when it comes to the limits of their tolerance of women militants. Disappointed, she decided to “work only with women.” Carpena remained committed to anarchist beliefs through her participation in the Mujeres Libres, where she felt empowered and experienced a feminist awakening that was not possible among the male ranks of anarchists. Her radicalization in Mujeres Libres included support for gay rights.
Because Lorusso provides limited assessment of the inter views, it is not clear how her publication fits into existing historiography within Gender Studies or within the history of modern Spain. Despite gearing the conversations toward feminism, sexism, and patriarchy, Lorusso does not draw any conclusions, nor does she identify common themes across her interviews. “The words of the protagonists alone,” she writes, “provide a historical, human, and personal view of what was their—and hopefully even our—revolution.” Yet she leaves it up to the reader connect the dots.
Still, Lorusso’s book prompts important questions. Do the women’s memories reflect the latent sexism of radical leftwing political groups? For example, does Pepita’s description of the boys’ club that was the Libertarian Youth point to a false narrative of women’s emancipation promised by anar chism? Fighting Women is useful to explore the limitations of communism and anarchism and the shortcomings of the Second Republic, as her interviewees provide a trenchant critique of the left-wing’s unwillingness to dismantle patriar chy. Significant gender-based discrimination was clearly det rimental to their political mobilization. The women express disappointment in the left’s inability to include gender in its social revolution. Their stories, in other words, challenge the popular narrative of women’s political integration under the Spanish Republic.
Lorusso’s book also contributes to the history of feminism. Do these stories indicate a growing wave of feminism in the 1930s, and if so, what kind of feminism? Likewise, where might left-wing feminism in 1930s Spain fit in the larger history of the movement? Spain is often discounted as a participant in early twentieth-century European feminism in part due to the influence of the Catholic Church and the Franco dictatorship. The testimonies in Lorusso’s book chal lenge this interpretation, pointing instead to the presence of a strong feminist movement shaped by women’s direct political experience. Pepita Carpena, for example, attests to a radicalism born from feminism more than from anarchism. Lorusso’s book should be read alongside important scholarly studies like those of Victoria Enders and Mary Nash, both of whom have effectively used oral history in their analyses of women and gender in Spain during the 1930s. While Fighting Women has merit, it would have been even more valuable if it had included a critical assessment of the memo ries of the women Lorusso interviewed.
Jessica Davidson is an Associate Professor of History at James Madison University whose work focuses on twentieth-century Spanish political, social, and women’s history, women in rightwing politics and in dictatorships.
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The women paint a picture of a society during the Second Republic and the civil war that was both expectedly chaotic and surprisingly normal.
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FROM 08/01/2022 TO 10/31/2022
Join us on Sunday, December 4, at 3PM EST/12PM PST, for a live Zoom conversation with ALBA’s Peter Glazer and Nora Guthrie, daughter of Woody Guthrie (1912-67).
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MAKE ANTI-FASCISM PART OF YOUR LEGACY!
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If you have questions or would like to discuss your options, please contact ALBA’s Executive Director Mark Wallem at 212 674 5398 or email@example.com.
THE VOLUNTEER December 2022 24