Today, 20 November, is Universal Children’s Day in the UK and many other countries around the world. Over 60 years ago, the United Nations encouraged all countries to promote mutual exchange and understanding among children and to initiate action to benefit and promote the welfare of the world’s children. Universal Children’s Day is not simply a day to celebrate children for who they are, but of bring awareness to children around the globe that have suffered abuse, exploitation and discrimination.
We take the opportunity to share with you some of our holdings which relate specifically to the welfare of children. Recent acquisitions are archives concerning a relatively little-known influx of child refugees just prior to World War II.
In 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, a group of almost 4,000 children, the niños vascos, plus some teachers and priests, were evacuated to the UK from Santurce/Santurzi, the port of Bilbão/Bilbo in the Basque region of Spain. They were part of a movement which saw some 20,000 children leave the war zone, dispersed to countries across Europe and overseas. War, hunger, revolution, counter-revolution, denunciations, persecution, summary trials and executions, and mass repression resulted in the disintegration of family and community life and forced thousands of people into exile. Homes or “colonies” were set up all over the UK, mainly in England and Wales, staffed and financed by individual volunteers, church groups, trade unions, and other interested groups. Those Guernica evacuees who remained in the UK became known as the “Basque children” and tried to keep in touch with each other. An organisation, the Basque Children of ‘37 Association UK, was founded in November 2002 with the desire that these children should not become los olvidados (the “forgotten ones”).
The Special Collections holds archives for the Basque Children of ‘37 Association UK (MS 404), together with small collections relating to Basque child refugees (MS 370) that have come from individuals. There are also a series of interviews of niños vascos conducted as part of an oral history project undertaken by the University of Southampton: http://livesite.soton.ac.uk:1776/archives/projects/losninos.page
The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the University of Southampton, in partnership with Hampshire Archives and Local Studies, a grant for a project under its Your Heritage scheme. Led by Dr Alicia Pozo-Gutierrez and Professor Chris Woolgar, the project recorded life story interviews to document an important facet of the Spanish Civil War and its consequences. The project looked at the experiences of the children who came to Southampton and the UK, their lives here, the question of return to the Iberian peninsula, and the complex questions that arise from transnational migration in time of conflict. The interviews were carried out by volunteers.
A book, Here, look after him, came out of the oral history project and can be purchased at the online store: http://store.southampton.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=1&catid=150&prodid=1109
You can also view an online exhibition which was produced as part of the project: http://livesite.soton.ac.uk:1776/archives/exhibitions/online/basques.page