By Katalin Rozsnyai
(This article was originally incorrectly attributed to Svetlana Benedikt. Our apologies for the error.)
On January 18, 2002 in Budapest a commemorative meeting was held by the Karl Marx Society on the occasion of the 65th Anniversary of the organization of the International Brigades. Among the speakers were two former members of the Brigades Andras Zalka (nephew of General Lukacs and Mihaly Jandi.
The 65th Anniversary of the organization of the International Brigades of the antifascists volunteers ("brigadistas") who fought on the side of Republican Spain was celebrated in Madrid from 26-29th of October, 2001.
The Civil War ended 62 years ago, but the Franco dictatorship which followed tried to wipe the ideas and the whole period of the Republic from the memory of the Spanish people. Franco introduced a clerical fascist system, the achievements of the Republic were demolished and the representatives of the left were executed or imprisoned.
After the death of Franco in 1975 the dictatorship ceased to exist, but to commemorate the republic took a lot of time.
It was the 55th Anniversary which was celebrated first in 1991. Five years later the Spanish State expressed its honor and appreciation by offering Spanish citizenship to all the volunteers of the International Brigades.
In the events the participants were not only members of the International Brigades and Spanish veterans, but inhabitants of Madrid, Barcelona, Albacete and other cities that were the scenes of fighting.
At the closing ceremony the sympathizers filled the whole stadium and another mass of them watched the event on big screens outside.
The internationalists and their relatives were given a red carpet we come and distinguished honor by the celebrating masses wherever they appeared due to the mass media, which covered the whole events everywhere. The whole series events can also be seen on videotape made by an American shooting team.
As time passes by, the number of "brigadistas" is falling, but sympathy and appreciation is still high among the Spanish people as it was experienced on the last, 65th Anniversary in Madrid as well.
Participants were welcomed by young enthusiastic organizers of different left organizations of all kind. They set the basic tone of the relationship between the past and the future, by recalling the period of the International Brigades and showing their willingness to continue the fight for a democratic Republic.
It was great to see all these old men coming from more then twenty countries and still able to find a common language.
It was great to see all these veterans still interested in everything that has anything to do with our world today.
Whenever and wherever I looked I could see groups of young and old people immersed in deep conversation. Wherever we were the "brigadistas" were surrounded by young activists inquiring about their motivation that made them fight against fascism far from their country. In every meeting we participated in – at the Socialist and Communist Party, at the Trade Unions and the mayors of the cities near the would be Memorial Park – the "brigadistas" were welcomed with great respect and appreciation. The hosts also emphasized the significance of the international union of the left – since unprecedented – and their conviction that without this historical experience Spain would not be the same as it is now.
I was especially affected by the lack of formality. The sincerity and the natural mood of the speeches of the hosts and the behavior of the young was fascinating as well.
We were particularly impressed by their deep inclination towards the social problems, especially comparing this kind of social sensitivity with that of the young people in my own country.
It was good to see that the graves of the martyrs of the Republic are not only undamaged but well cared for.
It was a pleasure to hear the sounds of the Internationale, to see the raised fists, the salute of the Republic and the red-yellow-lilac republican flag in the conference hall of the Madrid county council.
It was moving and elevating to be there at this meeting where the "brigadistas" could feel how important a role they played in the history, or as it is stated by Dolores Ibarruri:
"YOU ARE HISTORY, YOU ARE LEGEND!"
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