Thursday, December 31, 2009

Refugi Redux - by b

I finished reading The Book Thief yesterday on our little vacation in Sonoma. It was an incredible book... terribly heartbreaking. The contrast to this little piece of heaven in northern California where we are staying is almost painful.. where there is space and warmth and food and friends and family around. The Book Thief is about an an incredible young girl outside Munich in WWII --- who loses everyone and everything except her own spirit to naziism and to war. The story is told by perhaps the most omniscient of all narrators: death.

Bombs play a big part in The Book Thief.. and it reminded me that I'd dashed off a very fast blog post a few weeks about about a tour Kristin and i took of one of barcelona's last remaining Spanish Civil War bomb shelters (Refugi 307) -- and that I'd meant to write more and hadn't had a chance. Maybe I was waiting to finish the Book Thief and didn't know it.

refugi 307

The shelter as seen from the street

refugi 307

Our guide

The guide at one point asked if anybody had been in a bomb shelter before. And nobody in the assembly of women (I was the only guy... I'd joined Kristin on a tour put on by the Barcelona Womens Network) ranging in age from 35 to maybe 55/60 raised their hand. I didn't raise my hand either... but I have. When I visited Israel a lot as a young boy that's where we kept our bikes.. the bomb shelter in the small apartment block where my grandparents lived was a bike room. I'm sure for kids of different ages the bomb shelter served other purposes as well ... i can imagine a pot-smoking room, a makeout room, some pretty nice things. But still... it was a bomb shelter. And when I was very young... during the six day war (which, of course, still continues.. the 100 year war was not 100 years and the six day war was not six days (maybe it's the new 100 years war?)) the sirens went off and my mom had to lift me from my little fold-up bath 'tub" and run me downstairs. No wonder I'm skittish sometimes and a bit of a scaredycat. For me as a baby and for my parents as young parents.. a bomb shelter was a real thing.

And for Kristin's mom too.. in WWII.. she actually was bombed as a very young child. And had to escape a burning building.

As our guide in Barcelona told us, these techniques of bombing civilians (urbacide) were tested out and perfected by the fascists in the Spanish Civil War... and they were used heavily by both axis and allies in the war that followed, WWII.

There is a plaque outside the shelter in Barcelona. The quote is in Catalan and it refers to the indiscriminate bombing of civilians. The guide translated it: "Never again, anywhere / is a cry of rage / and the desire that the past should not repeat itself".

never again, anywhere is a cry of rage and the desire that the past should not repeat itself

But of course, sadly, it does.