Emili Blanch i Roig

“At the Portbou border, after hours of waiting, the rain having stopped in the middle of the night, we were finally able to cross over with the Catalan Government Commissioner Josep Mascort. But the French only allowed the Commissioner in as he had a diplomatic passport, and they made me turn back. After thinking about it for a moment, I quickly dashed down the road towards Cervera, exposing myself to the shots of the Senegalese colonial soldiers, who were there to stop us from fleeing. They called out to me to stop and go back, but I ignored them and managed to reach a bend in the road unharmed.

I arrived in the town of Cervera but couldn’t find a living soul to ask at that time of night, so I followed the railroad tracks until I reached the station and jumped a fence to get in. Finally, a French railroad worker accompanied me to a train that he said was leaving the next morning for Perpignan and very kindly invited me to get on. That train had actually been organised to save people from the cruel Francoist repression and was already occupied by a large number of people sitting on wooden benches in almost total darkness, so it was impossible to recognise anyone. A gentleman, who once in conversation I found out was the brilliant poet Antonio Machado, made space for me between him and his mother, an honour I have remembered my whole life.

The next day I came to personally know Carles Riba, the great poet, critic and essayist, of whom I have always been an enthusiastic admirer, and who, given my circumstances of being stripped of money, paid my passage to Perpignan, which cost seven francs. I am eternally grateful. In Perpignan, my wife, who had been authorised to enter France two days earlier, was already waiting for me. Thus began our three-year exile in the capital of Roussillon, first, and then in the university city of Montpellier – where the government of Catalonia had already arranged to accommodate the most committed expats – followed by seven further years in exile in Mexico.”

Emili Blanch i Roig (La Pera, Baix Empordà, 1897 - Girona, 1996) was an architect for the Girona Regional Council as well as the Government of Catalonia. Blanch designed schools, hospitals and other public facilities, and during the Civil War he actively participated in protecting heritage through the Commission for Artistic and Archaeological Heritage. After the war, his membership of the Republican ERC party and work for the Catalan government led to several convictions, which he managed to avoid by going into exile in France and then in Mexico with his wife Maria Batlle i March (Figueres, 1906 - La Pera, 1983). He returned in 1948 to find that all his assets had been confiscated and he had been suspended in his capacity as architect. He put his experience of exile in writing in Guió per unes memòries, which is stored in the Girona Municipal Archive.
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