Editorial By Robert Čoban, Publisher
Every time I see Picasso’s “Guernica” at the Queen Sofia Museum in Madrid, I think about the Spanish Civil War and how much it remains unfinished, 80 years since Franco’s victory in 1939. In the adjoining halls, museum visitors can also see documentaries related to the Civil War, but also those made after Franco’s victory, which celebrate “the restoration of the country”. In 2011, we met an old man in the town called Guernica, in the Basque Country. He was sitting in a café next to the school playground. He told us how they hid as children in the basement of the school, while “German planes were throwing bombs”. This war is the oldest large-scale war with living veterans – 42 Republicans and 11 Francoists, to be precise. Naturally, we always cheered for the Republicans. However, when I went to Ceuta, the Spanish enclave in Morocco, which was Franco’s base for invading Spain in 1936, I visited the Legion Museum and saw a memorial dedicated to Franco’s victory. Ernest Hemingway’s novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls” – who himself fought on the side of the Republicans – contains eerie descriptions of the massacre of landowners and wealthy people by these very Republicans at the beginning of the war. No civil war is black and white and this is one of the very few in which “winners did not write history”.Picasso painted “Guernica” in Paris in 1939. The painting travelled the world to eventually find its home in MoMA in New York. It was Picasso’s wish for the painting to be exhibited at the Queen Sofia Museum in Madrid which finally happened in 1981, six years after Franco’s death, which Picasso did not live to see. A friend of mine went to Valencia with the football club a few years ago and asked a dinner host what he thought of Franco. Of the seven people at the table, six had a positive opinion about him, while one was neutral. They also mentioned the strange ritual that the Republicans had whereby they took the skeletons of bishops, priests and nuns from church graves and exposed them in the streets for the passers-by to scoff at. Was this “the most romantic of all wars” just a rehearsal for both Stalin and Hitler of what would come in Europe half a year after Franco won in Spain? How can we be sure of the correctness of our political ideas and attitudes about the current global events when, 80 years after the end of the Spanish Civil War, we are still not clear on what happened there? We need to consider what all parties have to say and all their arguments, as well as maintain a historical distance to reach the proper judgment. And these are exactly the things we miss so much in today’s modern age of social networks, quick reactions and short fuses.