Carmen Kilner told of her parent’s evacuation from Spain in the first Basque Children Association presentation in the United States at Oswego State on Wednesday.
Georgina Whittingham, of the department of modern language and literature, invited Kilner, the treasurer and speaker of the Basque Children Association, to speak about the Spanish Civil War of 1937.
“We met in Poland,” Whittingham said. “We found out we were both interested in Spain. I was always interested in languages, and I am Hungarian by origin. She is a second-generation child of the Spanish Civil War.”
Kilner shared the history of her parents’ first-hand experiences through the evacuation process of the war.
Almost 4,000 Basque children were evacuated to England after the town of Guernica was bombed mercilessly by the Nationalist party, led by General Francisco Franco.
Kilner’s mother was a grade-school teacher that went with the students on a boat built to hold about 800 people. Her father caught rheumatic fever and was sent to live in England the day before the insurgents attacked. The two met through the Basque Children Association in the United Kingdom.
Before the bombing, England planned to simply remain neutral and not give any financial or military aid to any nation in Spain during the war.
“The response in England was a humanitarian response,” Kilner said. “Local miners gave a penny a day to the immigrant children. Today, you don’t see that anymore. You have many immigrants coming into America every day, and we turn our backs to them and say it’s the government’s job to deal with them.”
“It was interesting to hear that the 13th century women had rights in the Basque provinces as opposed to other nations where they had limited to none,” junior Mike Clute said.
Most Oswego State students never learned about the Spanish Civil War, as represented by only one raised hand when Kilner asked who knew anything about it.
“It was cool hearing about the Basque [region] because I’ve never heard of it before,” Aaron Lemay said.
Kilner said it is important for students to not only learn about the war, but to learn from the war.
“Each generation has to make its own mistakes,” she said. “But if we could remember some of them, it would help.”