Shadows of the Spanish Civil War


I received the following today from Eva Wilson and I think it’s important. Eva and I have been friends, despite great gaps of years and miles, since the fall of 1961, when I first met her on the foggy lawns of San Francisco State.  She was Eva Bessie then, and I didn’t know yet that her father was Alvah Bessie, Academy award nominated screenwriter and member of the blacklisted Hollywood Ten.  He was beaten up pretty bad by the House Unamerican Activities Committee, but never asked forgiveness for being a man of honor.  He went to prison for a year (“contempt of Congress’) and, when he got out, he couldn’t get work writing anymore.  Then he found a job stage managing for the old hungry i nightclub in San Francisco, working lights and sound for acts like Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, and Professor Irwin Corey.


abraham_lincoln_battalion_buttonI had the great privilege of taking a dual pilgrimage in October to Spain and France with my brother and sister-in-law.  We attended a 70th reunion of the leaving of the Spanish Civil War Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade from Spain in Barcelona. Even though their cause was defeated by the fascists, their spirit was a flame to encourage the determination to defeat fascists coming up in World War II. Our father, Alvah Bessie, was a member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, and we followed some of his rigorous and perilous journey, with inadequate gear, freezing weather, and very little food, in our comfortable little car, stopping at sights and cafes along the way. If anyone would be interested in a great tale of this war, read my father’s book, “Men in Battle,” which is considered a classic in his genre. There were brave and strong soldiers, mostly untrained, from around the world, and some are still alive. “Spanish Notebooks,” also by my father, is another great journal of his experiences, edited only slightly.

After the grandeur of the Pyrenees Mountains, complete with snow and chalet villages, we went to Lourdes, France, to visit the grotto of Saint Bernadette, where she saw visions of the Virgin Mary on many occasions. She inspired me at age 13, through the Hollywood movie, and I choreographed a ballet based on her life. I was an official card-not-carrying mystic, in a family of lefty, cards-lost agnostics! Oh, well. I am still a mystic, and am proud of and delighted that I was raised in a free thinking family, devoted to good causes.

I enclose some meaningful snapshots of the journey, for those curious about this incredible trip. There are some Vets still alive, and I was able to get a snapshot of one, Jack Shafran. The event was in beautiful Barcelona and Sitges, a resort town.  People came from all over the world.  Music of the Spanish Civil War played and flags were flying from that period. The sixties was not the only time of inspiration!


And now we have Obama. Trust him; he’ll do the right thing, I believe. I hope.

Eva Wilson

men-in-battle-pbackMen in Battle: A Story of Americans in Spain

spanish-notebooksAlvah Bessie’s Spanish Civil War Notebooks

More Books And Films By Or About Alvah Bessie


2 thoughts on “Shadows of the Spanish Civil War

  1. I’m the common-law widow of Sam Walters, a machine gunner with the Lincolns. Please I.D. the vet in the photo: he’s Jack Shafran, also a Lincoln, who died in December. Jackie, as he was called, was best friends with Jack Bjoze, who absolutely adored Alvah Bessie.


  2. Dear Tibby:

    Thank you for your post. If I had known his name, I would have I.D.ed him; I could not understand him when I asked him. I am so glad he was able to be there. A lot of people loved my Dad. Salud!


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