St Albans people urged to welcome refugees from war-torn countries

PUBLISHED: 12:31 08 June 2017 | UPDATED: 12:31 08 June 2017

Left bottom: Fausto Garcia. Left top: Teo Garcia, Fausto's brother.

Left bottom: Fausto Garcia. Left top: Teo Garcia, Fausto's brother.

Archant

We should welcome refugees from war-torn countries into the St Albans community and learn lessons from history, a local descendant of the Spanish Civil War’s child evacuees has implored.

Eighty years ago this year about 4,000 children from Bilbao were separated from their parents, boarded a ship to the UK, and landed in Southhampton to avoid the bombing of the civil war.

One of those children was seven-year-old Fausto Garcia, father of a Marshalswick musician, Rob Garcia.

For the next 10 years Fausto was moved around the length and breadth of Britain, from Swansea in Wales, to Brampton in England, and Montrose in Scotland.

He had no contact with his parents and did not know if they were even alive until he turned 17, when they were finally reunited. It turned out his father had been fighting with the British Army in South Africa.

One of Fausto’s fellow refugees was only five years old when he landed, and by the time he was reunited with his mother and father had lost all Spanish and had to talk to them through a translator.

Fausto, known as Tony because it was easier for British people to pronounce, built his life in North London but stayed connected with his Spanish roots.

His son Rob is reaching out to the people of St Albans, in light of the 80th anniversary, to reproduce that spirit of inclusiveness and welcome refugees into the UK.

He said: “I think it’s very important that children are given protection from wars that are not of their own making, and people in this country have a strong and positive history of doing that.

“I want refugee children in camps to come here to be looked after and the story of people like my father shows there is tremendous strength in taking refugees.”

All this year there are events celebrating the 80th anniversary - Rob and his band, Na-mara, are performing songs inspired by his father’s experience at one these events in London’s Jubilee Gardens in July.

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