Josep (José) Ester Borrás was born in Berga on the second floor of No 3, Carrer Baixada del Vals (otherwise Carrer Mossén Comellas) on 26 September 1913. Josep was the second child of Francesc Ester Escobet, from Berga and Dolors Borrás Solanas, from Freixenet (Lérida). At the time of Josep’s birth, his parents were 23 and 22 respectively. Josep’s older sister was Antonia, a year and a half older than him. Their father Francesc Ester, who had previously been a bricklayer was doing his mandatory three years military service at the time.
In a work of painstaking research, Evelyn Mesquida has been looking into the hundreds of Spanish republican veterans, male and female, who came to the defence of freedom through the French Resistance. A book that complements her last book, La Nueve. (Translated by Paul Sharkey)
Following publication of La Nueve, Evelyn Mesquida now offers us the heroic and tragic tale of those Spanish republicans who, following defeat in the Civil War, put up a stunning fight against the Nazi foe from within the French Resistance.
“Like the many Spaniards who served in the French army and fought in the Second World War, those refugees who took part in the French Resistance were also overlooked by the history books. But they were there.” Since their arrival in France in 1939, most of them had had to live in barracks in concentration camps, huts in the labour camps, shacks and caves in the mountains and in the forests throughout the country. Which is where they were still living when, in September 1944, in an anxious and crass moment, General de Gaulle asked them to return to their homes, following the crucial battles they had fought.
The author, Evelyn Mesquida is a journalist and for many years the Paris correspondent of the magazine Tiempo. She spent a decade working on La Nueve, having interviewed many of the survivors and published several articles on the topic.
“The big man from Govan [Farquhar McHarg] harboured no illusions about the extent to which Cerrada’s activities straddled conflicting and seemingly irreconcilable worlds. On the one hand there was the Cerrada he had known and respected as a comrade and friend for over fifty years; on the other was this distinct ‘Mr Hyde’ personality, one whose nature and behaviour functioned on a completely different macroscopic level.
“Things had started going wrong for Cerrada in the autumn of 1949. Political tensions resulting from the trauma of defeat and the subsequent post-1939 power struggle within the emigré community, particularly among the members of the Executive Council of the Spanish Libertarian Movement (MLE) in exile(1) — aggravated by Cerrada’s clandestine activities and his compromising criminal connections made during and after the Nazi occupation — led, in 1950, to his expulsion from the CNT. His black market activities cost him many friends in the movement, or people he thought were friends but who turned out to be opportunistic acquaintances.
“At the time of his murder in October 1976, Cerrada was a supporter, albeit on the periphery, of the anarchist Grupos de Acción Revolucionario Internacional (GARI), the successors to the First of May action groups (1966-1972). Even after his expulsion and imprisonment in 1950, he continued in the role of ‘facilitator’ and as a ‘wise head’, someone the younger militants, the ‘Apaches’, could turn to for advice, moral solidarity and, when required, logistical and financial support.
Cipriano Mera Sanz nació en Madrid, el 4 de noviembre de 1897. Su padre, peón de albañil, era también, a ratos perdidos, cazador furtivo. A los once años, en vez de ir a la escuela, tuvo que empezar a ganarse la vida, de modo que, según las estaciones del año, salía de madrugada al campo para coger setas, níspolas, zarzamoras, bellotas o romero —que vendía luego en el barrio— y algunas tardes trabajaba en los tejares. A los dieciséis años entró como pinche en la construcción, y su padre le afilió a la Sociedad de Albañiles «El Trabajo», adherida a la UGT. Llegó a los veinte años sin conocer apenas las primeras letras. Entonces se inscribió en una academia y asistió durante ocho meses a clases nocturnas. Parejamente, empezaron a preocuparle las cuestiones sociales, extrañándose de la pasividad que caracterizaba a la Sociedad de Albañiles, cuya relación con sus afiliados solía limitarse a la de unos recaudadores que visitaban regularmente los domicilios de aquéllos.