Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Volunteers of America

Salaria Kee (O' Reilly)

Why Didn't You Come Yesterday?

Salaria Kee (O' Reilly) was one of the few Afro-American women
who came to Spain with the International Brigades as a nurse for
the American Medical Bureau to Aid Spanish Democracy.

She had graduated from the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing
in New York in 1934. After hearing a speech by a Spanish doctor
at the University of New York about what was happening
in Spain she volunteered.

"On March 27, 1937 she sailed from New York with the second
American Medical Unit to Republican Spain. A party of twelve
nurses and physicians. Salaria was the only Negro in this group.
Hundreds of Negro boys had preceded her. They had gone as
soldiers, physicians, and ambulance drivers. She was the first
Negro woman to go.

It was April third when the party reached Port Bou, Spain. A
huge delegation of Spanish men, women and children came
down to welcome them. A small boy left the crowd and came over
to Salaria. Taking her hand he complained softly,

"Why didn't you come yesterday?"

"Why yesterday?" Salaria asked him.

"Because yesterday the fascists came in their planes and dropped
bombs. My mother and my father and my small brothers died..."

Stationed first at the hospital installed in Villa Paz, former
summer residence of the abdicated King of Spain Alfonso XIII,
she later moved to a field hospital unit near Teruel. She was
captured by German troops but managed to escape.

In October 1937 she married John O' Reilly, one of the first Irish
volunteers to go to Spain.

Information (mainly) and quotation from the excellent web:

Ireland and the Spanish Civil War


where you can read more.

And if you have the chance watch Julia Newman's

Into the Fire. American Women in the Spanish Civil War

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