Friday, 19 June 2009

The subterranean shelter that runs between carrer
St Josep and plaça de la Música. Flix. June 2008

The shelter, one of several documented in the town, was
locked - visits have to be booked in advance.

No matter, there would be occasions in the future to visit,
we thought, once our twinning project got off the ground.

But I took some photos through the railings of the door.
You can just see the typical zigzagging of the tunnel,
designed to minimize the effects of possible bomb blasts,
and the subsequent shock waves and fragmentation.

Flix was one of the first towns in Catalonia to suffer an attack
from the air.

It was a strategic target with its hydro-electric power station,
the electrochemical plant which the fascists said was
manufacturing mustard gas (thought the experts in this field
were Franco's German allies) and the iron bridge was an
important transit point for troops and supplies across the Ebro

On the night of 23rd february 1937 a raid on the chemical factory
part of which had been converted to a military hospital, and the
town began. It lasted four hours. Eight dead, numerous injured
and a terrified civilian population that took to the caves in the

We, the lucky ones who have never lived a war, are so used to the
virtual experience via assorted screens it's hard to imagine the
horror and the panic these first air raids caused. Not surprisingly,
the town with a population, then, of around 3,300 quickly organized
the construction of eight shelters.

What has been a little surprising is the success of my idea to twin
the shelters. But then Flix seems to be a town with a sensitivity to
historical memory that dates from well before the recent vogue to
recuperate the Republican experience in the Civil War - just the
date of the installation of the monument to the International
Brigades, 1990, is indicative. Most of Catalonia at the time was
more concerned with the imminent celebration of the Barcelona
Olympic Games.

But then Flix seems to display a felicitous good taste in its choice
of lord mayors. Information above on the February air raid is
from the book Alemanys al'Ebre by the historian, and previous
lord mayor of Flix, Pere Muñoz.

Next Saturday 27th at 12 o' clock there will be an inaugural act
at Refugi 307 in Poble Sec to celebrate the twinning of the

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