Chief Minister Fabian Picardo opening the exhibition and day of events organised by Unite the Union recalling Gibraltar’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War emphasised that it was less than 80 years ago when the Rock was awash with refugees in a war happening next door.
“Less than 80 years ago since we ourselves were to be evacuated from our homes. We remembered the evacuation last year and now it is also right that we remember the consequences of the Spanish Civil War in our society,” expressed Mr Picardo to a packed Bacarisas Gallery yesterday morning which brought together past and present union members, from Unite UK Executive Council Chris Cadman, president of El Foro de la Memoria from the Campo area Andres Rebolledo and invited guests. This was the first of the two main events of the day organised by Unite the Union.
Mr Picardo said Gibraltar had forgotten much of this episode in its history in a “fog of prosperity, success and advancement” but insisted that “we must not forget who we are”.
“Who we are today, with our success and progress, is who we have been,” he emphasised.
Mr Picardo added that what Unite the Union had managed to achieve with three retired officers – Michael Netto, Alfred Olivero and Alfred Sacramento – was to “give us a window back into our own souls. Into the things that made us who we are today and another heart that beats inside our success.”
Highlighting the events of the day and what had been organised for both the exhibition (on display until 26 February) and last night’s symposium and the strong participation not just from Gibraltar but also the UK and Spain, he looked forward to seeing what the exhibition had to offer this episode in history. Mr Picardo gave particular mention to the Gibraltarians who fought and lost their lives, names which he would not have associated with these events.
The Chief Minister quickly added how this was why the rich fabric of “who Gibraltar is and who the Gibraltarians are” is so much more than just the “fabulous success of today but is the strength of our success today”.
The exhibition gathers extensive material depicting the involvement of Gibraltar in the Spanish Civil War – a series of panels telling the story. On loan are panels from the Foro de la Memoria de Gibraltar (See pages 12 and 13).
The ‘Foro’ has given support to the union and its President Andres Rebolledo, said the group was grateful for having been given the opportunity to form part of this major initiative and project.
“These initiatives are very important to our aims of finding out the truth and achieving justice. I would like to use this opportunity to tell the Spanish Government to take charge of this episode in our history not just to the victims and the families but for Spanish society in general. A country which does not recognise or accept its own history is condemned to repeat and this is why we continue in our battle to present the truth,” he said.
From Unites UK Executive Council Chris Cadman brought words of praise from the General Secretary in UK, and spoke of important this exhibition because one should never forget the past – “the unions is very proud of its roots.”
Mr Cadman commented that in seeing the very large displays on show they were all proud of what had been achieved.
Victor Ochello, Regional Officer of Unite who has supported this project from the start told the Chronicle just how proud he was of the union’s initiative.
“This team has managed to gather so much information on this period and the amount of support we have been given is fantastic and of great importance. It has never been done before and this is why it was of such importance.”
He added: “We are telling the world just how much Gibraltarians were involved in such in this world event. Like the Chief Minister said in his address we cannot forget what we have done and how we have participated. Not just in the Spanish Civil War but in other major events as well.”