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2,500 Refugees in a Cargo Boat

70 years ago, after fleeing from Franco's wrath, concentration and detention camps in France, and the invading Nazis, my parents and I, departed from Europe in an old, leaky cargo boat originally outfitted for a crew of 12 to 16, bursting at the seams with almost 2,500 Spanish refugees like us. My father had war wounds and had lost the sight of one eye. The boat was called The Winnipeg. The rescue operation was arranged by Pablo Neruda. The journey took a month, in hot August, in Nazi-infested waters. The boat almost sunk several times, there wasn't enough to eat, less to drink, a child died. My mother's ears got infected and burst. She became almost deaf till now. I got the whooping cough. No port would take us on either side of the Panama Canal. Finally the Chilean Senate voted to let us in. We're eternally grateful!
Few knew our story. In September 2009, Spain and Chile celebrated the anniversary of our journey. Of course, we cried boatfuls. My mother, 96, was the big star and loved it.

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