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Orphaned by the Spanish Civil War

April 3, 2011

Jaures Sanchez. David Frey photo.

Sanchez wanted us to meet another man whose loved ones were believed to have been thrown in into the Wells of Caudé. He drove us into a new housing development where Jáures Sánchez and his wife had built a summer home. Soon we were driving aimlessly into the countryside. “I’ve been here one or two times, but there are no street signs or anything,” he said.

Finally, we came to a comfortable home where Jáures has settled for the season. It was hard to see him as one of the threatening red hordes. He had an engaging smile and wavy gray hair combed back. The emblem on his bright red shirt with for Johnny Walker.

Jáures Sánchez, no relation to Francisco, was eight when the war started. His father was a farm worker and activist. It was harvest time when nationalist forces took Teruel, he recalled. Men like his father never came back from the fields that day. Instead, they vanished into the hills while fascists began executing many who stayed behind.

“There was a saying we used to hear: ‘Nothing will remain. Not even the grass.’ That’s how it was,” Jáures Sánchez remembered. They wanted to eliminate, to put an end to those people.”

When the Falange couldn’t find his father, they killed his mother instead. A month later, they killed his 17-year-old sister. Their bodies were hurled into the well, he said. His father was killed later when he tried to flee the country.

“After the war, we couldn’t speak to anybody,” he said. “For many years there was a terrible fear. There was no liberty. No liberty until democracy came.”