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From Niños to Soviets? Raising Spanish Refugee Children in House No. 1, 1937–1951

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In 1937 and 1938, as the bombing of Guernica and northern Spain increased in frequency and intensity, thousands of children boarded ships to safer residences in foreign countries. About 3,000 children, with teachers and caregivers, entered the hastily provisioned Houses for Spanish Children that became their schools, homes, and families. Despite the horrors of war and multiple evacuations, oral historians have shown that overwhelmingly, although not exclusively, niños’ memories of time spent in the USSR were quite positive. Although the oral histories provide us with many remembrances from the Spaniards, the existing scholarship does not fully explore the Soviet documents to ascertain the intentions in creating and running the special Spanish schools and how they operated for the fifteen-year experiment. A close reading of archival sources show that Soviet authorities removed “bad” influences from the children’s lives and provided a school curriculum and extracurricular activities that modeled proper Soviet behavior and thought. Without adults around who could provide a counter-narrative, Soviets were able to control the remaking of these children into Spanish-Soviet hybrids once it became clear that the children would not be returning to Spain.

Affiliations: 1: Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA, USA


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