Blackboys evacuees return

AN 85-year old couple - who were evacuated to Blackboys as children after bombing in Spain’s Basque region in 1937 - will return to the village in May. Miren Uribe-Echevarria and Moises Alonso were just ten years old when they arrived at Southampton on May 22 as refugees on board the SS Habana.

They were among 4,000 ‘Ninos,’ (child refugees) who were sent to the UK to find sanctuary from the Civil War in their homeland.

Miren and Moises were from Bilbao, one of many cities throughout Spain where civilian populations were terrorised by bombing by Franco’s Nazi allies. The Ninos were placed in scores of colonies throughout the UK and Miren and Moises were among a group of 20 who came to The Glade at Blackboys. The Glade was built to accommodate them and is still in use today as a youth hostel.

Miren returned home to Spain in 1939. After a series of adventures Moises went to the United States where he began to write to Miren. The couple fell in love through their letters, married and went to live in New York. They will return to the UK to join other Ninos at Southampton to commemorate the 75th anniversary of their arrival.

The pair have beautiful memories of their stay in Blackboys and will go to stay at The Glade for four nights with family members. Spanish Civil War historian Mike Anderson from Heathfield is working with the owners of The Glade to have a plaque placed on the building to be unveiled by Miren and Moises.

Mike asks anyone who has memories, photos or comments about their stay in Blackboys to get in touch. The pair attended the local school and remember a classmate called Freddie Woodwell and a girl called Lydia. They also have fond memories of the kindness shown by local people, especially the Sommaruga/Campbell family who donated the land and buildings for The Glade. Mike said: “It’s ironic that four years after the refugees came to Blackboys the same Nazi aircraft and aircrews who used Spain as a training ground would be seen over Sussex skies.” If you can help contact him on: 01435 864978 or email: mike.c.anderson@talktalk.net