This article was translated by John R. Bopp

This time, Basque-American writer Vince J. Juaristi has left us dumbfounded.  We’ve been following his magnificent series of article being published by the Elko Daily under the generic title Intertwined/Entrelazadoswith great interest, as he discusses the profound links that unite Basques and Americans.  They’re being written motivated by the fact that this summer, Basque culture is the guest of honor at the Folklife Festival, held every year by the Smithsonian Institute on the National Mall in Washington.

We say we’ve been left dumbfounded because, while his articles so far have focused on matters that we’ve more or less already discussed in this blog, this time he’s taken us completely by surprise.  His last article tells a story that brings together two lives that seemed to be destined to never meet.

One of those lives belonged to Kerman Mirena Iriondo, a Basque war child, who, at the age of eight, had to leave his homeland from the port of Bilbao to be taken to safety from the bombings of the insurgent Francoists.  

The other belonged to Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, who, in addition to being the wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the President of the US between 1933 and 1945, was an influential diplomat and human rights activist.  She was a woman of deep principles who used her role as the First Lady of the US to foment humanitarian projects and to defend freedom.  

We knew, if only superficially, about the project set up by journalist John Langdon-Davies, and volunteer Eric Muggeridge, both British, to create a network of aid to abandoned and orphaned children during the Spanish Civil War.  It was called the Foster Parent`s Plan for Children in Spain.

We’ve also spoken about the role of the British civil society played in taking in Basque war children to Great Britain.  What we didn’t know about, and what Vince J. Juaristi has opened our eyes to, was that this wasn’t limited just to Great Britain, but also the US, and that Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady, played a key role in its development.

This in and of itself was a huge discovery.  But what’s really spectacular is knowing that of three of the refugee children that were “adopted” by Eleanor Roosevelt, one was Kerman Mirena Iriondo, one of the Basque children who had to leave his homeland aboard the British ship Habana.

Kerman Mirena Iriondo, Basque war child, who was “adopted” by the First Lady of the US
Kerman Mirena Iriondo, Basque war child, who was “adopted” by the First Lady of the US

 

He was one of the children who helped get Defense of Childhood projects underway during the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War and which, after WWII, ended up becoming UNICEF, thanks in no small part ot the determination of Eleanor Roosevelt to create the stable mechanisms in defense of childhood protected by International Law.  We don’t know (although we can imagine) what they would think of what’s happening today in many not-so-far-away places, like Europe itself.

We must thank Vince J. Juaristi for telling us these passionate stories of Basques and we encourage our readers to not miss any of these tales.  They’re beautiful, exciting, and very well written, so much so that even Google translator’s versions are readable!

Elko Daily – 7/5/2016 – USA

Eleanor’s Children

ever had a First Lady of the United States traveled to Europe without her husband. Despite the German Luftwaffe prowling the skies, Eleanor Roosevelt shrugged off the danger and flew to England in 1942. She had four sons in military service and wanted to do something for the war effort, if only to raise British spirits and carry a vital message across the pond, “America is coming.” She and Franklin had been visited by King George and Queen Elizabeth at the White House, so returning the call seemed only fitting. She also hoped to bring good tidings to the few American troops already in country and study the effects of wartime programs on average families. Additionally, a chief priority was spending time with refugee children, three in particular whom she had adopted and supported for years. Among them was a Basque boy, Kerman Mirena Iriondo.

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