Before televisions invaded our homes, news was spread via newsreels, when cinema-goers were shown the news before the film, thereby getting a window into the rest of the world.
Citizens of Spain of a certain age will remember the “NO-DO” newsreels that were shown before movies, always praising the dictator Franco’s fishing abilities, sharing the “extraordinary advances” of all types that were taking place in the King-less Kingdom that he governed with an iron fist and spiked glove.
In the Western world, those of us who due only to geographical position found ourselves living under a dictatorship could only dream of learning about the things that were forbidden to us, such unpatriotic things as the consequences of Freedom, the achievements of Democracy, the criticism of dictatorships, or, during the Second World War, the struggle of Democracies against fascist totalitarianism.
Many of us Basques suffered the consequences of that totalitarianism. For a few years their, Basques on either side of the Pyrenees each had their own form of totalitarianism, Nazism and Francoism.
Those north of the Pyrenees were lucky enough to throw off the shackles of Nazism in 1945. Those of us south of them kept hoping for something that would never come: that the Allies, who had received so much help from the Basques on the front and behind the lines, would end Franco’s regime. We needn’t have held our breath; indeed, that criminal regime ended up becoming an ally of those powers (you know how realpolitik is).
In 1945, there were still those Basques who were holding out for seeing themselves freed of those dictatorships. What’s more, they thought it would soon be at hand, as the war in Europe came to an end with the fall of the Nazi regime.
That was when British Pathé filmed a scant 2-minute newsreel report on the Basque refugees in Great Britain, celebrating a festival in the London Basque Club in South Kensington.
The joy of being together was undoubtedly joined by a strong hope that the obvious end to the War would let them go back to their Homeland, to the Basque Country, freed from the claws of Franco.
They could not have known that still many, many years would go by before what the narrator says finally came true: they could go back to their own country again.