Showroom Ana Pérez-Quiroga
Ana Pérez-Quiroga, 2019
This is a research project and artistic materialization about a sociopolitical phenomenon of Spanish history: the exile of 2895 republican children in the Soviet Union, due to the Spanish Civil War; the impact that the German invasion of the USSR during World War II had on these children; and the 19 years spent in the USSR until the return to Spain (1937-1956).
Thus, I depart from this fragment of the Spanish Civil War, within the exodus of about 20,000 children, called "Niños de la Guerra", without their relatives, to many countries that offered shelter: France and its former North African colonies, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Mexico, but which returned when the civil war ended, unlike the children sent to Russia who were held for nineteen years, only returning after diplomatic negotiations between Francoist Spain and Soviet Russia were reestablished in the late 1950s.
At that time this event altered Spain and other countries involved in direct child support, so it must be understood that these people have a face, a voice to which we can make a more personal connection and thus become more empathic with. At the same time, this is a last chance to get a vivid picture of this phenomenon as the youngest children, who went to Russia and are still alive, are now 87 years old.
This work is dedicated to my mother, Angela Petra, with deep admiration, because she is a brave, upright and determined woman who lived as a child until she was an adult from 4 to 24 years old in Russia (1937-1956), a life in exile. as a refugee from the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
I made an archive with pictures of the objects that my mother brought with her on her return to Spain. The subtitles were written by my mother in Russian and the objects drawn by me.
Nineteen years after being sent to the Soviet Union at the age of four, my mother returns to Spain at the age of 24, a medical graduate from the First Institute of Moscow. There she reunites with her family, finds out her real date of birth and even a second proper name, hitherto unknown.
These children, like my mother, return as adults aged between 23-24 and 36-39, educated, with vocational training and cultural capital, which often do not correspond to their original family. On the other hand, many have families with whom they return, causing complicated issues within the Spanish Franco culture, which is the case of mixed couples - Spanish and Soviet -, civil marriages instead of religious, divorce and separation, as well as women returning alone with children.
By the time these adults return with their families to their country of origin, 19 years later, there is no restoration of continuity that was implied in a family and social reunion, but instead a new discontinuity. The relationship with the family, the great expectations created by distance, the time and the idealization of kinship are frustrated by the difficulties of living together.
My mother finds work at Madrid Central Hospital, where she meets my father. They begin dating and marry on May 2, 1958 in Bilbao, in a religious ceremony. At my father's request, she agrees to live to Portugal. With 31 years of service in the National Health System and 61 years living and feeling Portuguese, she thanks the country that welcomed her.
Until today her pronunciation is reason enough to be questioned:
“You are not Portuguese !?”
Ana Pérez-Quiroga was born in 1960, Coimbra, Portugal. Visual artist and performer. Her work focuses essentially on installation, objects, photography and performance art, while her subjects range from everyday life and its mapping in the construction of the self-portrait to the importance of common objects and gender issues. Graduated in Sculpture from the University of Lisbon School of Fine Arts; completed the Advanced Course in Visual Arts at Ar.Co; holds a Master’s Degree in Intermedia Visual Arts from the University of Évora and a Doctorate in Contemporary Art from the University of Coimbra College of the Arts. She is a researcher at CHAIA - Center for History of Art and Artistic Research at the University of Évora. She has attended international residency programmes, with grants from Gulbenkian foundation; Oriente foundation; Institut français du Portugal - Cité international des Arts and Criatório - Porto City Hall. Scholar of Foundation for Science and Technology. She has an atelier supported by the Lisbon City Council. Winner of the 2014 Best Visual Arts Exhibition Prize from Portuguese Society of Authors - SPA