Untold Stories

The shrapnel-scarred bungalow challenging Spain’s civil war amnesia

19 April 2020

It is only by chance that a small bungalow in Madrid bearing the scars of Nazi shelling still survives. And it is only by pure coincidence that, just a decade ago, this fact came to light when photographer and archeologist Jose Latova stumbled across a photograph taken by the Hungarian war photographer Robert Capa.

Peironcely 10 photographed by Robert CapaChildren in front of the shrapnel-scarred building of Calle Peironcely 10, Madrid. November-December 1936. [Photograph: Robert Capa © International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos]

Continue reading my full reported story for Al Jazeera here, and continue scrolling for the rest…

THE LITTLE SHRAPNEL-SCARRED BUILDING

It was in the winter of 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, that bombers sent by Hitler pummelled this little shrapnel-scarred building in Puente de Vallecas. Today, still scarred by shrapnel, 14 families live here.

Photo © José Latova

The little bullet-riddled building at Calle Peironcely 10 is about 100 years old and has many stories to tell. In fact, those stories are the reason it survives.

This building was set to be demolished but, at the last moment, its scars were identified as being from the war. With so few physical traces of the Spanish Civil War, the people behind the #salvapeironcely10 project began to fight for its preservation and won!

By summer, its 21 residents will be rehoused and this bungalow will be converted into a Spanish Civil War museum – the first of its kind.

It’s an honour to have seen this little house while it’s still a living museum, but I’m very glad that the residents will be moved into more modern housing because, as I’ll reveal tomorrow in a series of photographs, their living conditions are unacceptable.

MEET THE RESIDENTS

Just days before lockdown began, residents of the little shrapnel-scarred bungalow welcomed me into their homes and told me their stories.

JUAN

Juan has a thick Badajoz accent. He’s a retired construction worker who helped build some of Madrid’s skyscrapers. His father fought in the war that scarred his home, and his 12 grand children keep him busy.

LOUBNA

Loubna from Morocco is a singe mother of three young kids who go to the school opposite their house. They have never brought any of their friends home to play.

ANA

Ana from Colombia lives here with her son. She speaks fluent English – she loves languages – and is also studying to become a social worker. She’ll return to university when her arthritis gets better. She is slowly recovering from Covid-19.

MIHAELA

Mihaela, from Romania, is a mother of two very young kids. Her Bolivian husband, a construction worker, provides for the whole family as she has never found any reliable cleaning work.

THE EXPROPRIATION

Each of these residents are quarantined inside their tiny homes with bullets buried in their walls. In June, they were set to move into new homes and for Pieroncely 10 to be converted into a Spanish Civil War museum. As Spain continues to unravel the events of the civil war, the expropriation of Peironcely 10 and its conversion into a museum are one step towards redressing the country’s wartime scars – perhaps helping them to finally heal. The coronavirus crisis has delayed this, but hopefully not for too long.

INFO

  • Follow the progress of the expropriation of Pieroncely 10 and its conversion into a Civil War museum on their website, Facebook and Twitter.
  • Read my Al Jazeera article about it here.

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