‘That war we suffered’, the most human face of the Civil War

There are fewer and fewer people who lived through the Civil War, so it is essential to collect as many testimonies as possible, to preserve them for the future. That is what the cartoonist has done Jorge Pedro (Alcoi, 1965) in his new work, That war we suffered (Desfiladero editions), in which he narrates how the war was in the rearguard, specifically in Alcoi, where his family is from. A war that trapped people not because of their ideology, but because of where they lived.

The idea for the comic was born in a very personal way, as Jordi tells us: “The story arises from the anecdotes of the war in Spain that my father remembers among those lived in the front line of combat by his uncle. But soon the vision becomes plural because, in the search for information to contrast those memories or find new anecdotes, other stories that interest me and that provide multiple visions arise. And it is that, although the story in the book is told by my great-uncle, there are different points of view that are reflected“.

Having so many comics about the Civil War, we asked Jordi what he thinks he brings That war we suffered: “It is difficult to be original on a subject that has been touched on so much, but I think showing all the characters as victims of war is something not very common”.

Vignettes from ‘That war we suffered’

The protagonists are his grandfather and his great-uncle

Jorge Pedro (I will always wait for your return) reconstructs the Civil War in Alcoi based on real testimonies. We know this way from the front to the rear: the process of socialization of the industries, the bombings, the enlistments, the arrival of international aid, the purges and assassinations, the famine, the hospitals…

We asked him to what extent he relies on his family’s history: “Everything that is narrated is true, all the anecdotes start from the oral narration of the protagonists or their direct relatives. I have taken licenses in the relationships between some characters because, without being sure that they existed or not, they serve so that the common thread of the narrative is not lost”.

Vignettes from ‘That war we suffered’

As for the two main protagonists, Jordi confesses that: “Miguel was my great-uncle, he was at the front for two and a half years without stepping on his house in that time, Rafael is my grandfather, he was a father at the beginning of the war, which prevented him from going to the frontand was part of a socialized metallurgical workshop”.

The cartoonist explains to us how he has reconstructed the stories of his grandparents: “From many anecdotes I have been composing a puzzle where the different stories are narrated in a linear way. That is, except for a prologue and an epilogue, the rest of the work is divided into chapters from 1936 to 1939. It has been chaotic rather than complicated. The script of the story did not stop growing, even when it was in the color phase, helped by my son Alejandro, moments or issues appeared that I felt the need to include. To my regret, I have not worked in a very orthodox way.”

We asked him to what extent it is necessary to preserve these personal histories: “I think it is necessary. It’s the little stories that make up the big story. They must not be forgotten and, above all, they must serve to prevent us, the people, as I was saying John FordWe suffer for the same reasons”.

Vignettes from ‘That war we suffered’

“The war was also terrible in the rear”

We are used to showing life on the front lines and sometimes we forget how hard it can be in the rear, especially for women and children. That is why this comic is so important: “The war was also terrible in the rear,” says Jordi. Fear and hunger were very present in everyday life. The anguish of not knowing how their children and husbands were on the front… Not only in Alcoi, in all the cities they lived the same. The story that I tell tries to go from the particular to the general. Everyone can understand what happens in a war, in any contemporary war, from what is narrated in the book.”

The comic also shows things that are not usually told in movies and even in history books, as the process of socialization of industries. “In an industrial city like Alcoi – Jordi explains -, which remained in the strip faithful to the Republic, the workers began a process of socialization of the industries, workshops and shops. Their original owners were expropriated and they became cooperatives where everyone was the owner.. The bosses were even offered to participate in them, some agreed to join and others did not.”

The idea is romantic and very attached to the premises of the left, and it even worked financially Jordi adds. It is true that in times of war there is a certain financial take-off, but it is no less true that when they were returned to the entrepreneurs, the numbers were better than when they were socialized.”

Vignettes from ‘That war we suffered’

The bombing of towns

The comic also shows how the Civil War pioneered the bombing of cities. “The coup generals, with Franco at the head, were very clear that bombing the civilian population was (and is) a strategic weapon Jordi tells us. On the one hand, he installs terror in the rear, on the other he undermines the morale of the soldiers at the front who believe they are protecting their own by fighting and realize that this is not the case.

“The Civil War,” he adds. it was a testing ground for what would come next (World War II). I don’t know if it was intentional, maybe not, but it allowed us to test weapons, strategies, and confront ideologies, just months before Germany invaded Poland and the world conflagration began.”

We asked Jordi what he thinks about that romantic vision of the Civil War that some foreign countries continue to have: “There are romantic elements in it, it’s true. LIn defense of some ideals, the participation of brigades from abroad, attracted by that idea. The same blood hospitals run by foreign medical teams… but obviously there’s nothing romantic about war. People are murdered, villages are destroyed, basic rights are violated…”.

Page of ‘That war we suffered’

“It is sad to see how the comic has become topical with the war in Ukraine”

The current war in the Ukraine makes it even more important that we not forget the horrors of wars, especially civil wars, as Jordi points out: “Unfortunately, yes. The war began when the book was in revision to go to press and It is very sad to see how current it is. We have not made any progress in these more than eighty years. But the thing is, I think that, in general, as a species, we made very little progress. War, any war, is the failure of politics“.

“When dialogue doesn’t work we grab the mammoth bone again to open our neighbor’s head Jordi adds.

Vignette of ‘That war we suffered’

The comic is over 200 pages. An enormous task that Jordi describes as: “Tiring. Above all because this is only one facet of my work and I combine it with a thousand other projects. So what, perhaps, in eight or ten months of exclusive dedication, I could have finished has been extended to more than three. It is not complicated, not more than other artistic disciplines, but it is very laborious. Of all the projects I do, novels, theatre, art direction, illustration… comics are the ones that take the most time”.

As for his projects in the vignettes, Jordi confesses that: “I’m already involved in the next one. A story about a workers’ revolt that took place in 1873 with consequences, both for employers and workers, that lasted decades and were reflected in the city itself. Of course, I have limited the number of pages because my idea is that it does not take me more than a year to narrate it. Let’s see if i get it”.

Cover of ‘That war we suffered’


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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