In 1936-37, 1700 Canadians volunteered to fight with the Spanish people against a fascist coup d’etat led by elements of the Spanish Army. Backed by Musselini and Hitler, the fascists were bent on overthrowing Spain’s democratically elected socialist government and replacing it with military and church rule. It could be argued this conflict marked the true beginning of what would become World War II.
The Canadian volunteers were mostly workers, some unemployed, some socialists, all anti-fascists. Many saw the Spanish people’s fight as an extension of their own struggles against the forces of capitalism that had left millions in 1930′s Canada bankrupt, starved, and easily exploitable by their bosses. A large portion of them were Finnish immigrants from places like Thunder Bay and Sudbury, Ontario.
“Non-intervention” was in effect and it was illegal for them to go to Spain. They went anyway, posing as tourists to the World’s Fair in France and dressed accordingly, made the perilous trek over the Pyranies Mountains into Spain. For most it was straight on into battle in places like Brunete and the Jarama valley. Hundreds of them never came back, laid to rest in blood-soaked Spanish earth.
This documentary features the story of Jules Paivio, one of the last living Canadian volunteers of the infamous Mackenzie-Papineau Battallion of the “International Brigades”. When Jules left from his home near Port Arthur (Thunder Bay), Ontario, his father, a famous Finnish poet, wrote a lasting lament: “To My Son In Spain”.
Written and Researched by
Directed and Edited by
Funded by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.