March 4, 2024

The Spanija series translates select autobiographical accounts by Yugoslavian and Montenegrin volunteers of their actions in the Spanish Civil War. Dr. Ray Hoff used Google Translate from Croatian to English and he edited the selections. As this is a machine translation, the idiomatic features of Croatioan or Serbian and the translation of names and places are “best effort.” The full five-volume collection was entitled The Participants write Spanija 1936-1939: collection of memories of Yugoslav volunteers in the Spanish War. It was assembled by Editor-in-Chief Cedo Kapor and published by the Initiative Committee of the Association of Spanish Fighters, The War History of our Peoples, Book 130, Military Publishing Institute, Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 1971, 5 volumes.


Edo Jardas, Spanija V1, pp 508-510, FROM CANADA TO BARCELONA

Edo Jardas

The ship was slowly cutting through the Atlantic, as if it hadn’t moved. It was 1937. Two groups of volunteers, our Canadian and a group from the US, they traveled from New York to Le Havre. The ship may not have sailed slowly, but we were in a hurry, the other coast, to Spain, the country where the Spanish patriots defended the Republican government and soaked the dry crust of the earth with blood. We waited impatiently for a moment for the ship to touch the port pier of Le Havre.

A few years before the outbreak of the Civil War in Spain, I used to live in Canada. Over the past few years, I have managed the Toronto newspaper, Slobodna misao, since the summer of 1936. I’ve been Director of the Party School for the Yugoslav language area. We followed events on the Iberian Peninsula. As the days went by, it became increasingly clear to me that the forces of the fascist Berlin – Rome Axis are openly intervening and this policy of “neutrality” of the Western democratic countries was helped wholeheartedly by the Social Democrats. I asked the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Canada to let me go with a group of volunteers to Spain. I was told to wait a little longer.

Two months later, the organization secretary called me and said:

“Edo prepare a company of good fighters!”

After much discussion, I went to work on collecting volunteers. That part of the job was not difficult, because the people were willing to put themselves under the flag of the Spanish Republic. We had a group of 27 people, including the largest group from the Party school.

The second part of the preparation, however, lasted much longer. Every trip to this part of Europe was strictly controlled. It was not possible to go to Spain, but the road to France was open. That’s why we had to get travel documents. Some Yugoslavs paid their way to Zagreb, as if they were returning home, and some volunteers asked for tourist visas to Paris. On the other hand, the reasons were divided: tourists had to have of certain amount of money for a stay in France, and the money was not enough. That’s why people come here in different ways and all problems were resolved by the end of February 1937.

We finally saw Le Havre. As the ship crept in and tied up at the pier, passengers smoked and chatted, and we, Canadian and American “tourists” for Spain, mixed with others, we looked And they also smiled. But soon as we stopped, as one of us went out, so they separated him and put him aside. No one escaped the eye of the police. We were upset, but in vain. Soon we were all in side lounge of the ship. The rest of the passengers were already running into Le Havre, and we 27 Canadians and a group of Americans waited behind the closed doors of the ship’s lounge. Let’s see what happens next. Then the door opened. A well-dressed gentleman entered and said:

“Gentlemen, we understand what you’re up to. You are setting off for Spain and it is our duty to warn you of everything that you might experience. It is my duty to inform you that the French government, in accordance with its policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of Spain, closed the border to that Country and no one can expect otherwise. It’s also my duty to warn you that anyone who tries the impossible will take a risk on your own conscience, and I can’t even give you any guarantees.

The police officer spoke for a long time. We became all more impatient.

“You’re accusing us!” — someone shouted.

“We have the paperwork!”

“We are guests in your country and you have no right to insult us!”

The Gentleman began slowly to heat up [fall into the fire].

“You’re felons! You’re Communists! You want to sneak into Spain through our territory, and I guarantee you here that it won’t work for anyone. Go if you want! Go! You will not live to cross the border.”

He nodded and continued quietly:

“Gentlemen, be reasonable! Return to the country from which you came. I have the authority  of the government to give you a guarantee that France will pay the costs of each of you to return”

Both groups, about 70 people, responded to their own way. The Salon echoed:


The Gentleman waited for us to calm down. It was seen that he was being overpowered by a struggle. Then he said:

“All right! Does anyone want to come back?”


“If anyone wants to, raise your hand.”

A single hand went up in the air. It was a man from my group, some pharmacist from Montreal. As soon as he raised his hand, men walked away from him as if he were sick. In the meantime, the pharmacist remained alone in the circle, pale as a rag, still with his arm in the air.

Someone spat in the circle.

As the pharmacist stood in confusion, and scared, people are cried out to him, calling out cursesand insults.

Then we disembarked. Our documents were in order. No one could touch us. We left the ship without anyone turning his head to the pharmacist. They said bitterly as they were passing by:


The apothecary remained as if petrified. Then I couldn’t even imagine that, by coincidence, wegot the wrong impression of him as a man. I couldn’t imagine that later he would come to save my life.

From Le Havre, we moved to Paris, and from there to the Pyrenees and the border. We tried several times to get through the mountains, but we failed. Maybe the crossing wouldn’t have been so difficult if there hadn’t been an incident in the ship’s salon

In other words: the police probably wanted to show that things really were the way the Gentleman explained in Le Havre.

In the end, we decided to take different routes to Marseilles and try to find a way to get to some port in Spain. In Marseilles, one evening we accidentally found a connection and secretly boarded the old freighter “Le Gaspe”. Hidden at the bottom of the ship, along the shaft, we went to the last stage of the route to the trenches.

The next day we were in Barcelona. It was March 17, 1937.

Some of the first information in Barcelona, several agreements, the first instructions in the reception center, posters around the city and the mood of the Spaniards, all of it encouraged.

The fascists don’t pass!” was on the signs. Everyone felt that way.

“It won’t pass!” “No pasaran!”

The Canadian Army is based in Albacete, which is the center of the International Brigades. We knew we would be in Albacete to train and deploy to units. No more police, no more borders. . .we were already volunteers of the Republic.



*Article written by Vladimir Šegota, based on the memory of the signed participant

Photograph of Edo Jardas from Yugoslav Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War: History and Cultural Memory Pdf


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