In search of the child stolen in Girona in 1965

Josep and his brothers are looking for a brother who was presumed dead but they have indications that he was taken by another family

4 min
Brothers of the Salitja farmhouse, who believe they stole a brother of theirs

BarcelonaMossèn Ramírez let him leave his Latin class at the Minor Seminary of Girona. His father went to look for him to take him to the farmhouse of Salitja where the family lived. Between him and his sister Roser they had to take care of his younger siblings while Maria, his mother, gave birth to another child. While their father took them to the farmhouse where he worked as a sharecropper, owned by another brother, everything came to a head: the birth came early. Maria was alone in the Clínica La Alianza in Girona, today Clínica Onyar.

Josep would never see the baby that was born in November 1965. No one in his family would ever see that child. It was a "textbook case", remembers Josep. A half-anesthetised woman, they wrapped the baby up very quickly, took it away without even showing it to the mother, before it even cried, and after a while they came back and gave her a lapidary sentence: "The child was very handsome, but you didn't have enough strength to give life to a being". His mother was alone, surrounded by the midwife Joaquima Soler, the nuns, the nurse and the doctor. They told them nothing more. They never knew where they buried that baby. Silence. The subject became a taboo for the family.

Until a few years ago, when they began to ask questions, to break the silence and put words to what they had sensed from the first day: that their brother was a stolen baby. "We didn't do anything because it was like moving a mountain, our parents hid it so that it wouldn't traumatise us", he explains. But three years ago Josep began to write the story. And in January 2020 he began a path full of obstacles and frustrations to get answers.

The conversation with the mother

On 1 January of this year, with the crackling of the wood burning in the background, the brothers came clean with their mother. "We want to tell you a story. We've been looking into that stolen child thing for a year", they told her. "Has he come out?" the 96-year-old mother asked. "Not yet"; replied Rosa Maria, one of the daughters. That New Year's Eve they talked for almost an hour about what had happened 55 years earlier, about the subject that had been hushed up at home for so long. "What would you tell him if we found him", Rosa Maria asked. "That I am not to blame", she said.

The first step was to enter a record of the case in the Generalitat. They asked for their mother's medical records from the Onyar Clinic, but they were refused because they only kept the reports for the last 30 years. Although the Generalitat insisted that hospitals are obliged to have this information, the regulations at the time exempted the clinic. The administration, which had promised to proceed judicially, backed down. But they did not. Together with her sister Rosa Maria, they consulted the municipal archives. There was no record of any abortion or child born to Maria that November 1965. What's more, those in charge of the archives took the case with determination and went through eight months of documentation. Not a single reference. And this is because, according to ARA, they have all the births and abortions registered in the archive.

On 22 December, 2020 Josep found out that a few days ago the Parliament had unanimously approved the law on the forced disappearance of minors, a law to help families whose children had been stolen by Franco's regime. A practice that was repeated during the first years of Spanish democracy. "I called the Generalitat in Girona and they knew nothing. They told me that it would be the first case they would take, but, afterwards, we found that they did nothing because there was no interest", she explains.

They did not give up. They went back to the clinic to ask for Maria's birth and abortion records, which would have had to be kept for many more years. It took months for them to get an answer, which was negative. The information had been deleted. The people in charge of the clinic claimed that they had checked the files for the third time and had found nothing. Obviously, there were no workers left from that time who could help. The next step, the Civil Registry. Neither did they. In the second half of 1965 and the first half of 1966, not a single reference to Maria. That baby, neither alive nor dead, was nowhere to be found.

The doctor's warning

The fact that there is no reference of the child suggests that it was stolen. It was a modest family that did not raise its voice or ask questions. It was not the time to protest. Silence prevailed for decades. The children never spoke to their father. He died 12 years ago. What they do remember is that a few weeks before the birth the doctor Benet Julià told them that "things were not going well", that it was a "child with little life". The father told Roser, the eldest daughter. "It is the black spot, the contrast between the fact that the father said that the child was dead two or three weeks before and the mother went to the clinic thinking that the baby was alive", says Josep. His mother, despite the doctor's words - which coincide with what happened in most cases of stolen children - believed that everything would be fine. She had six more children and they were always born healthy, without caesarean section. In fact, a few days after the birth, Maria had some tests done: she was perfect, but she had lost the child due to "exhaustion".

"You feel helpless, the fact they can take a child away from you is very hard", says Josep, who over the years has imagined more than once what it would be like to meet his little brother. He has even given him a name. The stolen child would be called Joan. They know that it is very difficult to find him, because the clinic has not been able to tell them what day he was born. But they still have hope - especially if the child stayed in the area and someone has explained the truth that they are trying to discover 55 years later.