Sponsor asylum seekers’ project in Oldham

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Mike Luft, who has been an anti-fascist campainger for more than 50 years, will walk across the Pyrenées from La Junquera in Spain to La Coume in France – a journey of approx. 170 miles/273km – from 13 to 24 September 2010.

Mike’s walk, together with Stewart Bailey who is a Quaker, is an urgent fund-raising effort on behalf of Oldham Unity, a self-financing solidarity project which supports asylum seekers and refugees in the Oldham, Lancashire, area, providing emergency food parcels and accommodation to those who do not qualify for any state support, to people left without anything.

Mike, a former construction electrician, later library technician, and for his whole adult life an active communist and trade unionist, has always been a keen student of the Spanish Civil War and has researched the routes taken by those who crossed into the Spanish Republic to support the democratically-elected Republican Government against Franco fascism and also the routes taken by the Spanish refugees and anti-fascist fighters after Franco’s Hitler and Mussolini-aided victory.

As a result, he decided to retrace the routes taken on the terrible journey from Spain to France in 1939.

Commemorative plaque in Castell San Ferran
Commemorative plaque in Castell San Ferran

The route taken by Mike and Stewart will include:

  • La Vajol a border crossing used by the refugees
  • Las Illas the site of a memorial to the International Brigades (IB)
  • Valmanya a mining village destroyed, like Oradour and Lidice were, by the SS as a savage reprisal because it was a centre of fierce anti-fascist resistance organised by the FTP and Spanish Republicans.The partisan group there was named after Henri Barbusse. Its leader was Julien Panchot who was tortured most horribly and murdered by the SS in August 1944. He had fought in Spain with the IB and was a unifier and inspiration of the partisan network.
  • La Coume now an international welcome centre for children and adolescents. Set up, thanks to a Quaker member of the famous Clarke’s shoe company, as a refuge for Jewish children who were refugees from fascist persecution it was initially run by a German anti-fascist called Pitt Kruger and continued as a haven for children fleeing fascism up to Pinochet’s murderous coup in Chile.

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