By Rosa Garcia
This is my favourite photograph of my parents, Enrique and Poli. It sits on my mantelpiece in a leather frame, given to my parents as a wedding present.
Apart from their obvious beauty, I like it because it represents a time when my parents were truly happy. Young, in love, saving for their wedding and their first home in Madrid, life must have seemed full of possibilities and hope to these children of the Spanish Civil War. Their childhoods had been spent in fear. Both were displaced from their homes by the war; both had witnessed horrors. Their adolescence in the bleak post-war period was spent just trying to not starve, striving to make a living – not an easy feat for anyone identified as a ‘Republican’ at that time in Franco’s Spain.
Somehow they both found jobs. And then they found each other. Soon, they decided to marry but not before they had saved for a deposit on a small flat of their own. My mother was an orphan – her remaining family dispersed because of the war. My father’s family were politicised working people and identified Republicans. My parents would have no financial assistance from their struggling families. So they postponed their marriage to save. More than anything they feared poverty and wanted to start their new lives and their own family with a solid base.
Five years into their engagement, they had saved up enough money for a down payment on a flat in a large housing development that was about to be built in Madrid. Buying off the plan, they were assured, would afford them a large discount. They handed over their deposit and began to plan the wedding. But the housing development plan was scam. Overnight, the ‘developer’ disappeared taking my parents' life savings with him. Their money was never recovered.
My parents were devastated. Despite their years of hard work and rigorous saving they were, once again, penniless. My father’s family, who adored my mother, encouraged them to marry anyway and to move in with them. There wasn’t a lot of space in my grandparents' home but they all had great respect and affection for each other and they made do. My sister and I were born in that house.
It must have been a difficult decision for my parents to leave the love and support of my wonderful grandparents, and their adored Madrid, to start a new life in Australia. I imagine that those Australian migrant recruitment posters depicting sweet little houses with white picket fences and a car parked in the drive must have helped them to make the leap of faith. After all, they had to think of the future of their two little girls.
But this photograph precedes all of that. It represents a sliver of time sandwiched between the horrors of their youth and the disappointments and struggles of their adult lives. On this day my parents were helping my father’s friend set up the ‘patio’ of his bar for a dance. My father had taken my mother to a fair where they had won a cheap plastic camera in a ‘tombola’ game. They decided to see if it worked and my father’s friend snapped my parents in this happy movie star pose. The cheap camera did indeed work and produced this beautiful shot.
As a child I would pore over the tiny print. When I grew up I had it professionally enlarged and placed it in my parents' old leather frame. It has held pride of place in the many homes I have lived in over the years. I love it.
Rosa is the (DECD) Outreach Education Manager at the Migration Museum. Her family has donated a number of photographs to the collection.