It is definitely not bad, the library at my university. I took a few books last Friday, and as I passed the foreign languages section I could not resist getting a classic. This time it was “El cuarto de atrás”, by Carmen Martín Gaite (a month ago it was “Si te dicen que caí”, by Juan Marsé).

As in most occasions, my imagination went out the window and flew far away… the novel wanted to take me to the war, to a refuge in Salamanca. Well, I went to a refuge in Bilbao. I never was inside it, but my mother and grandmother have told me so much about it… besides, one of the entrance is still clearly visible, although is boarded up, in Uribitarte. My mother and her grandmother, my great-grandmother, rushed there as soon as the siren roared. My grandmother would stay at home, working for Cotorruelo factory by the piece, because she could not afford to not work for hours. She had to earn enough for herself, her mother and her daughter. Miraculously, no bomb ever killed her. She used to say that howitzers were more scary than bombs.

My mother and great-grandmother had to go down some stone steps which still exist today, but which I only discovered after my teens, from the streets to the level of the dock. Like Gaite’s family, I guess people from Alameda de Mazarredo and surroundings would squeeze for hours in that damp and dark refuge, until the sirens and the bombs stopped roaring.

As my mother says every time the subject is risen at home… may another one not come.