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My paternal grandfather was an Oxford-educated architect who was born in 1893 and converted from Judaism to Christianity so he could marry my then 33 year old grandmother in 1933. He was already 40 at the time, came from a family of means and was a patron of the arts in Madrid. His name would sometimes appear in the newspapers of the day.

However when the civil war broke out in 1936 he was forced to leave Spain as he was considered an enemy of the Franco-led fascist forces since most of his friends and acquaintances were opposed to Franco. He fled to Portugal for a time and when he tried to return in 1944 he died of a heart attack in transit. My father was 10 years old at the time.

My Spanish Belgian-born grandmother died of ovarian cancer in 1968 when I was 6 which was 3 years before we left for Canada. She had been a conservatory trained pianist and singer and, her father, an executive at the Spanish Osborne distillery company.

I learned much of these details over the years and would sometimes wonder how different their lives would have been from mine; how each era shapes our societies and in turn the individuals that live in them.

Madrid, 1930

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