The Manolita's Grant is dedicated to all those people who were forced to leave their homeland due to violence or war.
It is dedicated to the loss refugees suffer as the result of leaving behind their mother tongue, culture, family history, possessions, and most importantly, the immense pain of being separated from loved ones.
Manuela Inocencia Puyuelo Broto was the name given to Manolita on the day she was baptized. She was born in Ainsa, a small village in Northern Spain at the foot of the majestic Pyrenees Mountains. She was the youngest of 4 children and the only girl in her family.
Life was comfortable and carefree for this young girl. She lived surrounded by her loving parents, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins. Her parents were local merchants and owned their own home, business and land in the village where for hundreds of years her ancestors lived. Tragically, in 1938 when the Spanish Civil War was raging and Fascist troops were moving north, her family (who supported the retreating Republican faction) had to flee Spain for fear of being imprisoned or worse.
Young children, women, grandparents and whole families fled on foot across the snow covered Pyrenees with only the possessions they could carry. Once in France, children were separated from their parents in the chaos. Manolita, who was 10 years old at the time, is still traumatized from that experience. She was eventually reunited with her mother and brothers, but she would never see her father again. He was assassinated in Spain, before he could join his family on the retreat to France.
Her family would never be whole again. Her brother and cousin were killed a few years later during the Nazi occupation of France and death came too early to other family members that stayed behind and to those that fled Spain.
Manolita, who had managed to learn French like a native and settle into life in a small French Village, once again found herself swept up in war. In 1942 her mother forced her to leave Nazi occupied France for the safer option of New York. At 13 years of age and alone, she was placed on an ocean liner that left Marseilles for NYC. The ship held 200 other broken young lives, most of whom were Jewish children from all over Europe, and a few dozen youths from the Spanish refugee camp, known as,"la colonia". It was a dangerous and frightening journey.
If you were to meet Manolita, you would instantly feel comfortable and cared for, like meeting up with an old friend. If you were to ask her about her adopted country, the United States of America, she would sound grateful. She has had a good life. She was loved and supported by a wonderful American foster family. However, 80 years later, the loss and separation from her family, and country will still bring tears to her eyes every time she speaks of it.