Eugeni Coll, from Fenollet. Honorary Member.

Next, Jordi Piferrer i Deu, author of the book “Camino de Liberation”, gives a summary of the lives of the three Honorary members of the Association: Josep Cirera, Josep Boix de Juncàs and Eugeni Coll de Fenollet, already deceased

Eugeni Coll i Campà was born in Fenollet on January 24, 1925, although the civil registry states that he was born on February 24. His wife is Carmen and he had a daughter Rosa, married to Martí Bentanach, with whom they had two children: Martí and Rosa. He died in Fenollet on May 10, 2007, at the age of 82.

He helped us a lot in discovering the path that reached Fenollet from Comalavall and the path that goes up the Grau del Fangueret channel to the Coll de Santa Fe. He always claimed that Saint Josemaria’s expedition went up through this channel, which on the other hand was the usual route taken by the people of the area to jump into the Cabó valley from Fenollet. For the many help he provided us, he was named an Honorary Member of the Association of Friends of the Pallerols Path in Rialb in Andorra on February 26, 2005.

After speaking many times with Eugeni over the last 5 years, I would like to summarize the things I remember and that can help us learn about interesting aspects of the Fenollet house during the war years of 1936 – 1939. At that time he was between eleven and fourteen years old and therefore he remembered a lot of things quite well.

As he had told us, from the end of 1936 to the end of 1938, almost every week there was a fugitive expedition headed for Andorra. After 1939 they also had refugees in their house.
The Fenollet house was well known in the area, due to its strategic location on the road from Bòixols to Organyà and La Seu d’Urgell. Indeed, the road that went from Pallars Jussà (Salàs de Pallars, la Pobla de Segur, Isona, les Conques, Tremp, . . .) to Alt Urgell (Organyà and Seu d’Urgell), passed through Sallent, Montanissell and Fennel. This was the last house before reaching Organyà.

Especially during the famous cattle fairs of Organyà and Salas de Pallars, this road was very busy. When for Sant Andreu, on November 31, there was a fair in Organyà, people who came from the districts of Pallars, Bòixols, Tremp, etc. they passed through Fenollet. As this was the last house they found before arriving in Organyà, some stayed there to sleep during the 9 days that the fair lasted.

When the Spanish war broke out in 1936, some FAI militiamen wanted to kill Fenollet’s owner because they considered him to be right-wing. He had relatives who were priests and nuns, and both he and his wife were distinguished by their bonhomie.

As they were well known in the area, and especially by the people of Bòixols, the 5 militiamen of this town determined that no one should touch the people of Fenollet for anything. So, throughout the war, Fenollet enjoyed special protection.

The path that passed through Fenollet was a horseshoe path, that is to say only animals could pass through it or it could be done on foot. It had nothing to do with the road that is there now. It was a path that went over the current road (you can still see it now) and when you passed through Fenollet on the way to Montanissell, it left the house on the left, so if you didn’t want to enter the house you could pass by, more or less as it happens today.

Between the protection they had of the people of Bòixols and the difficulty of accessing it, it is understood that militiamen or people with the specific intention of carrying out inspections did not pass by. Certainly, being a thoroughfare, people usually passed by: some stopped to say hello, or stayed to eat and even sleep, or simply passed by.

During the 1936 war, about 14 people lived in Fenollet: 6 of the family, two nuns who were in hiding (the mistress’s sister and a friend of hers), a pastor, two young men and 2 or 3 relatives who were also there hidden

In addition, as we have said, every week or every 15 days there were expeditions of 20 to 40 people, on their way to Andorra. In the winter months – December, January and February – there were usually no expeditions.

To feed so many people, Eugeni went down to Organyá and Coll de Nargó twice a week to look for bread and other groceries. He was alternating between the two towns so as not to arouse suspicion. They had lambs, some pigs, rabbits and chickens. They didn’t have cows like they have now.

An also interesting detail to be located in the Fenollet of the year 1937, is that at that time there was no hermitage that is there today, which was built in the year 1942. Reading the writings and diaries of the issue of November 1937 we transcribe the following paragraphs that we will analyze in the light of the above.

a) Says Miguel Fisac ​​in the Newspaper of November 28, 1937,

“Much after what we had desired, the haystack arrived; mejor dicho, the roofed enclosure; and after waiting a little while for the guide to ask permission from the owners to be able to stop there for what was left of the night, which was very little, and all the following day, we entered: we took a little black pudding and bread, from what We took spare parts, and we prepared to sleep in the livestock shelter, which was in another department immediately adjacent to ours.”

It coincides with what Eugeni Coll told us, that the cattle were in one area and the people in the department next door.

b) Juan Jiménez Vargas says in a writing from 1980:

“The house where we had to spend the day – Fenollet – was very isolated in the mountains, at just under 1,000 meters of altitude. It was large and had relatively large corrals. There, due to its strategic location, expeditions led by several guides stopped. They stop groups of 10, 20, 30 and even more, approximately once a week. That family treated the fugitives with a generosity that was very grateful, and Eugenio Coll, who was not yet 14 years old, needed courage to make the supply. He had to manage to buy for the towns without arousing suspicion, things, like bread, that he could not have in reserve for so many people at home. He bought one day in Coll de Nargó and another day in Orgañá.
On arrival, with authoritative orders, the guide locked us all in the corral. The Father, who arrived exhausted, gave encouragement with a kind phrase to those who were more tired. We hadn’t taken anything since twelve o’clock at night, as it corresponded to the eucharistic fast of that time. The first was communion, without the majority realizing anything. (. . . )
The Chief, then, warned that it was necessary to save the provisions we were carrying, because afterwards we would not find another house where they could prepare something for us to eat, and there were three days left. And disappearance We spent the whole day huddled in that corral, without peeking out of the door so as not to be seen.
In the middle of the morning, when almost all of us were sleeping in the corral, two militiamen appeared in the house, asking if they had seen people. They were walking along that road hunting for fugitives. The mistress – in a display of serenity – told them that she was willing to collaborate with them in the pursuit of factions, while she served them good glasses of wine and good cuts of ham. And when they finished their lunch they left without investigating further. The Father noticed because he was not asleep. Perhaps this untimely visit was not excessively dangerous. (…).

The teacher and others who helped her – one of them, the teacher’s family, was a nun and took refuge there – they took care of everything and had everything planned. In the morning, before our arrival, they naturally slaughtered a sheep so we could prepare the meal.
They went through the clothes of some. To Tomás, the tears he had made in his pants during the descent from Aubens were sewn up.
At two o’clock we ate beans with lamb, which served in quantities that exceeded the hunger we all had when we woke up. Our guide says that he has forgotten many things but that that meal always reminds him.”

Eugeni Coll told us that this story about the militiamen is a bit exaggerated since, as we said before, the people who passed through Fenollet did not come to investigate, but in any case passed by the house on their way to Organyà or another place, since they were all very friendly and had a pact of mutual defense, the result of many years of friendship between the families of the neighboring towns and houses.
This reasoning is logical, since if every week they had fugitives hiding in the corrals of their house, which are about 30 paces from the house, they could not expose themselves to being discovered since they would have been executed instantly by factional hideouts . In other words, if they had people almost every week, they were very sure that it was practically impossible for anyone to come and inspect them.
It could certainly be that militiamen passed by the house, but not with the specific intention of looking for fugitives, but were passing by like many other people did. Another thing is how the refugees saw it, since due to their state of anxiety they perceived the dangers much more intensely.
This account by Juan Jiménez Vargas was made in 1980, when more than 40 years had already passed, and he himself also says that this visit would not be “excessively dangerous”.

c) Paco Botella in the 1937 newspaper says,

“On the 29th, spent in the stable of the country house, where we arrived quite tired and anxiously waiting to see the search, it was used to sleep and rest.

There was not enough straw to lie down with less discomfort, and more was brought to us after a few hours. We placed our backpacks in the manger and sat on the ground, feeding ourselves with some beans they gave us, of which we took plenty. We also had rabbit and tortilla. This about the tortilla was a novelty: hacía mucho que habíamos gustado su sabor.
We rested well, and the stop was wonderful. At five o’clock in the afternoon, they told us to prepare to leave: but it was quite late, because some strangers had arrived at the house and we had to wait for them to leave.

We carry less cargo in our backpacks; to facilitate the trip, which at the end of the stages was quite heavy, we have left most of the clothes, shoes and other things in the farmhouse. We have pues, only the essentials. Ricardo also rubs the Padre’s sore legs and feet there, after a good bath in hot, salty water.

Finally, we left at a quarter past six. We feel cold when we leave our bedroom. The usual monotonous queue forms, willing to walk for hours, we’ll see how many! In the arrangement of the row, we placed ourselves conveniently so that we could help each other.”

As you can see, it also says that they had visitors, which is normal in a house located on a very busy thoroughfare.

d) Finally, the Diary of Antoni Dalmases, written in 1937, tells us:

“He leads us to a corral, we lie down on the straw and there we fall asleep. It’s Monday, November 29.

We’ve been walking for thirteen hours. Around ten o’clock we started to wake up. Let’s eat a little, someone rubs himself and heals his feet. Others go out to sunbathe, sitting or lying on a patio outside the corral. This one is about eight meters wide and about the same length and the 27 that we are going to fill it completely. To get out you have to be careful not to step on those who are still sleeping. The guide had to bring out a few baskets of straw to spread it on the ground, which means that the leg is not so hard. The landlady comes to find out what each one wants for breakfast, because the guide has said that we save what we have, since after this house we won’t find another one to stock up on. Some eat potatoes; others, tortillas, bread, water and wine. A great banquet. Then I tend to rest again.

My new friends from Madrid entertain themselves by taking the most essential of their equipment to throw away the rest, which they cannot carry. Shirts, socks, wallets, shoes,. . . everything stays there. We take advantage of some of these clothes, the ones that are sold with enthusiasm to wear them. The Father gives encouragement to all. His company inspires confidence in all of us because it seems as if God had sent him. A strange magnetism emanates from him and I was deeply impressed. (…)

Approximately both of them bring out the food. Standing in line, they gave us a huge pot of beans, then another pot of rabbit. It’s a splendid meal, we eat with real hunger. Fortunately, everything is abundant, bueno y caliente.

Then I go to sleep again until six in the afternoon, which is when the preparations for the game begin.”

This narration by Antoni Dalmases has just given us more clues to know the exact place where they rested. He says that they went out for a moment in the yard in front of the corrals, which is actually about 8 by 8 meters.

All the writings that we have cited agree on the fundamental point: They slept in a corral next to another in which the cattle were, that there was a yard in front and they went out to stretch their legs, that they ate very well , who fixed their clothes there, . . . They all remembered years later that they were treated particularly well in Fenollet.

If you go there today you will be treated just as well. It can be seen that it comes from a family.

To finish these memories, I will comment on one from November 30, 2005. I was in Fenollet talking with the whole family about the 1937 expedition and Eugeni’s wife, Carme, commented:

– Surely the mistress of Fenollet, who was very religious, knowing that Josemaria Escrivà was a priest would have prepared a mattress for him to sleep on.

To what Eugeni replied,

Don’t say that. It can be seen that you did not know Sant Josemaria. I wouldn’t have allowed it. He would have rather had the others sleep on a mattress and not him. If he had a piece of bread, he would give it to others before eating it himself.

And he added,

– I remember his face perfectly. I was very impressed. I can still see him perfectly as he was.