After the end of World War II, all of Europe was in turmoil. Around 30 million people were displaced over the course of the war, and the Spanish Republicans were just one more group in the chaos. Their options were limited. The staunch Communists who went to the Soviet Union in 1939 had been brutally persecuted by Stalin, so that was not a viable option after the war. Thousands migrated to sympathetic Mexico or Cuba. Most, however, remained in France. They quietly assimilated over the years, learning French and raising bilingual families. Manual jobs were plentiful, because war-torn France needed as many men as possible to rebuild infrastructure and replace the many war dead. Return to Spain was dangerous and unprofitable: years of dictatorship took a heavy toll on the economy, leftists were silenced, and returning refugees still risked reprisal even decades after the Retirada.
Over time, France forgot about the Retirada and the thousands of Spanish refugees it brought. After the war, President de Gaulle promoted a new vision of France: a proud, strong France that collectively resisted the Nazis. By glossing over the nastier aspects of the past, the French could move forward and assuage the guilt of defeat, betrayal of French Jews, and collaboration. The story of the Retirada did not fit in with the new official narrative of French history, so it was ignored.
Only in recent years has the Retirada regained interest. The children and grandchildren of the survivors are vocal about keeping their families’ legacy and stories alive. The year 2009 was the 70thanniversary of the Retirada, and organizations in the south of France arranged conferences, documentary showings, art and photo exhibitions, and commemorative hikes to honor the occasion. The descendants of the Spanish Republicans are committed to preserving its memory.