21-22 Marzo “Happy to See My Sweet Girl”

21-22 March

Robert Merriman’s diary for the pages of March 21 and 22. Merriman wrote these pages on March 25, catching up on missed diary postings.

An earlier diary post noted that on the 16th of March, Marion Merriman arrived from Moscow.  She would be in Spain for the next seven months.  She related her reuniting with her husband:

Despite the war around us, being with Bob in Murcia made me happy.  We stayed together in his room in the Hospitale d’Internationale.  One morning as I awoke a wild wailing reached through the corridors into our room and terrified me.  Bob, too, was awakened.  He saw my fear, reached over to calm me, then broke into laughter.  Don’t be alarmed, he said.  It was only the maid out in the hall singing flamenco.  I’d never heard the eerie, wild Spanish music before.  But I grew quickly to love it.¹

Marion’s book is often personal but no passage so exceeds her own diary which she started to keep at Murcia.  She said:

But what do I know other than my feelings?  Rushing, exalting, changing in moments like these.  People.  Bob who made this possible for me, for whom nothing is  humdrum, routine or ordinary, who knows the reasons and facts better than I, who I follow joyfully because I love him and believe in him.¹

Merriman mentions a Jan Kurske.  Kurske was also in hospital in Murcia at this time (see the discussion on May 21-22).  He says Jan returns to Valencia to meet with “Kate”.  Kate is Kate Foster Kurske, a reporter in Valencia, and Kurske’s wife.  Kate later became Kate Mangan and she and Jan Kurske left an unpublished manuscript.²  Merriman mentions that Bob Thompson left for Albacete and then for “rest home”, perhaps for some “R&R” (rest and relaxation).

In the hospital, Jack Brent is still bad (we discussed him previously and he will live with this injury for the rest of his life).  The Avgherinos is Constantine (Costas) Avgherinos.   He was wounded in the leg on February 21, 1937, with the British Battalion.  Alan Warren (private communication) has provided a short bio:

Born in 1912, Constantine Avgherinos joined the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1934. He joined the British Battalion after his arrival on 10th of January 1937 ( British Battalion Identification Number 140). Wounded on the same day as his brother, Heracles/Hercules, Constantine Avgherinos was less fortunate; fever and complications set in during his convalescence although the wound was not that serious. He died in Pasionaria Hospital in Murcia, two months later on 30th April, 1937.

Obviously, by March 25, the wound was infected and his leg was removed.  Anti-biotics to stop gangrene in wounds were rudimentary in Spain.

American Robert Wolk had been placed in charge of the Irish and Cubans who had been combined into one company after the losses of the 27th of February.³  In the description of the fighting on the 14th of March, Landis says:

When word reached Captain Hourihan that the Spaniards were retreating, he, together with {David Everett} Jones, the Battalion Commissar, and Robert Wolk, Adjutant of the First Company, assembled a number of riflemen and went immediately to the threatened sector…Since the bulk of the assault had been directed farther south and around the side of a long hill, the Americans sought only to secure the area they had occupied.  Hourihan handled the deployment of his men skillfully, and casualties were held to a minimum.  Only one man is known to have been killed.  His loss, however, was felt strongly by the men.  He was Robert Wolk, the ex-Navy man and Adjutant of the First Company.³

Wolk came to the hospital with a shoulder wound.  He was talking when he came in but died overnight.  Merriman will describe his funeral in the next page….

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¹ Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude, American Commander in Spain, ibid., p 119.

² Jan Kurske and Kate Foster Kurske Mangan, The Jan Kurske Papers 1934, 1936-1937, 1998 “The Good Comrade”,  International Institute of Social History, Cruquiusweg 31 1019 AT Amsterdam The Netherlands, 2011.

³ Landis, The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, ibid., p. 121.

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