Roots, book one in The Olive Tree, my Spanish Civil War Saga, sets the scene for the series. Why did so many Welsh men and women travel to Spain to risk their lives in the 1930s?
The answer lies with the similarities between the Spanish and Welsh working class people. While landowners and the wealthy exploited the people of Spain and staged a coup d’état against the democratically elected government, the Conservative Party in Britain oversaw mass unemployment, implemented longer working hours for less pay, and introduced the Means Test, which drastically reduced state benefits. This led to soup kitchens, hunger marches and riots.
These measures radicalised the workforce and they recognised that the Spanish people’s fight against fascism was also their fight. So people like Heini Hopkins, my nurse, and Deiniol Price, my International Brigade volunteer, pledged themselves to the cause in the belief that they were fighting not only for Spain and Wales, but also for the oppressed people of the world.
Set between April 1937 and December 1938, The Olive Tree is a mini-series of five novellas based on true events.
The stories in The Olive Tree – Roots, Branches, Leaves, Fruit and Flowers chronicle the lives of Heini Hopkins, a young nurse from an impoverished part of South Wales, and Naomi Parker, a wealthy author from a privileged background.
In Roots, Heini is home in Wales nursing her sick mother while Naomi is attending launch parties for her latest novel. The civil war in Spain seems a world away, until the fascists bomb and destroy Guernica, murdering hundreds of men, women and children. Heini’s boyfriend, Deiniol Price, a coal miner, feels he must rally to the Spanish Republic’s cause and volunteer for the International Brigades while Naomi’s paramour, Count Nicolas Esteban, a pilot, dreams of glory, fighting for the fascists.
Should the women leave the safety of Wales for the bloody battlefields of Spain? And if they decide to follow their men, what fate awaits them?