‘You are history. You are legend.’ Canada’s last Spanish Civil War vet dies

Jules Paivio was last of a group of idealists who chose to fight and die with suffering citizens in faraway country


Jules Paivio with former Spanish Ambassador Eudaldo Mirapeix in 2011

Jules Paivio, the last surviving Canadian to have fought in the Spanish Civil War, died last week. He was 96.

Paivio was one of more than 1,600 men and women who left Canada during the height of the Great Depression to confront a fascist uprising against a democratically elected Spanish government. The revolt was led by the Spanish general Francisco Franco and supported with planes, tanks, and soldiers by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

Paivio was only 19 when he decided to join the war in Spain. He couldn’t bring himself to tell his mother the truth and said only that he was going away for a while. But as he stepped out of his parents’ cabin on the outskirts of Sudbury, he motioned for his father, Aku, to follow. He confessed his intentions as the two stood facing each other in the bitter cold. They embraced. Aku, a writer, was proud but scared. “A son’s loss, a life so young/ Perhaps forever/ That presses down on me, in gloom,” he wrote in a poem about his son’s departure.

Paivio joined some 40,000 other foreigners in the International Brigades and eventually became an officer in the largely Canadian Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion. In the spring of 1938 he was captured by Italian troops in the hills west of Gandesa and lined up with his comrades to be shot. A senior officer arrived and spared the prisoners at the last moment. Paivio spent the rest of the war in a fascist concentration camp.

“What does it do to you, not to be shot by a firing squad?” his son, Martin, asked. In Jules’ case, says Martin, it gave him a deep love of life. His remaining years involved a lot of heartbreak, including the deaths of three of his children. But Martin says Jules lived with a “glow of life” about him. Perhaps everything that came after almost dying felt like gravy.

Jules lived for almost 100 years and spent only two of them in Spain. Memories of the war didn’t dominate his life, during which he became an architect and an educator. But Spain also shaped who he was. He stayed in touch with other veterans and helped drive a campaign to get a monument to Canadians who fought in the war erected in Ottawa. He told me that once a desire to help people who are oppressed gets inside you, it never really leaves.

“You look back through life, it is the comrades and the people you are impressed by. You almost fall in love with them,” he said.

Last year he was awarded Spanish citizenship by a grateful Spanish government. Eudaldo Mirapeix, Spain’s ambassador to Canada when the citizenship process began, said that through Jules, Spain was honouring all the Canadians who came to help his country during its darkest days.

During a trip to Spain several years ago, Jules visited the prison camp where he was held, which is now a monastery. Martin says it was the only time he saw his father “not choked up, but sombre.” Memories flooded back of fellow prisoners who were shot there.

Jules was not a vain man. “He didn’t blow his own horn,” Martin says. It probably wouldn’t bother him that his passing is unlikely to be widely noted, except of course by those who loved him.

And yet his death is a deeper and wider loss. It severs Canada’s last living link to a group of idealists who looked at the suffering of citizens of a faraway country, and then didn’t look away and mutter that their pain is none of our business, but chose instead to stand, fight, and die with them.

“They gave up everything — their loves, their countries, home and fortune, fathers, mothers, wives, brothers, sisters and children,” the Spanish Communist leader Dolores Ibárruri, known as La Pasionaria, said as  the international volunteers prepared to leave Spain in 1938.

“And they came and said to us: ‘We are here. Your cause, Spain’s cause, is ours. It is the cause of all advanced and progressive mankind.’”

La Pasionario then addressed the volunteers directly. She called them a heroic example of democracy’s universal solidarity. “You can go proudly,” she said. “You are history. You are legend.”

UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 30, 2013: I noted above that Paivio was the last surviving Canadian to have fought in Spain, and he was. But I believe there is another surviving Canadian who also traveled to Spain to confront Franco, though he did not bear arms. William Khrem joined went to Spain in 1937 and joined the Partido Obrero de Unification Marxista, or POUM, a political movement and militia in which George Orwell fought. Krehm did not fight with the militia but did propaganda work for the party in Barcelona. POUM, whose members believed in a socialist revolution that included immediate land distribution and who fiercely opposed the brand of communism advanced by the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin,  fell victim to political infighting within the anti-fascist ranks in Spain. The party and its militias were disbanded and many members were jailed or killed. Krehm himself was arrested by the communist-controlled secret police and jailed for three months before he was eventually freed. To the best of my knowledge, Krehm is alive and approaching his 100th birthday. 



‘You are history. You are legend.’ Canada’s last Spanish Civil War vet dies

  1. Odd…this doesn’t seem to apply to those who go to help Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and so on.

    • Its completly relevant, the ideals of government seem to have changed to some degree but at the end of the day the ideals of soldiers on the ground is still the same. Stop being so negative on here.

      • Now there’s a rule I have to be an optimist?

        The point is, going back to help the homeland seems to be forbidden to some but praised in others.

        • Nobody likes a negative nancy, the artical itself seems to be alot less about going back to the homeland and fighting for your people, lots of germans did that dont see us congratulating them. Its about doing whats right and the honor in helping people that are suffering. Idealists like this man are few and far between these days and the world would be better for it.

          • Like I said….’going back to help the homeland seems to be forbidden to some but praised in others.’

          • Then i suppose were at some ackward internet agreement. Weird

          • It tends to depend on which side the Cdn government is on. Particularly so if fighting for the homeland means fighting against Canadian soldiers.

          • Yeah, that happens a lot.

          • Which is perfectly reasonable. If they’re fighting our soldiers, or our allies’ soldiers, then they’re our enemies. If they’re not, then our soldiers shouldn’t be there fighting them. Having made the decision to send soldiers in the first place, it would seem that point is settled.

          • Yup!

          • Totally true.

  2. A different time. And the world was a different place.
    Young men still volunteer in wars that matter to them.
    And they are as honoured for it as the Mac-Paps were
    in their time … not at all.

  3. Within a few months emigrare from Madrid Spain to Canada. The few who still keep the memory of what happened during those years (1936 1939) never find words to describe such an act of heroism, courage and solidarity. Forgotten words to our people and to this day are more necessary than ever.

    My grandfather fought with the 11th Mixed Brigade in the battles of Jarama and Brunete Ebro

    From Madrid ¡¡¡¡¡ NO PASARAN¡¡¡¡¡ and eternal gratitude to the International Brigades

    • Hats off to your grandfather and the 11th Mixed brigade. It took a lot of courage to do what they did, especially in the face of such overwhelming forces.

      • Franco’s army was superiorly endowed, besides being professional armed forces and elite bodies like legion of africa and the regular forces had the support of Nazi Germany and the Italy of Mussolini that provided new weapons, aircraft and vehicles battleships. And also put into practice many tactics to employ in war after World War II as the bombing of Guernica

        The Republican army was made up of workers and peasants inexperienced and poorly armed regiments were armed with rifles of the 19th century, not to mention militias were armed with what could even mowing scythes.

        The Republican army fought with courage and courage more than anything else and so I paid for 40 years of Francoist repression and many of the forgotten dead and buried in the ditches of many roads Spanish


        • There is a tendency to forget the excesses and brutality of the ‘republican’ side(s) of not just the war, but also the prelude that led to the military takeover.

          The murders of priests, for example, and other abuses.

          • The abuses were committed by both parties, but as the shooting of clergy by certain sectors of the Republican side, had a duration of 2years and their dead were buried as heroes or as stated in all memorial inscriptions Franco “Fallen for God and by Spain “.

            The thousands of paraded and shot by fascist troops still remain buried in mass graves in forests and ravines lost as Federico Garcia Lorca or in road ditches. And the families of those we had to endure 40 years of repression and Franco dictatorship

            Even to this day found these dead shall not rest or simply to hold a funeral ceremony by his family and is curious to see how other countries like Germany, Italy, Chile and Argentina have been tried and convicted by military coup and in Spain the only one who has paid for the crimes of Francoism was the judge Baltasar Garzon has been who has dared to investigate and prosecute such crimes

            spain is different

          • Indeed, the ugly, ugly history of both sides of that conflict has remained largely suppressed in Spain. Recently, very recently, they have started to get an airing, but as you say, there are nasty consequences for those Spanish officials who start digging for the truth.

          • And who has paid for the crimes of republicanism?

          • I seem to just 40 years of dictatorship?

    • Enrique, your grandfather if you are named for him was a mensch. Without him, Madrid would have fallen in November 1936 and he saved many with his heroism. My father was in Teruel in January 1938 and Lister’s troops relieved them from the line.

      My Father ended up with the Mac-Paps in March 1938 and perhaps knew Jules. I am just sorry I could not meet Mr. Paivio and I thank him for his courage.

  4. And the myth-making continues. Fighting in “the cause of advanced and progressive mankind.” Self-serving swill.

    Glossed over, as one would expect from a Canadian journo, is the fact our late ‘hero’ fought on behalf of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, the Communist Party of Spain and The Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification, not to mention a hodge-podge of other lunatic leftist groups. Also routinely overlooked is that Stalin (he of ‘communist’ fame) had just finished starving to death some 3.5 million Ukrainian peasants on that bloody march of progress, in addition to collectivizing into the grave hundreds of thousands of his own citizens. Not everyone in Europe feigned ignorance of that pre-meditated atrocity. (The Nazis didn’t, and learned from it.)

    Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” deftly limns the Comintern’s role in the Civil War, and its eventual betrayal of Orwell and his well-meaning if deluded comrades. If one goes by Stalin’s example of communism in action (or Mao’s or Kim’s….), it’s a good thing for Spain the Nationalists won out. But that would ruin the convenient, hoary narrative.

    • So you’re a fan of fascism, then?

      • ‘Real’ fascism has never been tried, Keith.

        • Tell that to the millions who died, 500 thousand of them in Franco’s concentration camps. Hitler, Mussolini and Franco gave a pretty good impression of what Fascism is, IMHO.

          • Bingo, captain. So the next time you see that risible phrase “real communism has never been tried,” introduced into a conversation, you’ll be ready tap out the same reply once you stop laughing, citing the stats for gulag deaths, summary executions, banishment, deliberate starvation, etc., suffered by millions of innocents who suffered the Marxist carnival of state-directed death over the decades.

      • Franco was no more fascist than he was monarchist. He co-opted both those parties, as well as the clericists, into his own political movement.

        The fascist leaders he outmanoeuvred and eventually arrested, the clerics he made a deal with, and basically stifled the monarchists while promising not to try to go after King Carl or his heirs.

        BTW, the Holodomor killed some 8 million Ukrainians plus another 7 million Byelorussians and other peasants. By 1936 the Russian Revolution had slaughtered at least 25 million people, mostly the very peasants the revolution was ostensibly supposed to elevate.

        • @GlynnMhor. The figure of 3.5 million I quoted was from Yale historian Timothy Snyder’s masterful, stomach-churning “Bloodlands,” a devastating debunking of various myths, elisions, evasion, and outright lies propagated by generations of idiot Western intellectuals sympathetic to Marxist rhetoric. It is true that Stalin’s NKVD (ironically, top-heavy with Jews) happily eliminated Ukrainians, Poles, Byelorussians, and non-Communist Jews by the millions to smooth the path of historical inevitability, such that the total lost to enforced collectivization and sheer political murder might well be the figure you stated.

          According to Snyder, however, Stalin considered peasants an impediment to his plan of rapid industrialization. They were also a potential source of opposition in the Ukraine and elsewhere, and since they existed outside the cities, difficult to control. Stalin had their seed stores purloined and shipped to Russia to meet his totally unrealistic quotas. So the Holodomor is the first recorded instance of a famine where farmers flocked to the cities (or tried) to search for food. Normally, ’tis the other way round.

          Of further interest, Stalin apparently coined the term ‘kulak’. Essentially, any peasant with two rubles to rub together was a kulak, and needed killing lest he prove recalcitrant at the prospect of being herded into a commune and told to farm for no wages. Mass starvation, therefore, proved a cheap and efficacious means of destroying perceived enemies of the revolution. Hitler planned on adopting the exact same method before re-settling the area with Germans.

    • You focus on the Republicans see Spanish as part of the Russian Communist Party in its bloodiest version

      Won elections in February 36 in Spain, which were won by a coalition of all the forces of the left (communist party, anarchist, POUM, PSOE, Republican Left and other left-wing parties as PNV reginales and left Valencia.) With Don Manuel Azaña as president-elect.

      In Spain before the arrival of the republic on April 14, 1931. Workers’ rights did not exist, 80% of the population could neither read nor write. And of course the division of the land was owned by large landowners against the rest of the population who worked for a meal a day.

      The coming to power of the Popular Front in February 36 put an end to these outrages promoting workers’ rights, establishing the rule of eight hours. Creating an unprecedented educational reform schooling for the population illiterate and bringing culture to the people and of course a fair wage setting between laborers and landowners. Besides declared a secular state and secular.

      • Well, we could quibble on which part of the Russian Communist legacy is the bloodiest (there’s so much to choose from), but moving on…what you state about the conditions in Spain (and likewise, in varying degrees, in other areas of the world) is correct. The quandry lies not in the diagnosis of the problem but in the cure.

        Societies are often re-invented by rebellion. What concerned individuals like yourself need to do is stop advocating on behalf of a sinister, morally bankrupt, anti-human political philosophy/theory of history the likes of Marxism, or its twisted variants. You’d attract more people willing to at least give you ear if you ashcanned the red option as a sick, sad, bad idea instead of employing all the tired euphemisms and apologies–yes, there were excesses/dark periods/over-zealous adherents committed mistakes, etc.–for mass murder. Communism is not the answer. Never was, never will be. Sorry.

        • As I reported, the February 36 elections the left-wing coalition won a in which was included the Communist Party and not vice versa. The Communist Party was one of the voices of the coalition, but in no case the talking as demonstrated in the events in Barcelona during the end of the war and during the siege of Madrid.

          In case nigun defend the Communist Party and of course much less to the idea of ​​communism that are across the Atlantic. If you want to know what the real communism, I invite you to investigate what happened in many towns of the upper base aragon collectivize that land and property came forward during the months of war

          I recommend this video which includes the testimonies of those who survived the war..

      • Hitler’s government also established the first national pension plan in Germany, imposed mandatory paid vacations for workers, limited hours of work without paying extra, had Porsche design the “people’s car” for the masses (Volkswagen) and created other benefits for workers.

        The difference was that in Germany they didn’t steal from owners or try to have large enterprises run by ‘workers committees’ or other such. So in Germany, the reforms largely worked.

        In Spain, reforms were ill considered and poorly implemented, resulting in an exacerbation of the already difficult economic conditions (due in large part to the worldwide great depression of the 1930s) in the country.

        The government coalition between widely disparate groups, from communists to anarcho-syndicalists and everything in between, meant that policies were incoherent and chaotic.

        The result was that the army, seeing a national catastrophe in the making, revolted, and gathered support from the business elite (who really DID know how to run things) the monarchists, the church, plus a handful of fringe groups including the falangists.

        • Now going to be that Hitler was a Pretty Good reading your comments.

          German Physicians of the concentration camps also made ​​major medical advances, but at the cost of experimenting with Jews as if they were pigs. And of course he also won an election. At the expense of the German Communists blame the fire in the chancery.

          You say that democracy is not worth a shit if the government does not work give a coup and take the ass OLE YOUR BALLS.

          Democracy is based on that in reaching agreements and govern for all and by all. If you do not understand this is not worth further discussion with you

  5. Odd how anyone who served the commies in Spain is a hero, but the estimated 20,000+ Canadians who volunteered to fight the commies in Vietnam are nothing. We built a monument for the vets of the Spanish civil war, but will never do so for the Vietnam vets. We afford the draft-dodging Americans who fled to Canada with more respect than we do our own Vietnam vets. Until 2009, the Canadian Citizenship website proudly boasted that Canada was a home to Vietnam War resistors. When that embarrassing stain was finally scrubbed from the public website, that was considered “controversial”.

  6. My father was just 18 or 19 when he joined the International Brigade, with two other Canadian friends. He talked of getting off a train in Madrid, still in the clothes he had traveled thousands of miles in, and being handed a rifle. He never spoke of what happened in Spain, and we did not know he had fought until late in his life. Both of his friends were killed there, and the story of how he survived + managed to get back to Canada is unknown. He went on to fight in World War II, with the Canadian contingent which liberated Holland (it was how he met my mother). I didn’t know there was any recognition of the boys who went so far to fight against fascism (and who went knowing that Canada considered them communists + enemies), until I discovered a small memorial in a downtown Victoria park. I stood and wept, thinking of how frightened he must have been … I remembered a young boy, my Dad, who passed on a commitment to fairness + justice to all of his children. His name was Andrew Eugene Bailey.

    • Firstly thank your father for being part of the international brigades and come to the aid of the Spanish people against fascist aggression

      The battalion formed chiefly by mckenzie papineau Canadian and French. Was based on the quartering of Albacete. due to the large number of Canadian volunteers had their own battalion that was part of the legendary XV International Brigade.

      His baptism of fire was at the Battle of Jarama during the siege of Madrid, later fought in the Battle of Brunete also during the siege of Madrid in which they suffered heavy casualties.

      Later fought in the Battle of Teruel in the winter most terrifying of the twentieth century temperatures reaching -25 degrees in the trenches.

      Participated in the retreat to Aragon and the Ebro battle which decided the war until the September 21, 1938 were dissolved and giving the war as lost.


    • Pat, do you happen to know where in Spain he was? I know a fair amount of the Mac-Paps and the action they saw in the Spring of 1938. I had not come across his name before.

      In his memory, no pasarans!

    • Hi Pat,

      Can you contact me directly? michael.petrou@macleans.rogers.com. I’d like to talk to you about you dad.

      Best wishes,

      Michael Petrou

    • Hi Pat

      I send you a link to the Association of Friends of the International Brigades. As they have almost all files brigadists who came to Spain. Send them an email in Spanish saying that looking for your father and maybe they can give you some clue where exactly fight and if he was arrested also consist.

      Regards and Thanks

      Pd if you need help say to me


  7. Many, if not most, of the brigade volunteers were dedicated Marxists
    hoping to help preserve a leftist, soviet-wanna-be, regime in Spain.
    Just because the Spanish “republican” leftists were democratically elected did not
    mean that they were committed to democracy. The cruel and increasing
    persecution of religious figures by the leftists was the canary in the
    coal mine for human rights abuses. Most of the “brigadiers” of the US,
    Canada, and other places who rushed to support the “republic” were
    committed first to communism and last, if at all, to any sort of real
    “democracy.” Like their Spanish compatriots, they saw democracy as an
    enemy if it threatened the establishment of the socialist state. The
    “brigadiers” were only heroes to their fellow leftists.

    was no saint, but neither was he a stooge of Hitler and Mussolini —
    after all they had done for him, he left them both hang out to dry by
    staying neutral in WWII. And, he left a nation that turned to true
    democracy not long after his death.

    • You just talk about the murders of clergy or the Republicans, but I invite you all to read what happened during the battle of Badajoz or rather the slaughter of Badajoz conducted by Franco’s troops under General Mola. Where thousands of people shoot him in the bullring in the town, but not before offering attendees who were landowners and as the bishop of the city a spectacle of bullfighting in which the militants were employed as flags and bulls coming clavarles killing them with a rapier. With the corresponding ols applause and people of law and order

      It is also well known that part of the Franco Army troops were composed of African Moors who raped and pillaged mercilessly women and girls and their favorite practices was clavarles bayonets in the vagina of women to then open them in channel.

      Notably, the name of Juan Gallardo Bermejo was a militiaman who snatched the sword when a legionary would lidiarlo and which then was gunned down along with his companions

    • You can try to rewrite history in a Macleans comment column, but it does not change reality. Franco contributed soldiers to fight for the Germans in World War II. He was the “friendly port” by which US oil and materiel were sold to the Germans and Italians during the war. He was the “benevolent fascist” who put 500,000 people in concentration camps in Spain.

      Spain was the first battle of WWII and by not recognizing that, France, England and the West just encouraged Hitler and Mussolini to proceed with their plans to make a fascist Europe.

      You speak of all Brigidistas of being communists. Not at all true. Certainly not true of many of the Canadians who came out of the work camps in BC, rode the trains to Winnipeg, and were radicalized by the treatment the Bennett government gave them there. The Finns, Ukrainians and Eastern Europeans who went into the Mac-Paps knew what fascism looked like before they went.

  8. for those people what want to know something more about international brigades in Spanish civil war . I recommend to see a ken loach film Land and freedom

  9. This is almost exactly the same story as my Father’s.

    He also spent two years in one of Franco’s prisons as a Capt. in The
    MacPaps and was only released to the Red Cross when someone back in
    Canada sponsored him not even knowing what condition he would be
    released in. His name is also on the Ottawa monument.

    When captured, they were all stood facing a blank white wall for many
    hours, but no one would ‘give up’ the identity of the Officer. As a
    child when I didn’t want my dinner, he would tell me that while in Prison
    in Spain, they considered a maggoty fish head as a feast!

    When WWII started he volunteered and spent the war in N.Africa and Italy
    Building Canadian War Cemeteries as a S.Sgt with the RCE. My life has
    been nowhere near as ‘eventful’, and that’s due to people like Jules
    Paivio and my father who died in the late 60’s at 53 years of age

    • Maybe I can help you to know something more about his father. If you can email me with the name of your father and I will I will get to the Spanish Association of Friends of the International Brigades. They retain books and documents with people who were part of the brigades and know the personal history of most of them. Where fought with that popular army units and where they were taken prisoner. Do not hesitate to contact me if you need to know

      • I would love to have this information Enrique.. But I do not have your email address. You can email me at: MacPap1 ‘at’ TagPrinter.com
        Thank you very much

  10. My Father Alex Sheveluk (Sheweluk) also served Canada in the Spanish War. Somewhere I have a picture of my dad and his group just before they went off to war. My father passed away in 1976…and didn’t talk of those days… He was injured very badly and walked with a linp from the time he was shot to the time of his death. Donna (Sheveluk) Schroeder Kamloops BC