My father’s uncle, Dr. Irving Busch, was a surgeon in NYC. He was also an amateur photographer and a volunteer in the Republican Medical Services of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish Civil War.
Irving died in 1960 without any heirs. The family cleared out his upper west side apartment, and my father took some of his cameras, which resurfaced in 2005 when my dad was going through old boxes. He had the film developed, and 45 photographs came back including images from his time in Spain in the ’30s as well as Central Park after the blizzard of ’47.
The images of the women and children on donkeys and men at cafés during a time of turmoil asks more questions than they answer. We might not be embroiled in a violent civil war yet we are we heading down a path that draws parallels to Spain and Germany in the late ’20s and early ’30s. It’s no longer unthinkable to imagine the US having a civil war or plunging into a dystopian nightmare in the near future. We are a nation divided, and a sizable minority seems to be on board with authoritarianism and is apathetic if not supportive of cruelty. Lest we forget, Spain lived under fascist rule for nearly half a century. Yet even in the worst of times, life in some ways goes on. People in the resistance still stop for a coffee and to chat with their friends.
These photographs are not as dramatic or iconic as Robert Capa’s but they are a reminder of the heroic acts of individuals such as my uncle, who left lives and jobs in the United States to fight a noble cause in a foreign land. While they didn’t succeed, they fought the good fight serving as inspiration and a lesson to us all. I’ll post the Central Park photos separately in a few days; these should stand on their own.
If you are interested in reading more about the Lincoln Brigade and the Spanish Civil War, check out Adam Hochschild’s Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War,1936 – 1939.