FC Barcelona Foundation and ACNUR present an exhibition about the Montjuïc stadium being used for refugees during the Spanish Civil War

FC Barcelona Foundation and ACNUR present an exhibition about the Montjuïc stadium being used for refugees during the Spanish Civil War

FC Barcelona Vice president for the Institutional area, Elena Fort, UNHCR Regional Director for Europe, Philippe Leclerc, and men's football first team player Ilkay Gündogan, inaugurate the Barça “More than a Club”, Montjuïc, “a stadium for refuge” exhibition at the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys

With the Spanish Civil War still raging, the Estadi Lluís Companys on Montjuïc provided a place of refuge for more than 21,000 displaced people from across the country between autumn 1936 and spring 1937. Polish photographer Margaret Michaelis captured the everyday lives of thousands of families (parents, children, and young people) who spent time at the sporting facility. The stadium on Montjuïc is currently the temporary home of FC Barcelona, and via its Foundation, the Club wants to highlight the role of the facility, which provided refuge for thousands of people fleeing the Spanish Civil War.

The exhibition was inaugurated in Sala Cupra at the Estadi Olímpic and was attended by the Vice president for the Institutional area, Elena Fort, First vice president for the Sporting area, Rafael Yuste, UNHCR Regional Director for Europe, Philippe Leclerc, FC Barcelona Foundation corporate manager, Paco Sanz, and Olympic Ring director, Carme Lanuza. Also in attendance were men's football first team player and UNHCR High Profile Supporter, Ilkay Gündogan, who was joined by his wife, Sara Arfaoui.

Everyday life

The exhibition's photo collection shows the everyday lives of the people who found refuge at the Estadi Olímpic, which saw some of its spaces repurposed to be able to attend to the people forced from their home towns due to the war. The photos show how education was provided in rooms created on the stands or on the pitch itself, physical activity and sports sessions, domestic chores like cooking, hanging up clothes or sewing; how they received medical and dental care, or simply everyday images from the dining areas installed in a stadium converted into a centre for displaced persons.

With this exhibition, FC Barcelona and its Foundation and ACNUR want to raise awareness about the situation faced by the 110 million refugees and persons forcibly displaced around the world at present. The idea is also to show the similarities between the people who had to leave their homes behind while fleeing the war in Ukraine. Just like in Montjuïc stadium 87 years ago, the Lviv Arena in Leópolis in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, which provided a home for Shakhtar Donetsk when war flared up in Donbas in 2014, also became a refuge for 170 people displaced by the war last year, who lived in the stadium's upper floor.

For refugees

The Champions League game against Shakhtar Donetsk on 25 October provides a good opportunity to refer to the sad similarities between the circumstances and to once again raise awareness about refugees' lives. This is one of the world's major challenges at present, which is unfortunately on the rise due to new crises occurring and the restarting and worsening of numerous conflicts. One example is the large scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia last year that continues, the current conflict in the Middle East or in Sudan, as well as many other emergencies that go unheard of that cause many fatalities among civilians and an avalanche of displaced persons in those regions.

This exhibition has come to fruition due to firm positioning of FC Barcelona and its Foundation in favour of refugees, strengthened by the global alliance with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and an original idea and collaboration with the magazine, Panenka.

Statements by the FC Barcelona Vice president for the Institutional area, Elena Fort

“This exhibition is a perfect example of our idea of sport as an excellent tool for building a better world. It is a tremendous story of solidarity and commitment during a time in history when we unfortunately again see photos of men, women and children taking refuge in football stadiums in Europe and across the world during times of emergency like happened here over 80 years ago.” 

“FC Barcelona is in favour of peace and against the death of innocent young people and children, whichever side they are on during conflicts, and we ask for human rights and international humanitarian law to be respected in order to save lives and the safety of civilians throughout the world. This is why we support refugees and displaced persons, the civilians who end up suffering the consequences of conflicts.”

Statement by UNHCR Regional Director for Europe, Philippe Leclerc

"Millions of people are forced to flee their homes to escape conflict and persecution every year. Record numbers are being seen year on year, and to date, over 100 million people have been forcibly displaced around the world. The UNHCR provides support and protection to save lives during emergencies and advocates access to asylum, and better asylum and inclusivity laws, so displaced persons can exercise their rights. We help find long-term solutions to build a future in a new country or when returning home once safe. Today we are highlighting the wonderful ability of sport to create a spirit of solidarity, to help refugees integrate into welcoming communities and to improve displaced persons' lives. We are hugely grateful for the commitment of FC Barcelona and its Foundation, as well as the commitment of football fans worldwide."



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