The Spanish Civil War had a direct effect on the house and its estate. When the conflict broke out in 1936, uncontrolled groups attacked it, setting fire to the baroque altar in the chapel and burning much of the furniture. in the winter of 1939, the retreating republican troops passed through, along with civilians fleeing Franco’s dictatorship, on their way into exile. The mayor of Canet d’Adri, Jaume Frigolé, was just two years old and came very close to losing his mother to a bullet. “She’d gone down to the river to wash and, as was usual in those days, she was carrying the washboard balanced on her head. Franco’s North African troops shot at her and a bullet pierced a hole in it. She was a hair’s breadth away from losing her life”, recounts Frigolé.
The mayor retells the stories that hewas told years later. The roads and paths were full of abandoned cars that had broken down or run out of fuel. “They thought those roads led to France”, he recalls.
In truth, those roads led nowhere. The fact that this area was so isolated was the work of María Heras’s great-grandfather, Narcís Heras, an influential lawyer and politician who had business dealings in the mining, banking and cotton-spinning industries and who became leader of Girona Provincial Council. “The road from Girona to Banyoles was supposed to pass in front of the masía, but my great- grandfather reminded everyone that ‘the Boquica brigade’ had hung his father in the chimney and, because he was head of the provincial council, he persuaded them to divert it. He wanted nothing to do with roads so, of course, we remained cut off ”.
To reach the house, they had to walk four kilometres “along a track”, as María Heras recalls. “Sometimes they’d go up by horse and carriage, but in my day we’d walk from Canet or La Mota”, she explains.
Along these roads to nowhere and these paths came the republican soldiers and their group of Francoist prisoners, who they shot en masse near the hermitage of El Collell. And it was in these woods that one of the survivors of that shooting took refuge: Rafael Sánchez Mazas, writer, Phalangist ideologist and personal friend of the founder of the far-right Spanish Phalanx, José Antonio Primo de Rivera.
It is told in masterly fashion by Javier Cercas in his Soldiers of Salamina, a true story written as a novel. Not only did Sánchez Mazas survive the mass shooting (suffering only slight injuries as a result), he was literally re-born when a young republican solider found him hiding in the woods but let him go. He stayed alive only with the help of his ‘forest friends’, three lads from Cornellà de Terri who were fleeing the war and who had found him shelter and food during the cold winter of 1939. This part of the Gironés district is very densely wooded and the tracks are hard to follow. Sánchez Mazas, father of the writer Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio, found a hiding place in Palol de Revardit, a little village a short distance from the northern demarcation of Las Heras.