Author Tags: Literary Landmarks, Photography, War

LITERARY LOCATION: Wainman Cove, west side of Okanagan Lake


Having survived non-combative service in the Spanish Civil War, Alec Wainman, who taught at UBC’s Department of Slavonic Studies from 1947 to 1978, purchased a 90-acre property on the Okanagan lakefront in the mid-1950s and sold it in the late 1980s. This accounts for the street name Wainman Cove, 700-metre roadway on the west side of Okanagan Lake, near Fisbee Creek, north of Fintry and south of Whiteman Creek. Wainman and his family built the two original breakwaters that created a larger cove.

ENTRY: Alec Wainman emerged posthumously as a highly significant Spanish Civil War photographer after his son and co-author Serge Alternês arranged for the publication of 240 b&w photos from a long lost cache of 1,650 photos for Live Souls: Citizens and Volunteers of Civil War Spain (Ronsdale 2015). Some forty thousand volunteer soldiers from 50 countries came to fight for the Republic of Spain prior to World War II. The largest contingents of civilian support came from France, Germany, Italy, Yugoslavia, Britain, USA, Canada, Latin American and Bulgaria.

In Live Souls, which also contains Wainman’s unfinished memoir of the Spanish Civil War, Serge Alternês is tactfully circumspect about how his father’s photos were finally found and retrieved. The archive, stored in a suitcase, was rescued by Jeanne Griffiths from the home of a retired and since deceased Soho publisher. Oddly, a more famous cache of photos was similarly retrieved in 2007 from a long-missing suitcase—the 4,500 Spanish Civil War negatives of photos on 126 rolls of film taken by Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and Chim (David Seymour) and published in the well-known volume, The Mexican Suitcase, also the subject of a 90-minute documentary film.

Born on March 11, 1913 in Yorkshire, U.K., Alexander Wheeler Wainman came to Vernon, B.C. at age seven with his three brothers and his mother, widowed by World War I. In 1928, the family returned to Britain where he studied Modern Languages at Oxford, receiving an M.A. in Russian and Italian. In 1934 and 1935 he worked at the British Embassy in Moscow and became dismayed by Western Europe’s ignorance of the dangers posed by the rise of Nazism. Concerned that Hitler and Mussolini were supporting Franco’s nationalists in Spain, he volunteered at age 23 for service as an ambulance driver for the British Medical Unit that went to Spain soon after the Spanish Civil War broke out in July of 1936.

The British Medical Unit (BMU) under Dr. Reginald Saxton would make medical history in collaboration with the Canadian Blood Transfusion Unit under Dr. Norman Bethune by collaborating on mobile blood transfusions in the field, using refrigerated blood trucks, therefore enabling poorly armed soldiers to more capably defend the Republic’s 1,000-km. front.

Wainman joined the BMU in Paris in August and arrived in Barcelona in September, soon evolving into an interpreter for the multi-lingual Republican forces. A year later he was head of the English and American Press Department for the Ministry of State of the Republican government. A pacifist with Quaker sympathies, he never engaged in the fighting. He crossed paths with Ernest Hemingway and Stephen Spender (who he photographed) but he never met George Orwell or Norman Bethune.

Wainman’s behind-the-scenes photos of Republican soldiers and civilians, all taken with a Leitz Leica camera, poignantly capture the faces of idealism and the camaraderie of those who independently mobilized to defend democratic freedom while western governments stood aside, allowing Franco’s dictatorship to arise—bolstering the confidence of Hitler and Mussolini, leading to the outbreak of World War II.

In 1938, Wainman developed hepatitis and he was forced to recuperate in England. There he became active in the resettlement of Spanish refugees. Later he would repeat this role in B.C. He was an important conduit for the immigration of the Faculty of Forestry from Sopron University of Hungary after the failed uprising of 1956, Czechoslovakian refugees in 1967 and Tibetan refugees in Sixties and Seventies (in conjunction with the Woodcocks).

For World War II, he served in the Intelligence Corps of the British Army during the Italian campaign. His post-war report (quoted by Nikolai Tolstoy in his book, Victims of Yalta), helped to prevent the repatriation to Russia of thousands who would have likely been banished to Stalin’s forced labour camps.

Back in Vancouver, teaching at UBC, Wainman mostly kept quiet about his involvements in Spain, sharing his memories with only a few friends and anti-war sympathizer George Woodcock, with whom he collaborated for a CBC documentary.

In the Okanagan, as a linguist, Wainman recorded the three remaining elders of the Syilx people who were still fluent in Nsyilxcen. After retirement, he continued to teach courses in Catalan and Portuguese. He finally returned to see liberated Spain in 1982, the year after he was beset by Alzheimer’s disease. He died in 1989.

The whereabouts of Alec Wainman’s photo collection remained unknown to his son for forty years. Only about two dozen images had been published, a few becoming icons of the period. Some are exhibited at the Imperial War Museum in London. The photo archive in total had fallen into unscrupulous hands after Wainman had consented to a publication offer in London, England, back in 1975, the year Franco died.


Live Souls: Citizens and Volunteers of Civil War Spain (Ronsdale 2015). With text and editing by Serge Alternês $24.95 978-155380-437-6

[BCBW 2015]

Press Coverage 2016

Press on English and Catalan ‘LIVE SOULS’ as of December, 2016

International Media (Canada, France, USA, UK, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Vatican) (33 articles)
December 2, 2016
Canadian Literary Weekly Magazine and web publication BC BOOKLOOK by Alan Twigg publishing THE ORMSBY REVIEW (A journal of serious non-fiction about British Columbia edited by Richard Mackie) Book Review of LIVE SOULS made by Professor Larry Hannant. http://bcbooklook.com/2016/11/24/ronsdale-wins-two-prizes-at-2016-ippy-awards/
November 27, 2016
Canadian Regional Latin American Cultural Review EL CENCERRO, Author interview by Fabricio Tocco Chiodini http://elcencerro.ca/entrevista-serge-alternes-autor-live-souls/
November 24, 2016
Canadian Literary Weekly Magazine and web publication BC BOOKLOOK by Alan Twigg announcing the IPPY Independent Publisher Awards selected LIVE SOULS for a Bronze Medal for European regional history one of two prizes for the publisher Ronsdale Press.
September 12, 2016
French National daily LE PARISIEN announcing the book presentation of LIVE SOULS: Fotos inèdites de la Guerra Civil at Cervantes Institute Toulouse September 15th and a meeting with Serge Alternês http://toulouse.aujourdhui.fr/etudiant/sortie/presentation-d-un-livre-de-photos-inedites.html
September 12, 2016
French Regional digital cultural daily Ô TOULOUSE (CULTURE 31) announcing the book presentation of LIVE SOULS: Fotos inèdites de la Guerra Civil at Cervantes Institute Toulouse September 15th and a meeting with Serge Alternês
September 12, 2016
French Regional digital cultural daily RAMDAM announcing the book presentation of LIVE SOULS: Fotos inèdites de la Guerra Civil at Cervantes Institute Toulouse September 15th and a meeting with Serge Alternês
September 12, 2016
French Regional digital cultural daily MAPADO announcing the book presentation of LIVE SOULS: Fotos inèdites de la Guerra Civil at Cervantes Institute Toulouse September 15th and a meeting with Serge Alternês
September 11, 2016
French Regional daily LA DEPECHE DU MIDI erroneously announcing a LIVE SOULS Photographic Exhibition at Cervantes Institute Toulouse (later retracted announcing September 15th English and Catalan book presentations of LIVE SOULS) http://www.ladepeche.fr/article/2016/09/09/2415293-a-cervantes-un-regard-inedit-sur-la-guerre-d-espagne.html
September 8, 2016
International Portuguese anarchist blog in Portuguese ABORDAXE COMUNICACIÓN ANARQUISTA with an article based on the September 3rd ERNEST ALÓS article in EL PÉRIODICO
September 8, 2016
International Chilean digital media in Spanish SOCIAL MEDIA CHILE with an article based on the September 3rd ERNEST ALÓS article in EL PÉRIODICO
September 7, 2016
International Argentine digital media in Spanish DIARIOPARANA with an article based on the September 3rd ERNEST ALÓS article in EL PÉRIODICO
September 7, 2016
International Chilean digital blog in Spanish SMART with an article based on the September 3rd ERNEST ALÓS article in EL PÉRIODICO
September 7, 2016
International Mexican digital media in Spanish MAGMEDIA and GAREY with articles based on the September HIPERTEXTUAL
September 7, 2016
International media blog INFOVATICANA, republishing the September 3rd ERNEST ALÓS article in EL PÉRIODICO
September 3, 2016
International media blog ARCHY WORLD NEWS with an incomplete English translation (done by machine) of the September 3rd ERNEST ALÓS article in EL PERIODICO
Catalan Publication of ‘LIVE SOULS: Fotos Inèdites de la Guerra Civil’ at the Setmana del Llibre Català, Barcelona Sept. 8, 2016
July 15, 2016
North American Cultural Weekly Newspaper and Web publication THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT Author interview by DOUG SARTI on LIVE SOULS and for the 80th Commemoration of the start of the Spanish Civil War http://www.straight.com/arts/737846/vancouver-connections-spanish-civil-war-abound-live-souls
July 15, 2016
National Canadian Syndicated Newspaper and Web publication THE VANCOUVER SUN Author interview by JOHN MACKIE on LIVE SOULS and for the 80th Commemoration of the start of the Spanish Civil War http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/this-week-in-history-1936-the-spanish-civil-war-begins
July 15, 2016
North American Cultural Daily Web publication THE TYEE Book Review by PROFESSOR JON BEASLEY-MURRAY of LIVE SOULS: Citizens and Volunteers of Civil War Spain, under the title:
“As Europe Roils, New Glimpses of Fighting Fascists 80 Years Ago ‘Live Souls’ links BC to Spanish Civil War with rare photos, vibrant memoir.”
July 8, 2016
Weekly Regional Canadian Weekly Newspaper and web journal THE DELTA OPTIMIST http://www.delta-optimist.com/book-preserves-memories-1.2297399
June 30, 2016
Canadian ROUNDHOUSE RADIO Interview by Minelle Mahtani with Serge Alternês about his book LIVE SOULS and for the 80th Commemoration of the start of the Spanish Civil War http://cirh.streamon.fm/listen-pl-3600
June 16, 2016
Canadian Literary Weekly Magazine and web publication BC BOOKLOOK by Alan Twigg announcing the IPPY Independent Publisher Awards selected LIVE SOULS for a Bronze Medal for European regional history, the 80th commemoration of the start of the Spanish Civil War, and upcoming Catalan version of LIVE SOULS http://bcbooklook.com/2016/06/13/spanish-civil-war-80-year-commemoration/
April 2016 IBMT International Brigade Memorial Trust Newsletter, London UK, Issue 42 / 2-2016, Page 19, LIVE SOULS Book Review by SONIA BOUÉ http://www.international-brigades.org.uk/sites/default/files/IBMT2-16Web.pdf
March 16, 2016
American monthly newsletter THE VOLUNTEER founded by the veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade by JON BEASLEY-MURRAY http://www.albavolunteer.org/2016/03/book-review-live-souls/ https://posthegemony.wordpress.com/2016/07/15/live-souls-review-republished/
March 9, 2016
Canadian Literary Weekly Magazine and web publication BC BOOKLOOK by Alan Twigg announcing the Entry #175 for Alec Wainman on the Literary Map of British Columbia LOCATION: Wainman Cove, west side of Okanagan Lake, British Columbia, Canada, and a Book Review of LIVE SOULS http://bcbooklook.com/2016/03/09/176-alec-wainman/
January 16, 2016 Video Interview
LIVE SOULS, Citizens and Volunteers of Civil War Spain, Una conversación con Serge Alternês, GRADO CERO, Mexico,
Made during the FIL Guadalajara International Book Fair in December 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayCb9Glo5DI
November 2, 2016
Canadian Literary Weekly Magazine and web publication BC BOOKLOOK by Alan Twigg
Book Review of LIVE SOULS http://bcbooklook.com/2015/11/02/the-english-suitcase/
Original English Publication of ‘LIVE SOULS: Citizens and Volunteers of Civil War Spain’, Vancouver BC, Canada, Nov. 2015
Spanish Press Media / Articles (54 articles in 12 weeks)
December 2, 2016 onwards Article by ERNEST ALÒS in National EL CONFIDENTIAL on selected 103 books of the year for Christmas 2016. LIVE SOULS appears prominently in second History books section, which is reproduced in many regional media.
- EL CONFIDENTIAL (national daily): http://www.elperiodico.com/es/noticias/ocio-y-cultura/libros-recomendados-5629841
-Spanish regional daily Diario Córdoba on December 4th
-Spanish regional daily Diario de Léon on December 2nd
-Spanish regional daily El Periódico Extremadura on December 2nd
-Spanish regional daily El Correo de Burgos on December 2nd
-Spanish regional daily El Diario de Soria on December 2nd
December 2, 2016
National blog of the Museum Museu Memorial de l'Exili – MUME announcing a presentation at the Memorial Democratic de Catalunya of LIVE SOULS on December 15, in the presence of its Director, Plácid Garcia-Planas and the Publisher, Comanegra, Joan Sala https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=233200563775473&id=100012565929973
October, 2016 National monthly History & Cultural Magazine L’AVENÇ, October 2016 Issue, Book Review Showcase, Page 70 (See attached article and translation)
October 3, 2016
Traditional Spanish weekly TRADICIONVIVA.ES by VALENTINA ORTE:
September 2016
September 2016
The Spanish history blog ALETEIA.ORG by the Franciscan Brothers:
September 21, 2016
Digital Version of articles in the Catalan Daily ARA by SÍLVIA MARIMON based on an author interview on September 13, 2016, which was republished in their 5 regional dailies: http://www.ara.cat/cultura/inedites-Guerra-Civil-pacifista-angles_0_1654634555.html
September 14, 2016 ERNEST ALÓS’ EL PERIODICO National list of 90 recommended autumn 2016 books, highlighting LIVE SOULS in Non-Fiction http://www.elperiodico.com/es/noticias/ocio-y-cultura/libros-novedades-otono-5344809
September 10, 2016 onwards Press articles published based on the interview of September 9th author interview with JOSE OLIVA of the EFE PRESS AGENCY (fourth largest in the world), which is reproduced in many media.
- EFE PRESS AGENCY: http://www.efe.com/efe/espana/cultura/publican-210-fotos-ineditas-de-la-guerra-hechas-por-un-conductor-ambulancia/10005-3036301
- La Vanguardia (a leading Spanish national daily):
- Eldiario.es (Spanish national daily):
- Eldia.es (Spanish national audiovisual media group, digital media):
- Teinternesa.es (Spanish national digital media):
- El Confidencial (Spanish national daily):
- Diari de Girona (regional daily):
- Regió 7 (regional daily):
- Diario de Navarra (regional daily): http://www.diariodenavarra.es/noticias/cultura_ocio/cultura/2016/09/10/publican_210_fotos_ineditas_guerra_civil_hechas_por_conductor_ambulancia_484222_1034.html
- El Diario de Léon (regional daily):
- El Socialista Digital (Spanish National Political Digital Media):
- El Economista (Spanish national Economic daily):
- El EcoDiario.es (Spanish national Economic daily):
- elmercuriodigital.es (Spanish national digital media daily):
And many more ... Thanks to EFE's articles appear in almost every newspaper in Spain, so it is the same item in many different newspapers. This is an excellent way of media coverage in Spain and in the Hispanic world.
September 8, 2016
Spanish digital media HIPERTEXTUAL.COM by César Noragueda
-Spanish mobile phone news digital media 3G Móvil Actualidad Moviles:
September 7, 2016
Regional Bisbal de Falset Digital Media això-va-passar.eu http://www.això-va-passar.eu/news/live-souls-otra-mirada-a-nuestra-guerra/
September 7, 2016
La Setmana recorda la Guerra Civil
-Catalan digital daily about culture NÛVOL
September 6, 2016
Spanish digital media ALETEIA.ORG
September 6, 2016
Catalan Press Agency CATzona
September 6, 2016
Spanish Press Agency EL CONFIDENCIAL
September 6, 2016
Spanish Press Agency ELDIA.ES
September 5, 2016
Spanish national daily EL RAZÓN by Víctor Fernández http://www.larazon.es/local/cataluna/una-mirada-inedita-sobre-la-guerra-civil-MD13454989#.Ttt1DYu4OHopFMB
September 4, 2016
Spanish national daily EL NACIONAL.CAT by Gustau Nerín http://www.elnacional.cat/es/cultura-ideas-artes/alec-wainman-live-souls_108586_102.html# http://www.elnacional.cat/ca/cultura-idees-arts/live-souls-alec-wainman_108586_102.html
September 4, 2016
Spanish Blog LIMPIA POR DENTRO by Santiago Mata:
September 3, 2016 onwards
Press articles published based on the initial article by ERNEST ALÒS in EL CONFIDENTIAL which was followed up by an author interview of September 9th, which is reproduced in many media.
- EL CONFIDENTIAL (national daily): http://www.elperiodico.com/es/noticias/ocio-y-cultura/fotografias-ineditas-guerra-civil-alec-wainman-5352127 http://www.elperiodico.com/es/noticias/ocio-y-cultura/fotografia-sacerdote-guerra-civil-wainman-guzman-5352007
-Verdecoloresperanza Spanish digital blog on September 12th
- Le Que Se Oculta digital media daily:
-Spanish Blog Religión en Libertad on September 7th
-Spanish Blog Foro Amistad Corazon Amarillo on September 6th
-Spanish digital daily h2opositivo.com on September 6th
-Spanish Movimiento Político de Resistencia Blog:
-Spanish Blog Foro por la Memoria on September 5th
-Spanish regional daily Diario Córdoba on September 3rd
September 3, 2016
La Setmana del Llibre en Català: la fiesta de la palabra escrita, Libros para la ‘rentrée de Pere Guixà
- LA VANGUARDIA (a leading Spanish national daily):