Juana Doña 1918 – 2003
Juana Doña was born and raised in the working class neighbourhood of Madrid. Aged 15 she joined the communist youth party and campaigned passionately during the Second Republic. She was elected secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth and became romantically involved with Eugenio Mesón, leader of the Madrid branch of the Unified Socialist Youth. In 1937 she gave birth to a daughter who died aged seven months and in 1938 she had a second child. At the end of the war, Eugenio was imprisoned, and Juana was sent to a concentration camp with her baby, her mother, and her sister. When the women were returned to Madrid, Juana became involved in clandestine activisim with the Communist Party, for which she was arrested, tortured, and imprisoned from 1939-1941. Upon her release, Eugenio was executed. Undeterred by all of this, she continued her activism and became involved in the Antifascist Women’s Group. She was arrested again in 1947 and was the last prisoner in Spain to be sentenced to death – although this was later commuted to thirty years incarceration. During this sentence she endured the brutal experiences of the Francoist prisons, which she details in the autobiographical novel, Desde la noche y la niebla (Through the night and fog). Due to the regime’s censorship, the text, written in 1967, was only published in 1978, after the death of Franco.
In 1962 she was released and went in to exile in France, where she continued to work with the Communist Party. She later returned to Spain, and lived in Barcelona until her death in 2003. Throughout her life she never relinquished her Communist and feminist beliefs, and continued as a spokesperson for these issues.