Josefina, a Phoenix 1937-1956

Having arrived in Buenos Aires in January 1937, Pepe and Josefina live in 2029 Juncal St., Catalina’s home married to Genaro García and Josefina’s sister.

Pedro, their son, travels to Rosario, Santa Fe, to study medicine.

In November, in Mallorca and in the height of the war, her daughter Juanita marries Pepe Vich.

A month later, Isabel, her other daughter, has a girl named Isabel Balaguer Salas.

In April 1939 the civil war ends. By the end of the year her grandson Pedrito Vich Salas is born.

Life and death, cramped, mark those harsh years.

In March 1940 Pedrito Vich, four months old, dies suddenly. Thereafter her mother, Juanita, commits suicide.

Josefina and Pepe are devastated with the tragedy. She only cries, and stops writing on her Diary.

When resuming it she says:

“July 1940
‘(…) Monday 1st – After three months and two days without writing my daily notes, a habit I have since I was fifteen years old- I go back to it again today – with the heart in pain, an anguished spirit, the stupor of my ideas – due to the biggest tearing of my life…! I wish God grant me serenity for the rest of my life to finish it with firmness and resignation…! - (…)’ Diary 13 p.994

However there is more suffering to come. Pepe has some flu complications which end up in heart problems and dies on August 13th.

‘(…) All day long with the oppression of sorrow… - What a cruel destiny God has provided me in the closing stages of my life … However, I acknowledge he also brought me an easy and fortunate life…! - Pepe, Juanita, you are within my soul, my heart (…)’. Diary 13 p.027, 19 August 1940

By the end of the month Isabel, Josefina’s daughter, who is pregnant and has two children comes from Spain to accompany her mother. Josefina rents a flat where they live together.

In November her granddaughter, Pepita Balaguer Salas is born, her joy during those years. Her father, Manuel Balaguer, is only able to come from Mallorca a year and a half later.

It is a deep desolation time, during which she finishes her everyday notes in her Diary writing the united initials of her two loved ones, followed by two crosses.

As from August 1943, Josefina comes out of her mourning with a vital turn. She takes up her whole work, intertwines it and edits 24 notebooks from 1899 to1937. She has the first volume since 1921 so she decides to take the rest to a printing house. In this way she adds to the writings on her diary, her collages and her illuminated photos; so she binds ten volumes during a year.

The conecction with her early works dating from 45 years ago, leads her to consolidate the different ways of expression, attaining at the same time text and plastic integration, as well as adding up a memory space to honour her loved ones. She also gets to preserve her whole oeuvre for a yet vague audience. Without this edition, possibly her various records would have been lost.

In June 1948, together with her diaries, she edits 4 or 5 cutting books, which she calls ‘daubs’, made of illustrations, prints and loose cuttings collected from books and magazines. She uses the collage technique in her composition.

‘Monday September 13th – Lovely day – I went out at 11 ½ - I went to Peuser’s – I bought a book with 200 pages – to stick prints ($ 25)… At 6 mate. I started gluing in the book, the life of Martin Fierro – picture reproductions etc – until dinner time – Isabelita also glued stamps and prints in another notebook, etc etc.-…’ Diary 16 p.073 and 074

Josefina doesn’t have a piano in her flat, and as she enjoys music since she is a girl, she now listens to concerts and operas together with serials and plays on the radio. She always adds her opinion about the play and the names of the participants on her diary.

She goes to the cinema with her sister Cata and a friend, Clarita de González Chávez; the programme includes succulent teas, inviting one another each day.

In November 1951, on a visit to Rosario, Santa Fe, in her son’s house, occulist and married to Sara Bertotto, Josefina has a tragicomic incident because of her anti-peronism.

‘(…) 1951 November 30th – Nice day – In the afternoon at 4½ while I was having a nap somebody woke me up- I saw a man and said: Juan Carlos – he answered back: Federal Police – I said: ¿a little joke? They answered: No joke at all, Federal Police – so I incorporated and said: what do you wish? To check the house. (…) assuming I was a liaison officer - (…)’

‘(…) My beloved diary they have seized it and it worries me since it is full of relieves, being one of the softest the one they have transcribed (…)’ Diary 17 p.137-138

She gets her diary back on Christmas eve. It had been perforated and included in her criminal record. In the meantime she doesn’t have her diary with her, she writes on a “parallel” one.

Back in Buenos Aires, she goes on with her collage books:

‘(…)Thursday 8th – Nice day – I finished gluing an interiors album(…).’ ’Diary 17, p.231

‘(…)Wednesday 28th - I’m composing another book of daubs, portraits, landscapes, etc (…)’ Diary 17, p.240, May 1952

However, only remains unbound the Book of Curiosities edited by her in 1952. There, it is possible to see that in spite of the arrest in Rosario and her opposing ideology, she composes a plastic homage to Evita at her death, in July 1952.

In fifteen pictures she recognises Eva, a woman that shines after going beyond barriers, and she is also moved by the 33-year-old dead young woman like her 28-year-old dead daughter.

In 1953, Genaro García, her brother-in-law, dies.

Josefina goes on writing on her Diary and by the end of 1954 she says:

‘(…) This notebook is the first of volume n° 19- The two previous volumes are ready for binding, something I won’t be able to do because of my age and my shattered health- This collection contains the daily account of more than 60 years of my life.’ Diary 19, p.120 (30 January).

On November 3rd, 1955 her sister Catalina, her partner and referent during all her life, dies.

At the beginning of 1956, while writing on her diary, Josefina Oliver has a stroke and dies three days later, on January 23rd.

‘Saturday 20th (january 1956) – partly cloudy.’ Diary 20, p.211.