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When my father passed away I had to do the paperwork to get my mother widow’s pension and I run into a clerk who told me that my mom wasn’t my dad’s wife (after 56 years of marriage) because they didn’t have the “family’s book”.

In Spain, when you get married you get a “family’s book” which is very important. It certifies the marriage and when the kids arrive inscribe them as the legitimate children.
But my parents, who are from Croatia and had a very eventful life before settling in Spain, were already married for 13 years when they arrived, and the authorities never gave them the famous book.

I went to the social security office with the marriage certificate, from the civil authorities and from the church, and the book of large family the Spanish Government had given us many years ago, but the clerk told me that those documents were not valid. Without the family’s book, my parents were not married and my mom had no right to the pension. I came again with more papers but without success. The third day I arrive with my papers, another clerk, who was more sympathetic, called me to a follow her to a corner of the room and gave me a yellow post-it with a name and a phone number.

– This is a Red Cross’ social worker – she told me – who gets identities for immigrants who do not have them like your mom. Call her she’ll help.

I exploded:

– Look. My mom got the Spanish nationality 45 years ago, probably before you were born.  And now you are telling me that I have to look for an identity for her, as if she had arrived yesterday undocumented in a boat?. I appreciate your interest, but not. Thank you.

I went home tired and desperate and asked my mom if she had some other paper about her marriage. She produced an old certificate, profusely decorated with the red star, the sickle and the hammer, from the Yugoslavian Government, with the names of my parents in latin and Cyrillic alphabets, all written in Croatian and Serbian. It was related to the property of their small apartment in Zagreb.

– Try with this, she told me. It has nothing to do with the marriage but it has our names in it.

I went to the office of the social security armed with my communist certificate, absolutely incomprehensible for them, and, at the sight of the sickle and the hammer, the Cyrillic alphabet and all that, the clerk surrendered.

– This will work, she told me dryly.

So that way, thanks to the Yugoslavian Government, my application passed to a higher instance where there was an official who knew my father and said immediately that, of course, there was no doubt that my mom was my father’s widow and had the right to the pension.

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Journalist. In my fifties. I've worked for 26 years in a newspaper in Spain. I worked for two years as a stringer and correspondent in the US, and went as a special envoy to other places like the Balkans. Sea lover. Avid reader. Classic Music enthusiast.

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  1. I also have a family book similar to the one you would/might have in spain. It has the registration of our marriage and all the kids 2 of them. There is enough room for another 10 kids, but that will remain empty. Mr. Swiss has two family books as I am his second wife, and he has two kids from the first marriage.

    Reply

    • That’s great. The mystery was why they didn’t give something equivalent to my parents when they gave them their nationality. I know the modern immigrants have their family books. But we were pioneers…

      Reply

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