In April 1937 a group of young women from Antwerp and Brussels left Belgium to join the fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War. The volunteers were from East-European Jewish families who moved to Belgium after the First World War. Most of these volunteers had partners or husbands fighting in the international brigades.
In an old convent in Ontinyent, a small town between Valencia and Alicante, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and the International Solidary Fund (ISF) organized an international military hospital. With a capacity of 800 beds and four operating theaters, it was one of the biggest and best-equipped hospitals in Spain. The socialists were short of personnel and mainly communist volunteers answered the call to work at Ontinyent. The group of 21 Belgian volunteers was the first to arrive. In the town they were popularly called the les mamàs belgues in the Valencian language. Belgian journalist Sven Tuytens made a documentary about them (2016) and wrote their biography (Dutch edition, 2017). The Spanish edition is due very soon.