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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

Humming a BBC Melody in Fascist Portugal

Maria Clara Paulino, guest contributor

In response to Speaking of Faith's show about the brutality of regimes around the world and the question of the people who disappear — and their children — I thought I would share with you a scene from my childhood in Portugal during the country’s fascist regime that lasted for almost 40 years and ended in 1974.

I wake up in the middle of the night, as I often do, and walk slowly down the steps of the long staircase. I am eight years old. I come to join my father, who sits in his office listening to a small voice coming from a small radio. The sound is muffled; the words sound detached. I do not understand what it says.

He smiles at the sight of my face peering through the crack of the door.

“So, you’re up,” he says.

Papa Paulino on His Leather "Sofa"That is all he ever says, and I am free to come in or go back. I like that freedom. I sit on his reading couch; the leather is cold to the touch at first, but softening and embracing as I sink into it. Soon he forgets that I am there.

But today he asks me to sit facing him. His voice is stern: “It may be a good idea not to sing this melody outside of this room.”

For brief moments, like now, when the voice that says things I don’t understand stops, a melody fills the air. It is always the same. It is beautiful, and I often carry it into the light of day like a fragment of a dream. Earlier, my mother had given me a concerned look as I left for school, bag full of books, the melody drifting from my lips.

“Not outside this room,” he repeats. “Will you remember?”

I nod, silently. The man’s voice drones on. I stare at the radio. “What is he saying?”

My father looks troubled by the question. “It’s the BBC radio service, in English.” There is a long pause while he chooses the words. “They tell you the truth about what is happening around the world — and in our country too.”

The leather under me goes cold and hard, and my hands curl and cry with sweat. My heart thuds against my chest, trying to fly from the question searing through me: “Will they take you away too, like they took Maria’s father?”

I am looking at his hair; his face is buried in his hands. I want to pin him down and not let him ever leave this room.

Then he looks up. “Yes, that may happen one day. On that day and every other day until I come back, if people ask you, ‘Where is your father,’ hold your head high and tell them. Listen, listen carefully. This is what you will tell them: ‘My father has been arrested because he believes in freedom.’”

We are looking in each others’ eyes now and I see it all clearly: I cannot hold my father in this room, nor can I hold my heart still. I cannot even hold on to me. I watch my childhood leave so suddenly there is no time for remembrance or reckoning.

“Will you do that? Can you do that?” His urgency brings me back. And a voice I do not yet know answers, “Yes.”

Clara PaulinoMs. Paulino teaches English Literature and Art History at the University of Winthrop and at the University of Porto in Portugal. She currently lives in Rock Hill, South Carolina and has recently started a personal blog where she writes about “musings on a home in-between: languages, places, ways of seeing.”

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A Stolen Child of the “Disappeared” Reunites with Father Colleen Scheck, senior producer, + Trent Gilliss, online editor
"At times I wondered what the hell I was living for. I had to find a way  to continue, thinking about everyday things, hoping for this moment of  happiness. Hugging him that first time, it  was as if I filled a hole in my soul." —Abel Madariaga
I discovered this remarkable story while I was looking for a way in to writing about our multimedia   production pairing portraits of the children of Argentina’s  Disappeared with the poetry of Alicia Partnoy, one of the disappeared  who returned. After 32 years and the help of the Argentinian human rights group Abuelas de  Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo), Francisco Madariaga Quintela learned his true identity and met his father, Abel Madariaga, for the first time in late February.
A DNA test revealed that his biological parents are Silvia Quintela — a surgeon who was kidnapped in 1997 while pregnant with Francisco — and her husband, Abel, who fled the country and lived in exile in Sweden until his return in 1983. He then became the secretary of the Abuelas association and the first male member of the very group Francisco approached just a couple months ago. Silvia is still missing and disappeared shortly after delivering Francisco while imprisoned in military torture torture camp.
 Francisco Madariaga Quintela is warmly welcomed by members of the human rights association Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo during a press conference in Buenos Aires on February 23, 2010. (photo: Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images)
The reports in English are limited but these heartbreaking images of Francisco, Abel, and members of the Abuelas help tell the story. I only wish I spoke Spanish so I could learn more about the experience of this reunited father and son. As I look at the pictures of other children of the disappeared from our slide show, I also wish for more hopeful moments like this one.
Top photo: Abel Madariaga embraces his son Francisco Madariaga Quintela as he wipes a tear during a press conference in Buenos Aires on February 23, 2010. (photo: Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images)

A Stolen Child of the “Disappeared” Reunites with Father
Colleen Scheck, senior producer, + Trent Gilliss, online editor

"At times I wondered what the hell I was living for. I had to find a way to continue, thinking about everyday things, hoping for this moment of happiness. Hugging him that first time, it was as if I filled a hole in my soul."Abel Madariaga

I discovered this remarkable story while I was looking for a way in to writing about our multimedia production pairing portraits of the children of Argentina’s Disappeared with the poetry of Alicia Partnoy, one of the disappeared who returned. After 32 years and the help of the Argentinian human rights group Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo), Francisco Madariaga Quintela learned his true identity and met his father, Abel Madariaga, for the first time in late February.

A DNA test revealed that his biological parents are Silvia Quintela — a surgeon who was kidnapped in 1997 while pregnant with Francisco — and her husband, Abel, who fled the country and lived in exile in Sweden until his return in 1983. He then became the secretary of the Abuelas association and the first male member of the very group Francisco approached just a couple months ago. Silvia is still missing and disappeared shortly after delivering Francisco while imprisoned in military torture torture camp.

Grandmothers welcome Francisco Madariaga Quintela
Francisco Madariaga Quintela is warmly welcomed by members of the human rights association Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo during a press conference in Buenos Aires on February 23, 2010. (photo: Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images)

The reports in English are limited but these heartbreaking images of Francisco, Abel, and members of the Abuelas help tell the story. I only wish I spoke Spanish so I could learn more about the experience of this reunited father and son. As I look at the pictures of other children of the disappeared from our slide show, I also wish for more hopeful moments like this one.

Top photo: Abel Madariaga embraces his son Francisco Madariaga Quintela as he wipes a tear during a press conference in Buenos Aires on February 23, 2010. (photo: Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images)

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