Home  >  News > Delia Giovanola de Califano, founder of Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo: “The...

Delia Giovanola de Califano, founder of Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo: “The need to find my grandson is getting stronger”

Delia Giovanola de Califano.

Delia Giovanola de Califano.



Delia Giovanola de Califano is one of the twelve women who founded Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo) thirty-nine years ago. The former organization is dedicated specifically to locate children snatched during the political repression exerted by the military dictatorship established in Argentina in 1976. Delia’s son, Jorge Óscar Orgando, disappeared in 1976, together with her daughter-in-law, Stella Maris Montesano, who was eight months pregnant. Virginia, the couple’s daughter who was three years old, was not kidnapped. Delia Giovanola raised this girl who killed herself in 2011 after undergoing a strong depression (Giovanola thinks she could not stand knowing the tortures suffered by her parents).

Despite her advanced age and the fact that, as she says, “time devours all things”, Delia continues looking for her grandson, Martín (the name the family chose for the baby Stella Maris was expecting). Thus, this October, a pleasure trip to Europe has turned into the continuation of her long search: “We have found some grandchildren in Europe”, says Delia who has taken the opportunity to give some lectures in London and Barcelona. On 9 October, the University of Barcelona hosted one of her speeches. The activity, organised by Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo and Hijos e Hijas por la Identidad y la Justicia contra el Olvido y el Silencio (Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice Against Oblivion and Silence, HIJOS) was part of the series Tardor Solidària a la UB.


How are reunions with long-lost grandchildren achieved by Abuelas?

We have identified 117 grandchildren. Every grandchild we find is a small part of the grandchild each of us is looking for. They are very kind… They give us love and take care of us. Now, we are a total of seven grandmothers; the rest of members are identified grandchildren who joined the organization.

Reunions have all something in common. First, grandchildren keep their distance and remain cautious. Then, they steep themselves in the past; they know who were their mum and dad. They are given a box that contains every material collected during these many years: comments made by dad’s friends, stories told by mum’s friends, photos, etc. They read this alone (I imagine they do it little by little: they take one piece of paper, they read it, they contemplate that information, etc.), and then their attitude begins to change.


When you’ll find your grandson, will you fight for justice?

Yes. My son has been disappeared for thirty-nine years. My daughter-in-law has too. My granddaughter killed herself after a severe depression… I do not know what tortures my son suffered, but I believe my granddaughter could not stand knowing the tortures they parents suffered, so she committed suicide. I cannot act as it nothing has happened. We only ask for justice. We are not seeking for revenge. I want the justice denied to my son who was innocent. He will be missing until his body is identified. My daughter-in-law is missing too. I love her like my own daughter. I was her teacher when she was four. I taught her how to write and read. Then, some years later, she met my son again and they get engaged.

If they were doing something wrong, they should have been judged and sentenced. But they were innocent. Honestly! Can a baby do anything wrong? What reasons did they have to take babies? Babies were used as war trophies. It’s inexcusable. The military condemned in the last trials turned round and made jibes to the public. With their jibes they were saying to victims’ relatives: “I don’t care, do whatever you want”. They do not feel blame. Nothing urges forgiveness. I can forgive them if I recover all I have lost, but they can do that.


After a 39-year hunt, what have you achieved?

Currently, we are two founding grandmothers in the organization, and neither of us has found her grandchild. The rest of grandmothers have all found their grandchildren. I feel that the need to find my grandson is getting stronger. Suffering and distress will be always present. Particularly, in the case of the death of my granddaughter, I will never find comfort. But life goes on. And we have to enjoy it as much as possible. We cannot live crying and mourning because then you fall ill and you isolate from people surrounding you. As I am an extroverted person, I like being surrounded by people. That helps me. The promise I made myself thirty-nine years ago, to continue searching for my grandson on behalf of my son, helps me, it encourages me and it gives me reasons to continue my struggle. Besides health, of course. I say thank you for my good health every day.


And, in general, how do you assess the search performed by Abuelas?

Personally, I believe that unwillingness to come to Abuelas is the only reason why some grandchildren remain unidentified in Argentina. They are stopped by one thing: the weight of the law; they are afraid of the consequences that their action will have for the people who exerted repression and appropriation: they appropriate children, changed their identity and these crimes are punished by the law. Within these individuals, some are torturers, others stole babies when birth, and others took the baby and gave him/her as a present to their wives.


How is the relationship with the families that raised stolen babies?

Families do not get closer to Abuelas, and Abuelas do not come closer to them. However, we respect those grandchildren who want to keep the relationship. Here in Europe, to be exact in the United Kingdom, we found Penino Viñas. The family that raised him murdered his parents, they stole the baby and run away from one country to another with false papers. Vildoza stole the baby and gave him as a present to his wife. The child was raised in an environment that considers Abuelas a group of madwomen who shout at the Plaza de Mayo; “they are the ones who want to separate you from us”. Vildoza is still on the run. His wife was sentenced and, although it is hard to believe, the child travelled to Buenos Aires and asked for mercy for the woman who brought him up. It is the only case. However, he recovered his true identity and he gave his children his real name.

Children, who are now men and women, can choose whether they want to come with the Abuelas and join the family or not; they are not forced. If I find my grandson, my arms are open wide, but he will decide whether he wants to come to me or not.


Share this at:
| More |
  • Follow us:
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Facebook profile
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Twitter profile
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Instagram profile
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Linkedin profile
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Youtube profile
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Google+ profile
  • ??? ???
Member of International recognition of excellence HR Excellence in Research logo del leru - League of European Research Universities logo del bkc - campus excel·lència logo del health universitat de barcelona campus

© Universitat de Barcelona