Delia Giovanola speaks calmly, follows the pulse of your memories lining up in your head to be shared. Slowly, but clear, firm, without a doubt, names, dates, places will appear. The department of La Plata where his son Jorge Ogando, his daughter-in-law Stella Maris Montesano and his granddaughter Virginia lived. A telephone call received in solitude from the direction of the school where he worked, in San Martín, with the “worst” news. The birth of his grandson Martín during the captivity of his parents. Your appropriation. The search that she undertook within the framework of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, an institution of which she is a founding member; the search that Virginia prompted years later. Its discovery and restitution, 38 years later. “I never thought this would last forever,” he said. Giovanola within the framework of his testimony in the trial for crimes against humanity committed in the clandestine centers that operated in the police investigation brigades of Banfield, Quilmes and Lanús during the last dictatorship ecclesiastical military civic.
It is the second testimony that Giovanola offers in the framework of a trial against humanity. The first time was in the oral and public debate on the systematic plan of the appropriation of babies during State terrorism, in 2011.
Now, his experience, the 45 years of resistance, search and struggle is a piece of the puzzle of terror that took place in the Well of Banfield, where his son, daughter-in-law and grandson were kidnapped, from the time he was born until he was given to his appropriating family.
A testimonial dedicated to Virginia
“Before starting I want to say that I feel accompanied by my granddaughter Virginia. He is with me at all times, he was with me for 35 years accompanying me in everything that happened from October 16, ’76 until his death, as one more victim of this genocide ”, he inaugurated his testimony.
Virginia, the girl who She was three years old when they took her father and mother, 8 months pregnant., and they left sleeping in her crib that October night, she was raised by Delia and her paternal grandfather, Pablo Califano – Delia’s second husband -; he grew up “without talking about what he had experienced,” although “things were happening inside him,” said his grandmother.
At 18 he had “the need” to undertake the search for his brother in a personal way. And he did it because of whatever means was within his reach: television programs, street signs, the internet. He received the help of his co-workers at Banco Provincia – he held the position his father held until he was kidnapped. He committed suicide in 2011.
Victims of genocide
The first question that Delia was asked in the framework of the testimony that she offered this morning via teleconference before the Federal Oral Court number 1 of La Plata wanted to know who of her loved ones were victims of the last civic-military dictatorship. “My only son, Jorge Oscar Ogando, 29, an employee of Banco Provincia, and my daughter-in-law, Stella Maris Montesano, 27, a lawyer,” he replied. Towards the end of his presentation, he would expand on that reflection: “There were 30 thousand victims.”
They were kidnapped on the night of October 16, 1976, taken from an apartment where they lived in La Plata. There they lived with another person, a young man about whom Stella Maris told Delia that “one day he had left and had not returned.” “She was afraid, I told her that it was for the better, that the marriage was better alone. How naive ”, clarified Giovanola.
Then, Delia was a teacher, she ran a school in San Martín. “He lived a totally calm life” that, after the kidnapping of his son and daughter-in-law, “totally changed”, he assured. He received the news of the kidnapping one morning. Stella Maris’s twin sister Liliana called her at school. She recalled: “I was alone at the address. I began screaming to ask how, when, where was Virginia. I had no idea what was happening ”.
She and her husband ended up taking Virginia to San Martín to live with them. Before, he tried to collect information in La Plata about what had happened. “I did not get any data,” he said, describing that he was still hopeful. “I never thought this was going to be forever. I thought that since Stella was 8 months pregnant they were going to release her quickly. I didn’t think it was going to be forever and never again ”.
The search from Mothers and Grandmothers
At the end of November, a woman named Adela invited her to go to Plaza de Mayo, where there were “other mothers” like her who were looking for their children. At first he hesitated, but a weeks later he joined. He met Azucena Villaflor and the rest. Joined. “We learned to do habeas corpus, I will have presented about 40 to ask for my son, for my daughter-in-law. I never had any answer, neither for nor against. We made every attempt to search for them. None had any results ”, he assured. Months later, he participated in the foundation of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo: “I was born of Mothers to be a Grandmother.”
He said that, at first, the search for grandsons and granddaughters was similar to that of sons and daughters because “there was no manual or book that said how to look for a son, a grandson, so we did everything we could think of” , He said. And he recalled that “during those times we had the hopes that they were going to free them, that they were going to give them back to us.”
They began to lose them when they interviewed Robert Cox, the director of the Buenos Aires Herald newspaper, who then told them that “the fate of the pregnant women was sealed from the moment they were taken since they were not going to be able to free them without their babies.” . The memory continued: “He also told us that he was aware that in the Army, Navy and Aeronautics he had lists of married couples without children who were awaiting the birth of pregnant women. That they visited pregnant women to see what kind of children they would have and choose, that they waited for such a pregnant woman to give birth to keep the baby ”. “It hurt a lot,” Delia recalled, “it was when we knew that they were not going to give it to us, that they were going to appropriate it.”
The birth of Martín
Delia Giovanola declared that the first information she had about Martín’s birth was in 1978, in the “queue made by the relatives of the disappeared to file a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.” There, a woman who knew her from teaching, told her that she knew of a survivor of the Banfield Well who had been kidnapped with Stella Maris, who had given birth to a male in captivity: Alicia Carminatti.
He met Alicia for the first time after the end of the dictatorship. With fear, he went to a meeting in a bar that today he did not remember the name. Carminatti had been kidnapped along with her father in an operation by a gang from Buenos Aires who was actually looking for her brother. She and her father were taken to the Banfield Well. They placed her in the cell where Stella Maris was. To his dad, with Jorge. In that talk, he learned that Martín had been born on December 5, 1976, in the kitchen of the Well of Banfield, on a metal door. Alicia also told him that the only thing she could keep from her baby, Stella Maris, was the umbilical cord and that with the help of companions from other cells it reached Jorge, with the message that “he pretended that he had been born Virginia, that the baby was the same ”.
Delia also learned that Stella Maris had her son with her for a few days, who were then taken to her cell, without Martín. “That she screamed and kicked, that a guard told her that this was not the place for a newborn, that she had to be with her family. Martín returned to his family more than 30 years later, ”said Delia. On November 5, 2015, Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo announced their discovery and the restoration of their identity. Since then, grandmother and grandson have built the bond for decades denied.
“I want to reiterate my request for trial and punishment for those responsible, in common jail. For the disappearance of my son and my daughter-in-law, for the appropriation of my grandson and the death of my granddaughter. Because the search for Martín cost Virginia her life ”, concluded her testimony.