In her short and intense life, she used different names and identities including Haydée, Tamara, Vittoria, Marta and Laura but the international fighter who followed Che’s path through the Bolivian jungle went down in history as Tania the Guerrilla.
Born in Argentina, to a German father and Polish mother, she arrived in Bolivia in 1964 using the name seeking to create the conditions to establish a revolutionary front.
“She came as a specialist in ethnology and folklore and infiltrated all government spheres,” Froilán González, the Cuban investigator and historian, exclusively told Prensa Latina, who with his wife, Adys Cupull, has written several books about Che’s exploits.
She was physically attractive, charismatic, and cultured, she spoke four languages, played the accordion and guitar, and played sports.
Hugo Herrera, who had the opportunity to meet her when he worked in the Education of Ministry’s Department of Folklore, remembers her as a beautiful and active young woman who paid attention to everything.
“Her life was very intense,” asserts the Cuban historian in his conversation with Prensa Latina, who interviewed him in La Paz during the debut of the documentary, “Historia de Ita: Relatos inéditos de la vida de Haydeé Tamara Bunke Tania la Guerrillera,” written by Adys Cupull and performed by her children Leandro and Livan.
The historian says that the movie’s title is “Historia de Ita” because “her mother told us that when she was a child they called her Tamarita and since she was so little she could only pronounce Ita and that was the name that she used when she wrote to her family”.
Tania was born in Argentina and at the age of 14 moved to the Democratic Republic of Germany where she closely followed all the events in her country and Latin America, in particular the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.
In Berlin, she worked as a translator for Latin American delegations and that’s how she met Ernesto Che Guevara when he was the Minister of Industry and the Director of the Cuban National Ballet, Alicia Alonos, who brought her to Havana.
In the Caribbean country, she worked in the Ministry of Education, in the Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos, and in the Federación de Mujeres Cubanas she became a Militiawoman and undertook various voluntary jobs. When she was given the mission in Bolivia, she adopted the name Tania in honor of a young Russian named Soja who fought the Nazis using that psuedonym, who was jailed, tortured, and hung.
Tamara left Germany in 1961 and never returned, the historian recounts, her mother Nadia Bider desperate for news of her decided to make a trip to Cuba in 1964.
While there she met with an official, who told her that Tamara was fine, studying a course and showed her a picture of an almost unrecognizable Tamara, but her mother looked at her eyes and said: “Yes, it is her”.
Tania came to Bolivia to be part of an underground network; however, she found herself needing to join the guerrillas in March 1967, when, in a trip to Ñancahuazú, two members of the rebellion movement deserted and gave her up, she could no longer leave.
“She was a member of the rear guard commanded by Juan Vitalio Acuña (Joaquín) and one of her duties was to listen to radio stations from Bolivia, Argentina and Cuba and report on what was happening,” affirms the historian.
For 5 months, she dealt with difficult conditions in the Bolivian jungle, including lack of water and food, bad weather and constant enemy hostilities.
On August 31,1967, the guerrilla column fell during an ambush as they were crossing the Río Grande. Tania was the penultimate to submerge herself in the river, in front of Joaquín who was covering their backs.
When the first shots were fired she attempted to grab the rifle but a bullet hit her in the lung and the water carried her away. Her body was found a week later. She would have been 30 years old in less than two months.
Photos: Pixabay – (Translated by Inez Cifuentes)