On June 10, 1984, ETA carried out an attack against the Guardia Civil barracks in Elorrio. John Raya, who was on guard duty, was wounded by shrapnel. After recovering from his injuries in Barcelona, Juan Raya returned to Elorrio to complete his one year of service in the Basque Country. Many years later, he has continued to suffer from the psychological consequences of the attack.


Name: Juan Raya Aranda

Age: 49 (1962).

Profession/position: Retired civil guard / Member of the board of ACVOT (Catalan Association of Victims of Terrorist Organisations).

Family status: Married. Two children.

Place of origin: Born in Jaen (Andalusia), living in Barcelona since he was six.

GROUP: Civil guards.


- On June 10, 1984, ETA carried out an attack against the Guardia Civil barracks in Elorrio. John Raya, who was on guard duty, was wounded by shrapnel.

- After recovering from his injuries in Barcelona, Juan Raya returned to Elorrio to complete his one year of service in the Basque Country. Many years later, he has continued to suffer from the psychological consequences of the attack.


“I come from a civil guard family, from Jaen. I came to Catalonia when I was six because my father was stationed in Barcelona. When I was 19 I had to decide whether to go into the army as a conscript or join the Civil Guard, which I did as I was looking for a job and couldn’t get one. Given the option of doing my military service or joining the Civil Guard, I joined the latter after taking some exams when I was 19. When I was 20, I finished at the academy and was stationed in Barcelona for six months. Then, I took exams to become a typist at the Barcelona headquarters. I passed and stayed there another six months. After that period, I was stationed to Bilbao”.

“Before taking up my duties there, I spent a month in a special academy training, in order to become familiar with the environment in the Basque Country. After that month, I went to the place to which I had been assigned, which was, in this case, the small town of Elorrio (Bizkaia), where I arrived when I was 21″.

“I had been there barely a month when the attack against the Civil Guards barracks occurred. At that time, I was on guard duty. The attack consisted of a number of grenades and some submachine gun fire. I was the only person injured. After the attack I was admitted to hospital in Bilbao for about five or six days. I asked to be discharged because I wanted to receive treatment in Barcelona, I didn´t want to stay there”.

“Although I was in Barcelona, recovering from my wounds, the condition was that I had to be stationed in the Basque Country for one year. The psychologists advised me not to return, but I did want to return simply because I had to finish my tour of duty there. I asked to be discharged from hospital and returned to the same town. After my year was up, I applied to go to Barcelona. I spent 16 years in Barcelona doing office work, but after I was 37 a military medical tribunal considered me unfit to serve given my psycho-physical condition”.

“I was 21 when I went to the Basque Country. I was single and I went alone. Many of us were single in those barracks. There were also many married officers but they left their families behind. It was practically the first time I had left home, except for the time I spent in the academy. I felt quite lonely there. The atmosphere of a military barracks was rather limited; remember we are talking about the year 1984. There were many attacks in those days. The barracks had a kitchen, dining room and a small sitting room, not so that we could isolate ourselves, but so that we could have somewhere to rest without having to go outside as things were rather hostile in those days”.

“When we were off duty, we were advised not to go out in the town where we worked. We used to go to a few nearby places, but never to the town where we were stationed. The truth is that, in those days, we were young, with rather short hair and, therefore, when you were out in town you looked obvious. People would look at you, seeing young people with short hair and they knew what we were. When we went to a bar for a beer, after being there five minutes, you realised people would ignore you. We would finish our beet and go somewhere else. Among colleagues, we always had to look out for each other. Who came, who left … “.

“As I was the son of a Civil Guard, I had spent all my childhood living in barracks. I knew what was happening in the Basque Country at the time and I knew what I was going in for. Before leaving Barcelona a colleague, who also had to be stationed in the Basque Country, preferred to retire. I had accepted the fact and I knew I would have to go when I it was my turn to do my time there. I knew what it was going to be like”.

“At the academy, before going to the barracks in Elorrio, they taught us what things would be like there. They taught us what we were going to come across outside and you more or less accept the situation. But reality is what you experience when you are actually there. It is also very different to be stationed in a village than in a capital city, where you are less conspicuous. In a small town, there are always some unsettled people. For example, there were suppliers who would come to the bar we had in the barracks and talk to us with no problem, in a very friendly way and even have a beer with us. But when you went down into town and you came across them, they almost signalled you from a distance to pretend you didn’t know them. You went along with it so as not to cause that person any problems. The mere act of talking to us made people suspicious”.

“The attack took place on June 10, 1984. It was about 11 pm on a Saturday night. I had requested a change of shift because I was up for 72 hours leave and it I changed my shift I could get some more time. I had to keep guard over the barracks. While I was on duty, I saw a person behaving rather strangely. There was a nursery across the road and I saw that someone was watching us. I thought it was strange so I was going to ask him for his Id. papers. The moment I walked out of the barracks to see who that person was, as soon as I was about two metres outside the door, I saw him make a movement and that he was not really looking; he was aiming at the barracks with a bazooka. Given the direction, he was aiming at the bar where, being a Saturday night, there were some families with their children but not may single people, who had gone out for a while. When I came out, he changed his aim. He stopped aiming at the bar and aimed at me. At that time I sounded the alarm, but I hardly had time because the first bazooka round landed about a metre and a half from me. That knocked me on the floor. I tried to get up and open my eyes but I couldn’t see anything because I had blood all over my face. I drew my pistol and tried to fire to scare that person off so that he would stop firing. I felt another impact and I kept on hearing shots. They wanted to come out and get me because I was several metres outside the barracks, but I told my colleagues not to come out and I managed to crawl back”.

“I was wounded by shrapnel in the chest area, especially on my right-hand side, because I had turned to tell my colleagues to get down and so it hit me in my right-hand side. The ball of fire I saw come out of the “bazooka” that was aimed directly at me was the most traumatic thing I saw”.

“More than physical scars, I have endured psychological scars. The physical injuries healed many years ago. After the attack I was on medication. Once in Barcelona, I was going to specialists of all kinds because I was vomiting, feeling dizzy…. rather strange symptoms. Anxiety. I went to the ER at several hospitals and, in the end, I was lucky to be asked at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona whether I would like to join a psychology programme. There I was diagnosed as suffering from chronic anxiety.”

“The discomfort and dizziness disappeared with medication and I had to put up with that situation until the medical tribunal saw my case in the year 2000. After the attack, I remained in the Civil Guard for 16 years, on medication, of course. I resisted so long because I was in an office environment, but the feeling of commuting to work in the subway or by car was that when I was about to switch on the engine, the car would explode. Before getting into the car I used to drop the keys on the ground to have a look underneath, when I left home or travelled in the underground, I would always be looking around me…. It’s something that stays with you”.

“Many people don’t believe it, but I am convinced that the ‘north syndrome’ exists. People who have been to the Basque Country (Civil Guards) and have been on guard duty take some time to get back to normal once they come home. But a person who has suffered an attack, may recover or he may not”.

“In those days the Civil Guard applied a special system for people who had been the victims of an attack. They were entitled to request a special permission not to return to the Basque Country. I applied but then I withdrew the application because I wanted to do my time and then get out of there. At that time, there were people who went to the Basque Country as volunteers, but I had no reason for that. I had my life in Catalonia and I wanted to get through with that mandatory year as soon as possible and get back to my family and my girlfriend at the time”.

“I must also say that I liked the Basque Country while I was there, apart from the fear of knowing that you are involved in a hostile environment as a member of the state’s security forces. I loved the Basque Country. I liked the people of the homesteads, the people who were more isolated, with whom we could talk because they only wanted to get on with their work and live in peace, unlike the towns, where the environment was rather adverse. I like the beautiful scenery, the excellent food … The Basque Country is wonderful, but I could not fully enjoy it”.

“The day of the attack, my parents were with my uncles spending a weekend away and one of my uncles was listening to the radio. He called my father aside, told him that there had been an attack in the Basque Country, in particular where I was stationed. They spent the time listening to the radio. My mother knew that something was wrong and called the barracks. That’s how they found out and they immediately went to the hospital where I had been admitted. When they appeared I was lucky that I was awake and, therefore, the shock was not as bad. Both my parents and my girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, suffered a lot. They are also victims, but only I was considered a victim by law because I was wounded. After the attack, however much support the family gives you; you don’t see it at times until things get back to normal. You hide within yourself, you get depressed… They had to go through a lot. But thanks to psychological assistance, to friends and family things have got better”.

“At that time, 1984, the Civil Guard did not many resources or qualified personnel to handle these cases, although I did have support and I had no problems. They have helped me in every way possible. In addition, I am a member of the Catalonian Association of Victims of Terrorist Organisations and have received psychological and legal counselling so I can’t complain”.

“It takes time to get back to normal, even after many years. Every time I heard of an attack, the images always came back. When I heard on the TV or read in the press that they had arrested people, found “hideouts” (secret prisons for hostages) and weapons… it all seems to come back a little. Because the question I keep asking myself is: what did I do when I was only 21 to become a target? I know that the attack was not against me but against a person dressed in green (a Civil Guard), but I was still a 21-year-old who was forced to go there and all I wanted was to do my time there and then get back to my normal job. When I finished my time there, I was relieved”.