Maria Sans is said to be EMH’s inspiration for the character of Maria in For Whom the Bell Tolls, published n 1943. I never noticed anyone talk about or mention her until she died in 2012 at the age of 91.
Ms. Sans supposedly met EMH during the Spanish Civil War when she was volunteering as a nurse. Nursing the men of the International Brigades, she met a young Swiss soldier and they fell in love. When WWII began their relationship ended.
Ms. Sans was born in Arbeca, Spain in 1920 and her family moved to Mataro (on the Mediterranean coast) when she was little. Mataro is supposedly where she met EMH. The former factory worker became a nurse as there were not enough nurses aiding the foreign fighters.
Agàpit Borràs, a Catalan architect, published his theory that young Maria Sans was the true inspiration for Maria in La Vanguardia (a Spanish newspaper) in 1996. Ms. Sans never capitalized on meeting EMH during the Spanish conflict.