From Russia to Spain, the family of a 9/11 detainee tells how he escaped from Cuba

From Russia to Spain, the family of a 9/11 detainee tells how he escaped from Cuba

Pursuing a “real, free and healthy” future gave strength to a married couple of persecuted Cuban politicians and their child to escape the Island after the protests of July 11, 2021 (July 11) and -after a long trip across the continent European – arrive in Spain. Now they live in a Catholic reception center in Calahonda, an Andalusian municipality located on the coast of Granada.

Cuba, Russia, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy and Spain: the massive journey, largely on foot, took Yasmanis, Rachel and their five-year-old son across Europe’s most dangerous borders in the most harsh winter after leaving for Moscow, in October 2021. There was no choice: Yasmanis (who does not reveal his last name or that of his wife) had been arrested during the protests and, taking advantage of his release – not exempt from surveillance by part of State Security–, they left.

The money to pay for the trip to Russia was obtained after selling everything they could, including their house. interviewed by Spanish media, the couple assures that they do not wish anyone “such a difficult path or such strong experiences.” “Our moods were tremendously low after everything we had suffered,” they add, recalling the diagnosis of the psychologists who attended them upon arrival.

His main concern during the trip was the child, who represented an “additional fear” for what could happen to him or for the harshness of the road

His main concern during the trip was the child, who represented an “additional fear” because of what could happen to him or because of the harshness of the road. Once in Spain, they managed to be welcomed by the brothers of San Juan de Dios, a religious order dedicated to hospital, nursing and charity work. In one of the refuges of that institution, located in the south of Spain, the family has spent its first year as exiles.

“All the staff make us feel supported, that we learn new things about this country, that we can be trained to better adapt and have a real job opportunity here,” the couple affirms. “Here they are helping us to assimilate everything, to feel loved, to recover our calm and trust, and to believe in a real and better future for our family.”

The Calahonda center has also received another 130 refugees who have arrived in Spain from Ukraine -after the start of the invasion launched by Vladimir Putin in February 2022-, Russia, Georgia, Afghanistan, Iran, El Salvador, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela. The workers at the center provide them with advice to better access the request for political asylum and to manage the beginning of their new life.

José Luis Castelar, general director of the international protection centers of the brothers of San Juan de Dios, assures that the war in Ukraine was the starting point to welcome – as in many other cities in Spain – those who tried to escape the conflict. However, in the last year it has been opened to migrants from any latitude.

However, Castelar refers, the work of welcoming refugees is not without difficulties and friction, since the cultural diversity of those who come to the centers is great. Only in the first semester of 2023, he adds, the reception program – some 11 centers throughout the Peninsula – of his order has received more than 800 migrants, of which 36% are minors. His priority is to achieve the relocation of families like Yasmanis’s as soon as possible, so that they can recover “the normality and privacy of their lives.”

Refugee reception work is not without difficulties and friction, since the cultural diversity of those who come to the centers is great

The program receives the support of the Spanish Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migrations, and guarantees that families receive 18 months of accommodation, food and both immigration and emotional advice. For those who do not speak Spanish, language courses are also provided.

For months now, Spain has become one of the most frequent destinations for Cubans leaving the island. The facilities that the country has provided so that Cubans of Spanish descent can apply for this citizenship have been an incentive for many families even try to emigrate as a group.

The latter has occurred in the Castilian city of Zamorawhere 34 Cubans and Argentines have been part of a program called “Reto Zamora”, which seeks to repopulate the towns of this province.

At the end of March, the first families of this pilot program, promoted by the Ministry of Family and Equal Opportunities of the Junta de Castilla y León, arrived from Cuba and Argentina to settle in the regions of Sanabria and Toro. There were eight personal assistants and as many companions, including five children already in school who in one of the cases have prevented the rural school of Lubián from having to close next year.

In view of the good results, the initiative has now been extended to another 18 people, this time all of them from Cuba. The intention is to extend it soon to other provinces of Castilla y León with the same philosophy: that the descendants of migrants who “crossed the pond” can return to find a future and help combat depopulation in rural areas of the land of their ancestors. .


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