Not all Cubans are allies of Russia, says a baseball player in Ukraine

Not all Cubans are allies of Russia, says a baseball player in Ukraine

“Not all Cubans are allies of Russia or of Vladimir Putin,” he told 14ymedio baseball player Raidel Arbelay, who has lived in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, since 1989. He will never forget how, on February 24, 2022, a drone sent by Moscow was shot down by the Ukrainian Air Force. The aircraft fell 70 meters from his house: the war had just begun.

Arbelay condemns the confrontation and assures that “it has neither winners but only losers, families in mourning, mothers without children and many other things.” Despite this, he clarifies, he has not planned at any time to leave the country. His wife and two of his children returned from Spain two months ago, where they had taken refuge after the start of the Russian invasion.

While the media talks about the G7 promise -made up of the US, Japan, Germany, the UK, France, Italy and Canada- to provide more military support to Ukraine to defeat Russia, and the possibility of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is once again being considered ), Arbelay’s attention is focused on the organization of a baseball game on July 23 at the Muromets Park stadium in the capital, to honor both the professional Ukrainian baseball players who are at the forefront and those who already They have been demobilized.

“Not everyone will be able to play because they are not in kyiv,” admits the athlete, who managed to position himself as coach of the runner-up team in the Ukrainian baseball championship last year. In addition, he has carried out an initiative to collect money for children who have been orphaned during the war.

Arbelay condemns the confrontation and assures that “it has neither winners but only losers, families in mourning, mothers without children and many other things”

Arbelay is currently the only Cuban baseball player living in kyiv. The two athletes who were with him in the conquest of the runner-up: Eriel Carrillo (former member of the Villa Clara team) and David Mena (who played for Industriales) emigrated. “Eriel plays in Italy through the Cuban Baseball Federation. David emigrated to Mexico this year, I think,” he says.

The Cuban admits that “Ukraine, unfortunately, will not be a pool of baseball players to send to the US Major Leagues for several years, because there are few teams, players and the league is not very strong.”

Arbelay’s arrival in Ukraine was “a dream come true.” He tells that since he was little he longed to study in the Soviet Union. “I was lucky to be one of the last group of Cuban students to come, in 1989,” he says. In his adventure he had the complicity of his parents. “My family supported me from the beginning. At that stage you didn’t emigrate like you do now and not everyone wanted to.”

He also knows that the crisis that Cuban baseball is going through – marked by escapes, dropouts, low salaries and the lack of clothing – affects the quality of the sport and the motivation of the athletes. “I know the problems firsthand. Whenever I traveled to Cuba, I would take them bats, balls and many things,” he adds.

Now, in the midst of the conflict, Arbelay has few Cubans left to talk to in kyiv. “The Cuban community before the war was about 250 people. Now there are about 20 left,” he laments.

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