Monday, March 23, 2015

Two Cuban women refuse to emigrate out of loyalty, but not to country

Two Cuban women refuse to emigrate out of loyalty, but not to country

Two minority groups, Jews and Afro-Cubans, intersected in a Havana
household, and an unbreakable bond emerged
She could have left Cuba many times.

As a Cuban Jew, Frida Zaitman could have gone to Israel or the United
States, maybe even Europe.

But Havana was the home she knew, the refuge her parents had settled
upon after fleeing a war-torn Poland and Hitler's Holocaust.

Zaitman, now 61, was raised by an Afro-Cuban nanny after her mother died
giving birth to Zaitman and her twin brother, Felix. Zaitman and her
nanny, Magda Danger, now 88, are an inseparable if odd pair.

"I could have left, but I would have missed my mother," Zaitman says of
Danger. "You reach a certain age...."

The family of Zaitman's father was among them. He arrived in Cuba as a
youth in 1927. Her mother came later, surviving World War II death camps
and landing on the island in 1946, thin and frail.

The two met and married in 1947. She gave birth to a boy and in 1954
died in childbirth. Felix Zaitman would go on to become a successful
naval engineer, working on Cuban ships the world over. Their older
brother took to a different kind of boat, a raft to Miami during the
Mariel boatlift, in which tens of thousands of Cubans escaped to the
United States. He died a decade or so ago.

Danger's memories are fading more quickly. She was in her 20s, from a
large family, when Frida Zaitman's newly widowed father recruited her to
take care of the twins. He never remarried. Danger became part of the
family, Zaitman's lifelong companion and her stated reason for not
leaving Cuba.

"I could have gone to Israel; they pay everything," Zaitman said over
demitasse cups of coffee in her apartment recently. Friends left. "I
can't think of a family that doesn't have family in the United States or
abroad. Living here prepares you for anything.

"We had chances to go," she said. "We decided to stay."

Truth be told, although Zaitman might have been able to leave, a visa
for Danger would have proved far more difficult. There was some
anti-Semitism in Cuba soon after the revolution, but more a part of an
official atheism in which no religion was supposed to be practiced
publicly. But that has passed, Zaitman said.

Maybe given her parents' experience, the idea of life as a refugee
seemed more daunting to Zaitman than any hardship Cuba might offer. And
she thinks things will get better "in my lifetime" — more visits from
those abroad, more food and clothing available in the markets — as
relations improve between Cuba and the United States.

"With all of its problems," she said, "this is my country."

Source: Two Cuban women refuse to emigrate out of loyalty, but not to
country - LA Times -

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