My Unpleasant Experience with the Russians

Erasmo Calzadilla

Havana Street.

Others have already written about this issue, so I don’t want to be left without having recounted my bitter experience with “the Russians.”

During the 80’s there was a “ghetto” in my neighborhood called “Los Rusos.”  It was made up of several volunteer micro-brigade-built apartment buildings —all the same— which were inhabited by Soviet military advisors and their families.

Though a fence separated their portion of the neighborhood from ours, this barrier could be crossed, but few of the kids from that side would mix with us Cuban kids on our side.  And while I could count the number of times that I witnessed some contact between the youngsters from the two worlds, on each occasion there were insults and indignities portioned out freely by the locals, which were responded to with fearful looks.

My next encounter with “the Russians” wasn’t until I was about 10.  In front of my house moved a native of Kazakhstan who had married a Cuban soldier.  They had a little Cuban-Russian daughter who was about five and later another baby girl was born into the world.  Over time our two families wound up being like a single big extended one.  No one had to knock on the door of the other family to go inside each other’s home, and the little girls grew up believing that my grandparents were also theirs – though effectively they were.

When the 1990s hit, with its misery and turbulence, my Russian-Cuban neighbor-sister —who had by then turned into a little woman— married an attractive Spanish guy.  Due to the distance between us, our relationship cooled.  Then their family had the luck of leaving this “chest-deep mire” for a less gloomy suburb.  With this, the same luck that had brought us together then deprived us of each other’s company.

But later, when I was in pre-university high school, I met “Misha.”  Mikhail was a big Russian-Cuban who made you consider the possibility of people having descended from bears.  As he always hung out alone, he would sometimes be picked on by certain creeps, always in groups.  I offered him my friendship and he accepted, as the bond between us gradually tightened.  Later Mikhail left for his homeland and never responded by mail.

With his brother it was even worse.  A few years younger, Fifo was a member of a group of neighborhood nuts that included rockers and half-depraved lovers of Cuban hippie life.  But life continues being hard after a hangover, and Fifo slipped more and more into a place inside himself.  He got to the point of almost never visiting anyone, and his house ceased being the gang’s den when Fifo attempted and succeeded at passing over into the other world.

At the present time, I know another Russian-Cuban who —because of his devotion to the cause for which he struggles, his love for truth, his imagination, creativity and intelligence— makes me feel tiny every time I see him.  This person also writes for Havana Times.

I guess now nobody’s going to argue that I didn’t have some unpleasant experiences with “the Russians.”

3 thoughts on “My Unpleasant Experience with the Russians

  • Ke vuelta teacher, me diste clases en mi primer año en el InSTEC, ahora seria un recien graduado, saludos…..

  • Seems every nation’s people has a diaspora. As a Russo-American by birth I am interested in the Cuban – Russian experience. what’s been written on the topic? Poetry preferred, as poets are less likely to b.s; fantasize -yes, but untruths, never. So, is HT being produced in Nicaragua or Cuba or Spain?? Circles Robinson, we met many moons ago; Myron sends his regards. We got a little paper going on the island of Hawaii…
    We’re trying to link Hawaii and Cuba as both have parallel histories in monoculture, colonialism and so on etc.
    Aloha to all working for the light at the end of the tunnel. Tomas Belsky

  • Which only proves again in one more concrete example, that “socialism” is merely a word to which one pays perfunctory lip service, in stalinist countries. Clearly it was not a ‘natural’ development that russians and central asians came to find themselves stranded on a caribbean island surrounded by semi-hostile locals.

    A damned shame in any case. It had better be a lot different in the future, eh?

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