After those 10 years, I found most of the people in Cuba in a stale state of mind going about their everyday lives with the same bundle of emotions — fear, longing and frustration. The suitcases were still there and so was the ultimate question: Can you get me out of here?
In one case, I did. I brought my future wife to Prague. Born and raised in a poor village in the eastern part of Cuba, she had no illusions about Castro’s propaganda. Still, she was shocked to see my country. “Did you live in communism or not?” she asked me one time while taking in energetic, dynamic and well-preserved Czech towns. She could not see any traits of socialism.
Then she offered an observation: “People here seem to have a goal in their lives. They seem to have a destination. They don’t just bounce around like in Cuba.”
I’d love to believe that most of the people in my country or anywhere else have a clear vision they follow. Of course, it is much more complex than to not know what to do with their lives. Still, in a capitalist society, at least they have a choice and a chance.
When my wife first came to Prague, she was 28 years old and was excited to take a bath (not just a shower) for the very first time in her life. She lingered in the tub until the water had turned cold. “I washed away my numb soul,” she said, making her first symbolic step towards independence and freedom.
Now, many of her countrymen will also have an opportunity to search for their own souls and find fulfillment — in a space without the Castros.
Eduard Freisler is a Czech journalist who lives in New York.