Haydee Torres Manresa
My sister, Aleida, and I arrived on September 12, 1961; I was 10 and she was 7. I remember very little of our departure from Cuba and our arrival in Miami. I don’t remember who greeted us and took us to the Kendall facility.
After two days in the Kendall camp we were sent to an orphanage in Buffalo, NY. The name of the orphanage was Immaculate Heart of Mary. I have terrible memories of our lives in the orphanage. The first thing they did was separate my sister and I and put us in separate groups and sleeping rooms. After a few days of my sister not talking, eating or sleeping, they moved me to be with her. The nun that was in charge of our floor and the nun that was principal of the orphanage were not kind at all. It took almost a week before I was allowed to contact my parents in Cuba to let them know where we were. They would withhold from us the letters our parents wrote until one day that I went to the office and found a stack of five letters on the principal’s desk. My sister will not discuss her experiences during this time. However, several years ago she took a family trip to New York and drove by to see the orphanage. She found that it had been abandoned and some walls were crumbling. She went in, piced up and brought back two red bricks. I still have mine and use it as a door stop.
After a couple of months in the orphanage, we started weekend visits to a wonderful family in Arcade, NY, which eventually became our foster home. By December we were living with them. They were farmers; dairy cows, fields of corn, production of maple syrup, a whole new experience for us that we enjoyed. They had 4 children, a girl my age and three younger boys. My sister and I were treated no different than their own, bless them. We kept in touch with them for many years after we left their home.
My parents and younger sister (4 years old at the time) came from Cuba via Jamaica in May of 1962. We reunited in Miami a few months later and moved to Belle Glade, Florida, where my father worked as a chemical engineer. Sadly, my father passed away the following year and our happy family life was again disrupted. We moved to Miami to live with kind and excellent friends who took us in. Eventually my mother started working in a “factoria”, learned how to drive and then devoted the rest of her life to my sisters and I. She’s my role model and idol.