Antonio J. Guernica Sabat
Antonio J.'s Story
I arrived in Miami August 1961 accompanied by my little brother Rudy, who stayed with my uncle and aunt's family while I remained at Kendall. My older brother Mandy exchanged places with Rudy in the Peter Pan program and we were sent to Marianna in Wichita, Kansas. When we left Santiago, our parents told me that we were going on vacation but even at the age of ten, I wasn't buying that story. Mandy and I lived in Marianna for about a year with dozens of other Cuban kids from all over the island. In the interim, the rest of our family -- first my mom and little sister and finally my father -- was able to leave Cuba and we were reunited in Miami. Shortly after we moved to Washington, DC.
Most everyone that I've told the story to remarks on how difficult it must have been for me, for all the kids that were part of Peter Pan, to leave their families behind and arrive unaccompanied in a new land where we didn't know the language or the culture. But at the time, as a little boy, I just lived through it without much appreciation for the harshness of our situation and looked forward to being back together with my family. Among the challenges, there were also wonderfully generous people who helped and guided us along the way. That Peter Pan changed us as persons forever is undeniable. Yes, there were lonely and painful moments but they led to making me independent and resilient and forged an unbreakable bond between my older brother and me and with everyone who shared the experience. Peter Pan gave us the opportunity to live in freedom and to build a new life in exile and for that I'll be eternally thankful.