Freedom Flight Memories

Tom Walcott

I was 13-1/2 years old when I left Cuba. I vividly remember the two Cuban Policeman on a motorcycle arriving at our house to inform us that we were leaving Cuba, take inventory of the contents of our house and seal the door. I'll never forget the winter coat I forgot and left behind inside of our house. The policemen did not let me back in to get it. Boy did I need that coat for the upcoming 1966 winter in Washington DC, which was were we went to. I remember staying at my grandmother's and grandfather's house in Marianao until it was time to leave. It took us two tries to leave. On the first try the plane was full and we could not leave. We went back to my grandmother's house again and waited for a week until the next flight. I remember being on the tarmac next to the plane in Varadero and having Cuban policemen emptying all of our pockets and dropping everything on the tarmac. The only things we left Cuba with were the clothes on our backs. A few years later, both my grandmother and my grandfather passed away a month apart from each other. This was a very difficult time for our family.

When I lived in Cuba, my best childhood friend was named Alberto Cohen Motola. Alberto and his family who were Jewish left Cuba about six months before my family & I did. Last I remember, Alberto and his family left for Israel via Mexico. I thought about my best friend Alberto a lot. A few years after I arrived in the United States, on and off I started looking for Alberto. First I tried the US Government, with no luck. Then I tried the Israeli embassy with similar results. I even called directly every one in Israel named Alberto Cohen, with once again no luck. Same results with the Mexican Embassy and Government.

I started studying the Cuban Jewish Religion and found out that it was a very small close knit community. I then decided that if it was that small and closed knit, there would be the possibility of the Miami Cuban Jewish community being able to help. About six months ago I found a Miami base Jewish web site called "El Camino de Israel". I called a phone number at this website and spoke with a very nice gentlemen to which I explained my situation. I almost fell off my chair when he informed me that he may know the friend I was looking for, but first he wanted to contact other people to insure that this was in fact him. A couple of weeks went by with no feedback. In desperation, I re-contacted this gentlemen and told him how important this was to me and that possibly this was my last hope. He told me that he would contact a gentlemen that was close to the person he thought may be my friend, and that gentlemen would call me right back. Sure enough I got a call back from this gentlemen and he asked me several questions about my friend which I could mostly not answer. I had forgotten a lot of things over 42 years. He promised me that he would contact my friend and have him call me back. Sure enough, after 42 years I found my friend once again. I also found out that I've been 1/2 mile from my friend's house hundreds of times and did not even know it! He lives 1 mile from one of my Cousins' house that I frequently visit in Hallandale Beach as well.

Similarities between my friend and I- Both of us have been married for about 30 years, his wife and my wife both work for the State of Florida educational system, both my friend and I have two sons about the same ages, all of our sons have studied or graduated from College with Business degrees, both my friend & I lost our first child due to miscarriages, both my father and my friend's father passed away in 1994, etc., etc., etc. Scary isn't it! My friend & I are best friends once again after 42 years!!!!

I found from my friend that his travels after he left Cuba took him to Venezuela, with first a 6 month stop at a southern Caribbean island due to the Mexican Government refusing entry to he & his family. He lived in Venezuela for about 20 years, loved it and moved to the US by pure coincidence after a friend talked him into while attending a wedding in New York City.

By the way, both of my sons and my wife are planning on visiting Cuba in the near future, however they do not speak Spanish. It would be fun to see them communicate with my family in Marianao which do not speak English. I unfortunately cannot travel to Cuba right now due to my job supporting several US Government Defense Contracts.

This is only a small part of my life which I regularly share with my US family. I'll be in Miami on 12/24/08 with my US family to celebrate "La Noche Buena" with my Cuban family that lives there. Many Cousins, Aunts, etc. My US family loves Cuban food and the Cuban Culture!

Thank you very much for the opportunity to let me share some very important parts of my life!

Tom Walcott.