Nightmare of a Cuban-Russian Couple, Pursued in Both Countries For Their Rejection of The War in Ukraine

Cuban citizen Carlos Jiménez, and his Russian wife Daria, pictured in a Havana street. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 24 March 2023 — Before being forced to escape from Russia because of the threat of his being recruited to fight in the war in Ukraine, the Cuban Carlos Jiménez was living a quiet life with his wife Daria in Kushelevskaya Doroga, St Petersburg.

They met whilst studying philology at the hydrometeorological University in Russia which, although it sounds odd, has a prestigious program of language and literature studies. Carlos already spoke the language because as a child he lived in Moscow for five years when his father worked at the Cuban Embassy.

These days he is an admirer of Russian culture, amongst other things Russian, because of the influence of his wife. Through her he got to know the writer Mikhail Bulgakov (The Master and Margarita), the works of Dimitri Yemets, a children’s writer whose books are the most Russian that he has ever read in his life, he says. Through Daria he got to know the Russian rock group bi-2, which has become his favourite, and he has seen the best of Russian theatre and cinema and also Soviet cinema.

The young couple are currently in Havana. She is very scared of what could happen to him. He is very scared of what could happen to her. The nightmare began in Russia and has kept going for them all the way to Cuba.

One afternoon, two armed men banged heavily on the young couple’s door in St.Petersburg, looking for men to fight in the Ukraine war. “At that moment we knew we couldn’t stay in Russia”, says Carlos. We took out all of our savings, sold everything that we owned, which wasn’t much, and set off towards Armenia. We couldn’t ask for help from my wife’s family because being a foreigner I wasn’t well received there”.

It wasn’t a matter of choice, Armenia was just the first destination possible for them because Russia had already cancelled almost all flights to other countries. There they found that the cost of accommodation rose massively because of the sheer numbers of  Russians that were emigrating and because of this there was no other option for them than to travel to Havana — at the beginning of January of this year. Havana is where Carlos is officially allowed to stay, in his parent’s house. He knew that staying there would be difficult because of their differences in ideology, but he had no other option. Daria was also not well received by Carlos’s parents.

“On the morning of the 8th of March a uniformed guy came into our room, accompanied by my father. He didn’t even bother to knock this time.  He was an ’immigration official’. He said that my wife had been in the country longer than was allowed for foreigners, but this was a lie because we had only been there for 55 days and you are allowed 90 days. He was very strange and aggressive. He couldn’t explain the actual objectives of his visit and kept changing his story, saying that there had been complaints about noise, but without explaining who had made the complaints. Finally he set a date for a meeting for a different day at the immigration office in East Havana. For the whole time he refused to even speak directly to my wife”.

One hour after this supposed immigration official left the house, Carlos got a telephone call commanding him to turn up at the police station.

“At this station, where we had to wait for more than two hours, they took me to an office where the presence of my wife was ’not allowed’. There, three armed men lectured me about my poor conduct, and the most surprising thing was that they said they had witnesses! The door opened and then in came my parents, who lied! — so much about me and about Daria. But they could not even look me in the eyes”.

The couple still have to attend a meeting of the 9th of March, presumably to clarify Davina’s status as a migrant.

“That was not an immigration office nor even a police one. There, they shouted at us they insulted us, they threw chairs and banged on the table and did everything to intimidate us and humiliate us. They tried to frighten us in every way possible. They interrogated me about our motives for leaving Russia and about my contacts — about friends I have here in Cuba who they take to be troublemakers”.

“They also even argued that our marriage was not legal because we didn’t get married in Cuba and because of this my wife could not live here with me. They wouldn’t even allow me to interpret for her, and she hardly knows any Spanish. When I tried to explain to her what was happening they told me to shut up, saying that only they had the right to speak”.

After hours of interrogation they gave us another meeting arrangement, this time at the central immigration office, and they left us with the threat that we would ’pay’ for our insolence.

The first thing that occurred to Daria was to contact the Russian Consulate in Havana to ask for help. Because she’d always heard that Cuba and Russia were friends and brothers, she supposed that everything would be okay, that it had all been a misunderstanding.

With the help of Carlos as a translator Daria told this newspaper “We called the consulate and explained my situation, then a man told me that there was another number that I should call. When I dialled this number a few moments later the same voice came back at me not even trying to hide his laughter; this made me realise that here they would not help us so-called ’traitors’”.

When finally they got to speak to the actual Immigration Office they were spun yet another tale: they were told that the real problem was Daria’s economic insolvency. Also a complete lie.

“They told us we have to leave the country immediately. But we don’t have any ticket to travel anywhere, because we don’t know where we can go! We are in a terrible situation. We can’t stay in Cuba because the secret police are after us and neither can we go back to Russia because there’s no security for us there either”.

She says something in Russian which Carlos doesn’t translate straightaway. They take each other by the hand, and at length he says: “We’re so scared that something terrible could happen to us”.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso


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