Fidel’s revolution changed their lives

A family’s reactions to the death of ‘El Comandante’ who ruled Cuba starting in 1959


President-elect Donald Trump's succinct declarative tweet “Fidel is dead” was followed by scathing remarks about Fidel Castro’s legacy after the longtime Cuban leader’s death on Nov. 25 at 90.

We’ve witnessed President Barack Obama’s efforts to restore relations between the U.S. and Cuba try to create a better life for the Cuban people. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was scorned for his loving statement about the deceased 90-year old dictator.

Miami’s Cuban community danced in the streets, banged pots, and had their voices go hoarse screaming about the death of their nemesis; a person that compelled them to leave their native country and emigrate to the U.S. for a presume better life. A crowd even gathered to celebrate at a Long Island Cuban restaurant.

In collecting reactions about Castro’s death from ex-patriot Cubans, I emailed my first cousin Eduardo Bradman, a computer professional who moved to Israel from Havana in 2000. He had just driven two hours to share the news with fellow Cubans. “As Jews we do not like to celebrate someone’s death, however this is a unique day which merits a special reaction, and today I react as a Cuban. From my perspective, it wasn’t so terrible for my family in Castro’s Cuba, however I do know people who did and continue to experience extremely difficult times. The death of “El Comandante” although greatly desired by a large portion of Cubans, will not bring substantial changes to the island in the immediate future. The system he created still exists and it will take time to change it. My belief is that without “El Comandante” I would not be living happily in Israel today with my wonderful family. It pains me that my parents had to become separated from their children and grandchildren,” Bradman wrote.

This terrible separation of family is a 57-year-old story in the lives of Cubans émigrés and their loved ones left behind, as my father and Eduardo’s were divided by politics and geography. My Cuban-born parents left Cuba and came to New York City in 1962. I was raised in Brooklyn, where my parents till live. I live in Woodmere. My mother, Pola Bradman, who remembers the severe food shortages in 1961 Havana said: “Fidel had to die like any other human being; there’s nothing special about him, he was sick for 10 years like others. His brother will eventually die, too. What is President-elect Trump going to do now? He cannot change anything major without Congress’s support.”

My father, Juan Bradman, worked as a judge in the countryside, traveling to a different province weekly, while my mother lived alone with me, then an infant, except on weekends when he returned home. He purchased whatever supplies he found in the villages where he worked. Someone once told my mom that a necessary food item was available right now in the bodega downstairs. She left me alone sleeping in my crib on the fourth floor of the apartment building to wait on line to buy food which would only be available until it sold out. Necessities became rationed and Cuban citizens had ration cards.

“Fidel was a ruthless Stalinist dictator with a charismatic personality,” Juan said. “He destroyed the island running it as his own personal domain. I thank Castro for being the reason we came here. We would not have lived the same quality of life, had we stayed there. History should remember him as a tyrant rather than as a hero or savior. There is an end to everything and I hope this is the beginning of the end of communism in Cuba.”

The communist economic system has not worked in Cuba nor in any other place. In dictatorship there is no grey area, it’s black or white, therefore there was no room for me or my thinking. Any doubt that would be voiced would be seen as opposing the regime and be penalized with a jail sentence with no judicial recourse. As a lawyer I couldn’t swallow that type of system. You are either with or against it. If you doubt, you are an enemy of the state. I’ve been watching American newsmen interviewing Cubans; they’re either silent or their answer was restrained. Nobody is talking in Cuba, everybody is walking on eggshells because they are afraid of the consequences. Probably nothing new will happen for years since Raul has very strong control and is no Mother Theresa.”