Tessie Salabert... continued...
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When I think of all those things today, I don’t know how my parents did that. How could they and other parents have sent their children away like that? But I know they did what they had to do, under the circumstances.
Family Reunited

In 1962, a little more than a year after we had left Cuba, we got the call: my father had escaped. He came by boat. After he arrived in Miami, he was detained there for a week before he was released.

You have to understand, this was after the Cuban Missile Crisis and my father's name had been connected with the Department of Health in Havana, which was a government agency, so they had to make sure he was cleared before they let him stay in the U.S. After he was cleared and they let him go, my father called us in Iowa to let us know that he was here in the United States.

My father didn’t come up to Iowa right away, he stayed in Miami. He got a place and he studied because he knew what he had to do—he knew that he had to study for his exams so he could practice medicine in the United States. My father was very intelligent, and in a span of two months, he took the exams, passed and then he came to be with us in Iowa. My birthday is in November, so I still remember that he came right around my birthday. And then we moved in January.

So during that short time in Iowa, neither my mother or my father liked it there--it was very, very cold. And the town was such a small town at the time. We came from a big city and it just wasn’t their thing, that’s for sure. But there wasn’t any question about staying there or not, my parents just didn’t enjoy it a lot.

Even though my father had been practicing medicine in Cuba for many years, he had to start all over again with an internship. At that point, there was a possible job, an internship in Rhode Island. He took the time to visit Rhode Island, to see about the job and then to look for an apartment where we could live once we moved; he found one in Pawtucket.

I think he knew someone in Rhode Island, another friend, another doctor who was living here, who helped him find everything we needed. And he said, “Well, you know, it’s not a bad place.” And he went to Pawtucket Memorial Hospital to check about the job. And whatever they offered him, you know, it was better than anything else he had been offered.

So my father left in January of 1963. We were supposed to leave with him, but we all came down with the chicken pox - imagine that! So we couldn’t leave until all of us were ready to travel, and, of course, my mother stayed with us and my father left, once again.

As for my siblings and I, I do remember that we really didn’t want to leave Iowa because at that point, we had already made friends. We were enjoying our life there and we were in a nice high school. I was already a freshman in high school and my sister was supposed to graduate that year and she didn’t want to come because she wanted to graduate with her class. But we had to come. The family had to be together. After all we had gone through, we knew we had to be together.

When I think of all those things today, I don’t know how my parents did that. How could they and other parents have sent their children away like that? But I know they did what they had to do, under the circumstances.

Tessie's story continues »

Read about Tessie's father's escape from Cuba »


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