Maria fled Cuba for a better life here (Canada)

‘Left in a little boat’; Sacrificed for her daughters to prosper

AMY LUFT, The Gazette

Published: Tuesday, December 04

Maria, a Cuban native, faced a dangerous escape from her homeland with her two young daughters. A doctor, she risked her life and fled the communist nation to join her husband in Canada.

Now separated, and with little money to support her children, Maria has given up working as a doctor and knows she made the ultimate sacrifice for her daughters to prosper in Canada.

Maria has lived for three years here without employment, learning first to speak French, and now English, and surviving on welfare. She scrapes by on handouts from the community and pinches every penny.

Maria and her daughters are among the thousands of Montrealers who are to receive $125 from The Gazette Christmas Fund. The money helps needy individuals and families during the holiday season.

Maria is struggling in Canada. She hopes the future will be brighter, but she misses her family and friends in Cuba. She feels isolated because she hasn’t yet integrated into society. Going through a divorce, without work and still learning the local languages, she finds it hard to make friends.

But after her escape from Cuba, she feels lucky to be in Canada. Though they tried to leave legally, Maria and her young daughters were barred from doing so, and escaped the only way they could.

“I left in a little boat. It took us two days to get to Mexico and it was very dangerous,” she said. From Mexico, Maria and her young daughters travelled two days on foot to the U.S. border, then rode by bus to the Canadian border, where she received a temporary residence visa. Three years later, the girls, age 6 and 7, are now enjoying life in Montreal, but Maria is lagging behind.

“I can’t work as a doctor or a nurse here. There’s a wall up against people who are trained elsewhere,” she explained. She plans to study to get her Canadian credentials as a nurse after she completes her English courses in six months.

Though Christmas is a season for extra spending, especially difficult when it’s already hard to get by, the St. Laurent resident is looking forward to the holiday. It’s one time of year Maria doesn’t feel lonely.

“I get to see people from Cuba I never get to see. We have a party where we dance and play Cuban music and eat together. We have fun. I wish it happened more often,” she said. She plans to use The Gazette donation to buy educational toys for her daughters.

Maria is especially thankful for the help she has received in Montreal, and for the generosity of others. When she first moved here and settled in Dorval, she did not have a cent, and charitable neighbors provided her with a mattress, dishes and food.

“People are very generous,” she said.

“We never would have received this in Cuba.”

– – –

Christmas Fund

How you can help: Send donations to The Gazette Christmas Fund, PO Box 11057, Succ. Centre-Ville, Montreal, H3C 4Z4.

Please use the coupon on Page A13. Fax it to us at (514) 987-2244, or drop off a donation at 1010 Ste. Catherine St. W., or phone us: (514) 987-2400, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or donate online: http://www.christmasfund.com

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