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Miriam Saul, 64, of Atlanta was born in
Cuba but left when she was 11. She had
returned in December 2000 with her sister
and brother-in-law — the same time as
Marla, though their paths never crossed. It
was her first visit back in more than 40 years.
She wrote about the experience and B'nai
B'rith published her piece.
Whitesman emailed Saul after reading her
story "I don't even know you, but I feel like I
already do!" she said.
The two women spoke by phone. Then
Whitesman went to Atlanta to visit Saul, and
the two felt an immediate connection.
"We probably knew each other in another
life Saul joked.
Miriam Saul's parents emmigrated to Cuba
in the 1920s, her mother from Russia and
her father from Poland.
After Fidel Castro took control of Cuba
in 1959, the government started taking
children from their families in the cities and
sending them to work in the fields. Shortly
afterwards, Castro embarked on a massive
literacy campaign. Educated young people
from the cities, like Saul and her sister, were
being drafted to help teach those who were
"There was no anti-Semitism about it, and
it wasn't punitive," said Saul. "But it was not
the kind of life my parents wanted for their
Many anti-Castro parents sent their chil-
dren to the United States. From December
1960 to October 1962, in an effort that
became known as Operation Peter Pan, more
than 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban youths
arrived in the U.S. About half were taken in
by family. The others were cared for by the
Catholic Welfare Bureau.
Saul's cousins had all left. Her parents
asked relatives in Atlanta if they could take
her and her older sister. The girls left in 1960,
the last children in their family to depart.
"When we said goodbye to my parents, I
didn't know if I would ever see them again:'
she said. "It was only much later, when I
became a parent myself, that I could under-
stand the anguish they must have felt:'
Luckily, Saul's parents were able to join her
just a few months later.
"They went to Jamaica and renounced
their Cuban citizenship:' she said. Because
they had been born in Europe, they were
able to obtain immigrant visas for the United
Saul says she had no memories of Cuba
before she returned in 2000, because her
departure was so traumatic. She had forgot-
ten all the Spanish she knew.
"After about five days on the island, I
started getting flashbacks:' she said. At the
airport on the way home I started crying,
and I cried for three months. I decided the
best way to deal with my emotions was to go
back to Cuba, and to bring others with me:'
Marla Whitesman and Miriam Saul
September 19 • 2013