In response to the US intention to deploy in may, rocket launchers HIMARS type in the South-East of Turkey, the state Duma Valery Rashkin and Sergei Obukhov asked to return to Cuba, the Russian missile systems and resume operation of the electronic intelligence center in Lourdes. The statement they sent to President Vladimir Putin, foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
As you know, in the early 60-ies of the Cuba occupied a special place in Soviet foreign policy. On the island were a lot of our specialists. One of them — translator Hovsep Manasaryan, who was a witness as was created on the Island of freedom regular army. He knew of the inhabitants of the legendary mansion “Punto UNO”, simultaneously translated lectures to defense Minister Raul Castro, and in the breaks between classes, told the General jokes about Armenian radio. Also prepared a selection of articles for Ernesto Che Guevara. Commander in chief Fidel Castro as a sign of gratitude gave him a three-metre crocodile.
Memories of the years of work on liberty Island Hovsep Manasaryan shared with “MK”.
photo: From personal archive
Hovsep Manasarian was friendly with all the top commanders of Cuba.
With the missiles across the ocean
Hovsep Manasaryan came to the Island of freedom in a time of General euphoria. In 1959 in Cuba, the revolution triumphed. The first Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers Anastas Mikoyan brought a young Castro’s government a huge loan — $ 100 million. At the same time an agreement was signed for the procurement of 5 million tons of Cuban sugar annually.
— In 1961, we graduated from the fourth course of the Institute of foreign languages, where he studied at the translation faculty. And suddenly announced that language practice we will be on liberty Island! And not short-term, and annual. Our faculty of foreign languages was considered one of the best universities in the country. At the time, Stalin adopted for our students with special increased scholarship of 45 rubles, while the rest received 22 rubles. All of our teachers previously worked abroad. Remember, the English language we were taught by the Professor, who was well-known dictionaries. The girls on our faculty was not accepted. We were designed for a special mission…
And here we are, still students embarked on the ship “Georgia” to pick up a thousand of Cubans for training in our school of mechanization of agriculture. We brought them to the village Petrovskoye of the Stavropol territory. Teachers talked about farming practices, we translated. Many Cubans were illiterate. We worked with them in both Russian and Spanish. On liberty Island returned knowledgeable professionals.
We were met with jubilation. Then I met the younger brother of Fidel Castro and General Raul Castro. He climbed into the captain’s cabin, thanks for the help, and I said: “How well do you know Spanish — speak with a distinctive Cuban accent”. And I, working with the Cubans, with particular attention to slang, also carefully studied idiomatic expressions…
On liberty Island we got a pretty decent salary for the year, you could buy a car “Volga”.
At that time in Cuba were created by army personnel?
— From 1964 to 1965 I was with other graduates of our Institute worked at the General staff Academy in Moscow, where he studied the Supreme command of the Cuban armed forces. It was purposeful, talented young people who are almost my age or 2-3 years older. Many of them with Fidel Castro was part of the famous troops that disembarked from the yacht Granma in Oriente province and started an armed struggle against the government of Batista. Despite his youth, they are all without exception wore the title of “Comandante” — the highest military rank during the revolution among the rebels. I was with them both for lectures and practical exercises, translated simultaneously from Russian into Spanish. Translation for us was simple, for that I must say thanks to our Department of military translation. Trained us to be healthy!
Then I have four times crossed the ocean on the way to Cuba. A passenger on the boat with us were invariably military. As it turned out, in the hold were components for ballistic missiles that the Soviet Union planned to place on liberty Island. Already in the Caribbean we have all the time accompanied by American pilots. On one trip we were standing on the upper deck of our ship flew the Americans, decreasing to such an extent that it was possible to see faces of the pilots. And here’s one of our sailors, determined to annoy the Americans, picked up, dropped his pants and showed the pilots bare ass. The Yankees reacted unexpectedly very friendly smiled and waved a wing of an aircraft…
The mansion “Punto UNO”
Soon after the Soviet military is quite firmly entrenched on liberty Island. They actively exploited the electronic intelligence Center in Lourdes, which allowed the emphasis to follow the American airfields. Soviet nuclear submarines came into the Cuban Bay and disappeared like in the Bermuda triangle, disappearing from view American radars and sonars.
On the island was established training centers and schools where military advisers and experts from the Soviet Union was preparing for the Revolutionary armed forces of Cuba NCOs.
— I had an open character and I soon made friends with many Cubans, former rebels — continues to tell Hovsep Manasaryan. — They called me in his own way — Jose. Closest to me was Comandante Pinares. His real name was Antonio Sanchez Diaz. He was very funny and resourceful man. Once told me how, as commandant of the island of pines, he mined his territory to avoid counter-revolutionaries landed. And the start button was in his office.
Classes for senior officers took place in a private mansion in the “Punto UNO”, “Paragraph number 1”. I had to translate for the Minister of defense General Raul Castro. He was very easy in communication. Constantly asked me to tell new jokes of Armenian radio. Said that the Armenians and Cubans have the same sense of humor. In between classes he didn’t release me from myself. We laughed a lot, I told him stories about College life…
Such confidential communication it is not like the Soviet advisors. I said, “who are You? Simple interpreter, and how to talk with the Cuban General?!” And one me of “Item No. 1” was removed. General Raul Castro immediately woke up sent for me to his orderly. He found me and asked: “Say, are you sick?..” I Packed up and went down with him to defense Minister Raul Castro. Supervising me colonels do not dare to contradict. We then spoke with Raul Castro until late at night.
I told you I was raised by a single mom, without a father. After school he worked at a secret military enterprise, in the so-called “mailbox”, mechanic-plumber 5-th digit. Having received the recommendation, successfully passed the exams in MGIMO, scoring 2 points more than the pass. And then fought, for the sake of the other. We were taken to the police station, I found the examination paper and, of course, reported to the Institute. The credentials Committee asked me: “And if the same situation arose abroad, what would you do?” I did not prevaricate and said, “just protecting a friend”. I replied, “a Diplomat should not resort to fists. Us fighters not needed.”
Raul Castro said: “I do Not regret. You will have a much more interesting life than put in a certain frame of a diplomat”.
With the Supreme command staff, I constantly went to the shooting range. Wondered how, rushing to the attack, on the move jumped out of the tank commander Fidel Castro. It was a unique man, very intelligent and brave. For it in the future has been committed many assassinations. No wonder he always managed to outwit the enemy.
photo: From personal archive
Translator Hovsep Manasaryan (pictured right): “In his own way Cubans call me Jose”.
I was amazed at all of our revolutionaries were poor as Church mice. And in the ownership of the family of Castro was almost half of the land on the island. At the age of 13 he participated in the uprising of the workers on the sugar plantations of his father. Then he said: “I began revolution with 82 people. If I had to repeat it, I would have had fifteen or even ten. Ten men and absolute faith.”
— Have you ever heard the speech of Fidel Castro?
His oratory can only admire. He could speak and 4, and 7 hours without a single break. And without any papers. He had a phenomenal memory. Knowledgeable people have said that Fidel Castro remembered the names of all of record cows in Cuba…
Me with the Cubans was easy to communicate, because in many ways we were very similar: everything in life had made themselves. Despite the high positions, it was great guys, very friendly, without a trace of conceit. With our colonels, high-ranking advisers they had little contact outside the classroom. Surprised by their bombast and stealth, said: “Boys, what of them?” More were visiting us, a civilian. We stayed in the mansions, which the Cubans took the propertied class. We were allocated a wonderful chef who mastered Russian cuisine.
— They say that Cubans are very resilient people.
— People lived poor, but no one was indignant. Importantly they were free! Cubans enjoy life, do not dwell on the difficulties. If there is one bottle of beer is an excuse to have fun and dance. Nowhere else have I seen such hopeful people. I think because of this they were able to survive in the economic blockade by America. That not only made States against Cuba! Once the American authorities have even suggested that immigration to everyone from the island. In response, Fidel Castro released from prisons of all criminals and forcibly deported them to America…
— What can you say about the local girls?
— Cuba is a very beautiful girl, but we were not allowed to meet them. Friends Cubans all the time sneered: “Look, make fun of, we’ll warn about all the inspections.” But somehow it happened that we played more team games: football and volleyball.
— Appreciated Cuban cigars and rum?
— I never smoked. But the famous local cigar brought friends as a gift. Rum, of course, tried, but never been drunk. The Cubans, aware of the passion of our people to drink, often scolded me: “you Have a cold — to keep warm, you can drink vodka. But in Cuba’s tropical heat, as you can drink in the afternoon, when the temperature is over 30 degrees?!” And began to tell me about the journalist Timur Gaidar, the son of the famous writer Arkady Gaidar, who at that time worked in Cuba as correspondent of “Truth” and which Cubans are seen constantly drunk. What I can say?..
Revolution for export
— Ernesto Che Guevara had a chance to chat?
For me often stopped by the Cubans, commander, took me to his home. One evening, Pinares introduced me to his close friend of Ernesto Che Guevara. He listened to me, said, “You see, came from Russia, but speaks like a Cuban and as a Cuban jokes!”
Che Guevara nationality was Argentinian, by profession a surgeon. By Cuba he became interested at age 11 when in Buenos Aires arrived Cuban chess player Capablanca. Ernesto was very passionate about chess.
I began to Che Guevara to translate articles from Soviet journals. He was then the Minister of industry of Cuba, and very different from the locals. It was hardly a sociable person — he was very reserved, spoke little, listened more. Throughout his appearance, felt the power. Especially remember his penetrating gaze. He seemed to see right through people. Once he said to me, “you’d make a great doctor”. I actually dreamed of becoming a doctor came after school to medical school, but did not receive a sufficient number of points — went to work at the plant.
Che Guevara told me that he wanted to devote his life to curing the lepers of South Americans. He smoked a lot, despite the fact that he had asthma. Said: “it is Necessary to drive away annoying mosquitoes.” In his pocket he lay inhaler, he occasionally inhaled medication.
— Heard that Ernesto Che Guevara was not created for a peaceful, bourgeois life.
— Yes, have a home, a family, a stable job for him was not enough. He told me, if literally translated from Spanish: “Other lands are in need of my humble efforts.” He had a credo: “Not to make any step back, even to take a run-up”. That is, “fight to the death not to retreat, even to jump.”
photo: From personal archive
A gift from Fidel Castro — a three-metre crocodile.
One day my friend, Comandante Pinares, made me a lengthy conversation: “Jose, you’re so young, direct, revolutionary in the soul, the Cubans are good. Have to go with us to other countries!” I said, “Why?” Pinares, then said that’ll tell you everything later. And then he’s gone. When the radio passed the message: “I Killed Che Guevara”, I somehow realized that my friend Pinares is no longer alive. Friends confirmed my fears. With Che Guevara to raise the people’s uprising in Africa and South America then proceeded 17 Cuban revolutionaries, it was called “export of revolution”, 13 of them in the 67th laid down in Bolivia’s head. They now stand in front of my eyes: Comandante Antonio Sanchez Diaz, also known as the Pinares and Marcos, captain Jesus Suarez Gayol, aka Felix Rubio, captain, Eliseo Reyes rodríguez, San Luis and Roland… none of them was 35 years old.
So I lost the most loyal Cuban friends.
And I meanwhile went heavily to herd our military. Particularly attacked me Colonel Krimets, who taught at the military school. He terrorized me, literally: “I send you to Moscow!” I found something frightening! Now, if he decided to send me somewhere in America… And in Moscow he lived with the mother.
All of our counselors and teachers lived in separate houses with furniture and kitchenware. Then I learned that Colonel Ohameze detained at customs in Moscow, when he tried to smuggle the silver service which was taken from the guest house…
— Anything brought on the memory of Cuba?
Before Cuban friends decided to give me a Japanese tape — deficitary thing at the time. And was somewhat surprised when I said, “But he’s not Cuban!” I wanted to get off the island the memory of Cuba. Fidel Castro then joked: “Well, then get married!” I have the same memory surfaced that the island resembles the shape of a Cayman, then I say: “Give me a crocodile!” I said, “No problem, go to nursery, he will choose a predator.”
We went on the bridge, and below them, visible-invisible. It is necessary to choose. I see the toothy snout sticking out, saying, “this one!” Now I, of course, did not. Pity all the same kill the beast. At the same time was young, about the philosophy of life and death was not intended.
The nursery was under the auspices of Fidel Castro. Cuba then was the setting: a crocodile more than a meter in length from the island can not be exported, is a national treasure. But I made an exception. The master made me a Scarecrow stuffed with sawdust, and it sent the car into my cottage. Remember, I come to the house, hear the cry of the maid took the crocodile lying on the bed, for the living. Soon, my three-meter giant went in the box with me to Moscow.
…In subsequent years, the translator Hovsep Manasaryan worked in new York at United Nations, external relations Department at the Ministry of culture of the USSR. But the most memorable period to be the years spent in Cuba.