AFTER several years collecting memories, reading hundreds of documents and traveling between Moscow and Havana, an essential book is now complete: Raúl Castro: un hombre en Revolución (Raúl Castro: A man in Revolution) by Nicolai S. Leonov, dear friend of the Cuban President, who has managed to put together one of the most objective works looking into the personality of the renowned statesman.
International media recently reported on the launch of the book, which not only explores the Army General’s personal life, but also constitutes a valuable compilation of events which have marked the island over recent decades. In attendance at the launch in Moscow was Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, who emphasized the trajectory carved out by Raúl, which “constitutes an example of his total and honorable service to his homeland and his people.”
In his text, Leonov states that in March 1978, during the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Second Eastern Front, he heard Raúl say: “We were able to make history, but to date, we have been unable to write it.” With this book, announces the author in its first pages, “I will attempt to fill this void.”
This tremendous effort began in May 1953, when he met the current President of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers for the first time aboard the ship Andrea Gritti. Leonor was traveling to Mexico to study at the National Autonomous University’s Faculty of Philology and Philosophy, while Raúl was returning to Havana accompanied by two young Guatemalans, after participating in the preparations for the World Festival of Youth and Students, which was held in August of that year in Bucharest.
”By complete chance, I ended up in the neighboring cabin to that of the jovial, restless and cheerful trio of Latin Americans.” This was the first step to a friendship which endured distance and time, and is today revealed with the publication of the book about a man who, writes Leonov, “doesn’t seek publicity, but rather, avoids it. He only offers interviews to the press in cases of political necessity.”
Raúl Castro: un hombre en Revolución, tells the personal story of the Cuban leader, from his early years spent in Birán, Holguín, to date; a story which has always been marked by an infinite commitment to his homeland.
It begins with his birth on July 3, 1931 and ends in December 2014, “When events surpassed the most optimistic forecasts,” and “at midday on December 17, in Havana and Washington…, Raúl Castro and Barack Obama surprised the world with announcements made simultaneously, news which given its importance swept the planet in just a few minutes, becoming the highlight of the year.”
The book, with versions in Russian and Spanish by Capitán San Luis Publishing, also offers a chronology of the most important dates in Raúl’s life and a section containing more than 80 photos, some unedited.
Among many other moments, he can bee seen - astonishingly - at barely six years old in the arms of Batista; wrapped in a flag during the symbolic burial of the Constitution, in April 1952; imprisoned in the Vivac of Santiago, and later in the prison on the Isle of Youth; as a guerilla in the Sierra Maestra; at his wedding with Vilma, “the best and most beautiful thing I have done in my life;” at the height of the October Crisis; during the 10 million ton harvest; traveling around the country in the difficult days of the special period; being inaugurated as President of the Councils of State and Ministers, in February 2008; planting a cedar tree as he does on every birthday; also with his four children, nine grandchildren and first great grandchild. Thus the book depicts Raúl in all his immensity, as a guerrilla, leader and family man who, despite such a great amount of responsibility, always found time for his loved ones.
During his recent visit to Moscow in May, to participate in the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the triumph over fascism, Raúl met with Leonov in the hotel where he stayed for the duration of his trip. In the encounter, also attended by members of Leonov’s family, the most discussed topic was that of the progress being made on the book, with Raúl expressing his happiness. “I have in my hands the story of my life. I am excited to read it again, it has been 62 years since we met and this book holds a great deal of history,” he confessed.
They agreed to write the book nine years ago. “We have fulfilled our promise,” said Leonov on bidding farewell to his friend, who he later thanked for dedicating the time to meet with him during his busy schedule in the Russian capital, for the anecdotes shared on that afternoon, the heartfelt message signed by Raúl which appears on the first page of numerous copies of the book gifted to members of his family, and the final photo in which everyone came together, just as happens in every visit he makes to Havana.
In his book the author also notes: “I have the personal satisfaction of confirming how right I was that day in May 1953, when in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, I decided to approach Raúl!” The readers will be the final judge.