Visit from Silvia from Cuba

by Annette Meisl

She comes into the store wearing a double mask, under which I can only imagine her smile. Silvia, my cigar master from Pinar del Rio, who taught me how to roll cigars years ago with an irresistible mix of charm and rigor. She learned how to do it herself in the factory in Pinar del Rio, where she made Cohibas and Partagas Puros for ten years. And so she introduced it to me, in my small cigar factory La Galana in Cologne-Ehrenfeld.

She has now fulfilled her lifelong dream and is the proud owner of a house in her homeland. Who could have imagined that the time of completion would fall directly into the Corona crisis? During the first year, she could barely swallow food because she was worried about her family and she lost a lot of weight. She was stuck in Germany even though she wanted to go home so badly. Then you were allowed to leave Germany again, but not into Cuba.

Last summer the time had finally come and she traveled to the Caribbean island with 10 kg of medication in her suitcase. The crisis was at its peak. Several family members fell ill with Covid19. The hospitals were collapsing under the weight of patients, she says. They lay in the hallways, on the porches, in the parking lots in front of the buildings. Schools were converted into emergency hospitals. Many people died because there was no oxygen. Many didn't even make it to the hospital because there were no ambulances. Cuban doctors were deployed around the world, but there were not enough of them in their own country. Silvia says that the 10 kg of medicine was sold out in no time and people were begging for it. It was “only” ibuprofen and aspirin tablets, which at least provided relief from severe cases.

She is flying back to Cuba at the end of the month. I offered to collect medicine so she could distribute it in Pinar del Rio, a famous tobacco-growing area in Cuba. The following is on the list:

  • ibuprofen for adults or for children,
  • ASA or aspirin 100 mg
  • Disposable syringes and clinical thermometers.

I'm going shopping. If anyone would like to take part in this delivery, you can get the items before January 18th. drop off at La Galana Salon. It's just a drop in the ocean, but it's better than nothing.

Silvia was amazed when she saw our first-year trainee, Ruken Aydogan, rolling cigars. "You see, I said, now your art is being passed on. What you taught me 12 years ago, I added to in Honduras and Nicaragua and have now passed it on to a whole series of employees. A real "La Galana cigar rolling school" came from it. She smiled, this time without a mask, and I thought I saw a trace of pride on her face.

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