remarkable love story...true FREEDOM fighters..please read this true life story:
"Wife of political prisoner remained in Cuba for him"
BY ELINOR J. BRECHER
Emilia ''Emy'' Luzárraga de Fernandez stayed in Cuba alone through her husband's long political imprisonment in the 1960s and '70s, after sending her three children with her parents and siblings to Miami.
She was 23, and wouldn't see them again for 18 years. The book, Fighting Castro: A Love Story (WingSpan, 2007), by Kay Abella, told her story last year.
Fernandez, of Coral Gables, died Saturday at Mercy Hospital in Miami. She was 70 and had received a pancreatic-cancer diagnosis in June, according to granddaughter Carolina Navarro.
Fernandez's husband of 50 years, Coral Gables psychiatrist Dr. Lino Fernandez, was a high-ranking figure in the Movement to Recuperate the Revolution, which opposed Fidel Castro. Captured in 1961 -- three years after their marriage -- he was sentenced to 30 years, but served 17.
The couple came to Miami in 1979 as part of a Cuban amnesty deal. Lino Fernandez eventually resumed his psychiatry practice; Emy Fernandez, fluent in several languages, became a University of Miami secretary.
Of Fernandez's pivotal decision for her children, Abella wrote: ``She had to let go. They were with people who loved them -- safe and free. They were in her heart; they could not be in her life. Her life would center on Lino, on his survival.''
Abella, a Connecticut writer, met the couple in 2000.
''I was fascinated that she had chosen to stay,'' she said of Fernandez's decision to stay in Cuba, while her husband was in prison. 'A lot of women would say, `I'd never do that,' but I began to realize it made a lot of sense. Emy always wanted to do what was best for the most people.''
She had ''a steel core, yet this sweetness and caring about other people,'' Abella said.
Emilia Luzárraga grew up in the town of Constancia, where her family owned a sugar factory. Her husband said she was ''educated by the nuns.'' She was 15 when they met. He was in medical school.
''She impressed me very much,'' he said. ''She was beautiful and had a light in her green eyes. She was very sociable,'' and went off to study in Canada.
They married when she was 19, and ''kids came very quickly,'' Lino Fernandez said. ``I was happy with that. We were thinking to have as many as God would give us.''
But the counterrevolutionary movement got in the way. Lino Fernandez said they both were involved, but authorities ``didn't know about her.''
After he was captured on Feb. 17, 1961, she decided on her own to send the children to Miami, because in the months to come ``she saw the failure of the Bay of Pigs and its big blow to the internal resistance movement. . . . She thought the kids were in danger. . . . I was very happy with her decision.''
Emy Fernandez told Abella that she figured, ' `My children will be OK in freedom. Lino may not be OK.' She couldn't leave him with nothing.''
She went to work at the Egyptian embassy and lived with friends. The couple didn't see each other again until October of that year.
Lino Fernandez said that ``her first question was, how much did I think that prison could last? She was scared. I told her this will be long.''
Abella, who became a close friend through the book, said that Lino Fernandez always believed his wife ``was the one who took the big hurt -- she gave up everything.''
Daughter Emilia Maria Fernandez of Miami was 2 when she left Cuba, 16 when she first heard her mother's voice on the telephone, and 19 when they reunited.
In the interim, Emy Fernandez wrote to her children ''almost every week,'' her daughter said. ``My grandmother always read them to us.''
After his release, Lino Fernandez, with his wife, arrived at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to joyous crowds and a media crush.
Daughter Emilia said her grandparents immediately stepped aside as the kids' authority figures -- which initially caused problems.
''It was difficult,'' the daughter said. ``They were frozen in time.''
She and her siblings ''did go through a period where we did get mad'' at their parents about the separation, especially after they found out that their parents had been in the United States after Castro came to power, and went home ``knowing [Lino] was going to be arrested.
``But to her, it was part of her life and what she needed to do and she never regretted it. She never second-guessed herself, at least not to us.''
In later years, Emy Fernandez devoted herself to her nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
''What she didn't do with us,'' her daughter said, ``she did with the grandchildren.''
Abella said she once asked her friend whether there had been a ''bright side'' to her family's ordeal, and was surprised when Fernandez said yes.
'She said, `I never would have understood the meaning of true friendship and love.' She and Lino had this incredibly intense relationship. Even to the last day, they were always holding hands. He called her, 'My princess.' ''
In addition to her husband, Emilia Fernandez is survived by daughters Emilia Maria Fernandez and Lucia Fernandez-Silveira, son Lino B. Fernandez, sister Juanita Plana, brothers Jacinto, Jorge and Luciano Luzárraga, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild, all of Miami.
A funeral was held Monday.