Friday, June 24, 2011
For many in the group, escaping Cuba was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing to escape the Communist regime in Cuba but it was a curse that separated nearly 14,000 children away from their parents.
"They did not know if they would ever see us again. My mother had the courage that I would not have today, doing what she did in life," said Mario Goico, a participant in the Peter Pan program that brought him to Wichita.
About 80 of the 14,000 children came to Wichita between 1960 and 1962 as part of Operation Peter Pan. For everyone at the reunion, they were thankful for the Catholic Church in helping organize the program, but more importantly, thankful for Father Robert Kocour who opened his arms to those young refugees in Wichita.
"He was a unique individual. Thirty-eight-year-old man that gets put in charge of 80 kids. I raised four kids and I don't have any idea how he did it," said George Mas, Peter Pan participant who helped co-organize the reunion.
While the men recall fond memories at the Mariana Boys Home, they were also thankful for the City of Wichita for helping shape them during their formative years.
"This is like a home away from home for me. Many fond memories of this place. Wichita, I'll always remember you in my heart," said Mario Argulo, Peter Pan participant.
Although the men were born in Cuba, they say they're proud to call America their home and Wichita their hometown.
"I'm proud to be a Cuban but this is my hometown. Now, we're trying to make a difference in the U.S., not in Cuba. We're trying to make a difference here, where it counts," said Mas.