Adela Cuesta, this spring in Gij


Honorina has been waving throughout the walk to this neighborhood of Madrid with his laugh of the century, 97 years of humour, strength and history.

-And how do you see Spain now?

-With two questions! Two, hey!

And in that he sits on a bench, caresses a bottle of cider that we have brought him as a souvenir of his land and rescues a memory.

-I got on the boat gijn and I carried my two little brothers in one hand and a typewriter in the other.

-A typewriter?

-Yes, because my father told me: ‘As long as you have a typewriter you won’t miss a piece of bread’. In Russia I used it to write letters, but on the trip it served as a pillow.

is called to Honorina Fernndez Fernndez and is one of the 3,000 girls and boys who escaped the Francoist offensive in Asturias and the Basque Country during the Civil war and they arrived at the Soviet Union to reopen a life that World War II I interrupted them again. And she is one of the Girls and Boys of War that for several months this year have stopped collecting their Russian pension because some Spanish banks have interpreted that this aid is included in the economic sanctions against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine.

Who was going to tell them that now, bordering on the century of life, they would be victims again?

They are the Boys and Girls of the Three Wars.

We are talking about people aged 89 and over who studied, grew up and worked in the Soviet Union for decades and returned to Spain in 1956, three years after the death of Joseph Stalinor from 1991, when that empire fell apart.

Today they are old men and women who receive aid divided into two (one part is paid by Spain and the other by Russia) thanks to a 1996 agreement between the two countries. These are pensions that Russia pays in quarters and that they range between 450 and 650 euros. That is, between 150 and 250 euros per month.

Everything was going well until February 25, one day after Vladimir Putin dropped the first bomb against Ukraine. In the PESC DECISION 2022/327, the European Union enact a series of sanctions among which was this: “It is prohibited to accept deposits from Russian nationals or individuals residing in Russia or from legal entities, entities or bodies established in that country, if the total value of the deposits exceeds 100,000 EUROS.”

Some banks, like the Santander or the BBVA, understood that pensions were not included in the sanctions and did not interrupt payments. But others, like CaixaBank either Uniboxargued that the money is issued by a Russian public body (the Pension fund Russian) and that this transfer is prohibited by sanctions, so they claimed to have returned the amounts to moscow.

The sisters Beatriz Cuesta Andres Y Adela Cuesta Andres they are the best example of this national banking strabismus. They were also on the ship that left Gijn that night in 1937, they lived in the USSR and returned to Spain many years later.

Beatriz has her pension domiciled in Santander and is collecting it.

Adela has her pension paid into Unicaja and has not received it.

Adele has 94 years old, lives in a residence in Gijn and only an advanced cognitive impairment protects her from this disturbing part of the present. Her past began early, at age 9, when she embarked with her brothers Beatriz and Joaquin. The boy falsified his age to enlist in the militias that defended Leningrad of the nazis but he died in the battle of the city. He was 15 years old.

After World War II, Adela overcame a malariaI studied Economic and worked in a bank in Russia. And in 1957 she returned to Spain, where she was a telephone operator, administrative and personnel manager in a hospital de Gijn until his retirement.

“Some banks have entered the transfer and others have not. Pensions are clearly an exception to the sanctions. I doubt that the wretched and sad pension of my aunt, of 450 euros per quarter, exceeds 100,000 euros at some point. So I have only asked Unicaja to comply with the law and apply the sanctions. But not to my aunt, but to whomever it may concern. Fortunately, yesterday [el jueves 22 de septiembre] the Gijn branch informed me that it finally authorizes the payment”. Tatiana Cuestadaughter of Beatriz and niece of Adela, for whom she has been fighting since spring at the Unicaja offices.

Questioned the day before yesterday by EL MUNDO, Unicaja explained that last June it received the transfer from the Russian Pension Fund through a sanctioned bank and, “in compliance with the regulations”, block the operations received and transfer a query “to the competent authority”. The response to that query arrived “at the end” of last week and only then has the payment of pending pensions been authorized. “The income of the money should take place in a matter of days. Our procedure responds to regulatory compliance.”

Both the Russian and Spanish authorities have been aware of this problem for months.

On June 22, the Russian Pension Fund informed an affected party that on May 30 he transferred the pension for the second quarter to his CaixaBank account, but that the bank returned the money to the Fund indicating “Internal Policy” as the cause. On August 9, the Bank of Spain informed another affected party that what counts is the CFSP DECISION and that the interested parties “must evaluate” if they take other measures. And, before, on July 15, the Ministry of Economy he had said that the War Children could continue to collect their pensions.

Adela Cuesta, this spring in Gijn, and with her siblings as a child (her on the right).FAMILY FILE

But the pensioners have been one or two quarters without receiving payment and, as of September 23, they still have not received the money from the third, which will probably be paid to them in the next few days.

The engineer Tatiana Velzquez Stavinova is the president of the Children’s Association of Russiaa group that began to detect the problem in April and that also alerted the CCOO Pensioners Association. “The Russian Pension Fund tells us that it has always sent the money. We have continued to go to the banks every week and they do not give us clear answers: some that it is because of the sanctions, others that Russia does not send the money… CaixaBank has presented some apologies. And it seems that just yesterday Unicaja said that it is going to unblock the payments”.

Tatiana is the recent widow of Orlando Velzquez, an Asturian War Child who died in March. Like the other Tatiana in this story, she is a Russian from Asturias, a Baltic with an accent, who has already spoken with the Principality. “The Deputy Minister of Justice told us that she is going to study the case. They say they are looking for banks in Russia that are not sanctioned and banks in Spain that accept transfers.”

The Russian Pension Fund reports that of the 124,500 people receiving Russian pensions in the world, so far this year 37 have not been able to receive them, although it does not specify if it is only in Spain. Tatiana Velzquez Stavinova, as well as members of the Association such as Caroline Garcia either raisa garcacalculates that the problem has so far affected 22 Spanish War Children. “Imagine how it worries them and influences their health. Every morning they call us asking.”

-Hey, Migueln, did the money arrive?

-Nope, m. But don’t worry, we’re on it.

Honorina has her pension domiciled at CaixaBank and is aware of the matter, because her son Miguel does not stop in his aspiration for justice. “The system forces us to collect the pension through a bank, we can no longer have the money in a sock. So the banks have a social responsibility. And here they have arrogated the right to interpret some sanctions. It’s aberrant. Is not the Council of Europe; nor the Ministry of the Economy, which says that pensioners should be paid, but does not even make a statement; nor the Bank of Spain, which says that they are private entities and washes its hands. It is not a judicial or political decision. It is an arbitrary decision of the banks. Y pensioners are not war criminals to be punished“.

Is named Michael Bas, historic correspondent for the Efe agency in Moscow and journalist of so many things in half the world. Together with his brother, he has been arguing with CaixaBank for months. He says that, after the first silences, the director of the branch in the neighborhood where her mother lives tried to find out what was happening and give them a solution.

But the lockdown has continued until now.

“The least that CaixaBank can do is go to its correspondent bank and demand that it send the money that CaixaBank itself returned on May 25 and that never arrived in Moscow to transfer it to those affected, in this case, my mother. We have requested that change the transfer from dollars to euros, because otherwise it won’t arrive”.

CaixaBank explained yesterday to EL MUNDO that there is no blockage on its part and that the obstacle is in the intermediary russian entity. The Spanish bank hopes that the situation will be redirected in the coming weeks. We have confirmation from Gazprombank that we will receive these transfers in the next few days, but they have not specified the exact date.

Miguel Bas does offer dates: “The Russian Pension Fund sent the money for the third quarter yesterday. I hope that it will be collected quickly. But the day before yesterday, the Fund confirmed that CaixaBank did not return the money for the second quarter, so, in the best cases, my mother will receive the money for the entire first semester of 2022 in January 2023”.

Then Honorina would enter her 98th year of life, the same one that gave a brutal somersault on September 23, 1937…

… Exactly 85 years ago today.

That night, thousands of sons of Republicans came to the Port of El Musel and boarded the Dairiguerrmea freighter that was to evacuate them to France for later destination to the Soviet Union on board the Kooperatzia. Honorina Fernndez was 12 years old, her sister was 7 and her brother was 5. In Leningrad they lived with thousands of children, studied in Spanish, but World War II broke out and they were transferred to the Volga region. When they went down to the river to get water they saw the lights of the pumps of the battle of stalingrad

Honorina was studying Nurse when the war brought him the first wounded, a swarm of burned tankers, men in pieces, wails and stench. After the war, I studied Medicine in Moscow and was assigned to crimea. There he married Vincent Bas, a Spanish engineer. They went to live in Taganrogwhere Miguel was born and Honorina worked with sick and homeless. Then he returned to Moscow and added years as pediatrician.

In 1961, the Cuban Revolution I needed doctors. And Honorina crossed the Earth to work for eight years as a doctor on the island. She returned to the Soviet Union and continued to spread health, a vocation that included treating victims of Chernbyl.

And in November 1991, a month before the USSR ceased to be those four capital letters, Honorina and Vicente returned to Spain.

-Do you remember your life in Russia?

-Of course! The memory takes away from me covid, not the years. It was a wonderful time. Hard things happened though… Those wounded soldiers… Do you know what one said to me?

-No. Tell me, Honorine.

-I was almost a child and I had to heal a tremendous wound. The soldiers covered the bleeding with straw, newspapers or their shirts and I was removing all that to cure them. I was ashamed to have to see that soldier naked and then he told me: ‘Little girl, imagine that I am your father’.


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J. A. Allen

Author, blogger, freelance writer. Hater of spiders. Drinker of wine. Mother of hellions.

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