TDoR 2020 / 2020 / May / 27 / Yenifer León

Yenifer León

Age 33

27 May 2020
Moscow (Russia)

Yenifer León
Yenifer León [photo:]

Yenifer died in hospital from viral pneumonia. She was visiting from Cuba, became trapped in Moscow during the pandemic lockdown and then ran out of money for her HIV medication.

Yenifer, 33, had come to Moscow from Cuba "on a shopping spree," as she told a newspaper on April 22. It was the second time. The previous one, a couple of years ago, brought three suitcases loaded with T-shirts, underwear and kitchenware to the island. The 120 kilos of rigor in goods that the authorities allow Cubans to take to the country. On the island, where the shortage of products increases in value, she sold the material and made a profit. She wanted to repeat the operation to which a good part of the 25,000 Cubans who enter Russia each year are dedicated, and which has become so frequent that it has illuminated an entire irregular infrastructure - housing in flats, transportation, procedures, passages - around to that business.

But the pandemic came. The closing of borders. The self-isolation regime in the Russian capital. The digital pass system to move around the city. Yenifer and thousands of other Cubans were stranded in Moscow. And she ran out of money. And the antiretroviral drugs she was taking. And the roach-filled apartment she lived in was coming down on him. I was worried. Unlike many other Cubans who come to Russia to stay - some, deceived by the mafias with the promise of a job or the commitment to cross them to Europe - Yenifer wanted to return to the Caribbean island. She had insistently called the Cuban consulate without receiving any response, she said. She was afraid of the police, of discrimination for being trans, black, and having HIV.

"I can not take anymore. On Monday I will request discharge, ”said one of the last messages from the AE Rabujin tuberculosis hospital in Moscow. "Blessings! They already did the analyzes and the plates, now to wait for results, ”said another, edged with emoticons. her favorite: the little face that sends a heart-shaped kiss.

On May 5 she began to feel bad. A journey then began through the ins and outs of the Russian health system that ends with those unanswered calls to her mobile. Yenifer was admitted to Moscow's infectious hospital number 2. It was suspected that she could be infected with coronavirus, but the tests were negative. She was diagnosed with viral pneumonia but from other causes, she then explained by phone. She was there for 23 days. She did not speak Russian and could only communicate with the Google translator, says Anna Voronkova, a volunteer who collaborates independently to help the Cuban community. “Sher case exemplifies that if you don't know the language or the rules, if you don't know how to navigate the paper bureaucracy, it's as if you don't have rights. And even more so if you are a trans woman in a country like Russia, ”says Voronkova, who regrets the low collaboration of the Cuban consular a time of need for the global health crisis. The system thus rests precariously on the shoulders of volunteers and specialized NGOs without which the most vulnerable would not have assistance.

On March 22, when she thought she was going to be discharged, she was sent to the Rabujin Hospital. She had been diagnosed with tuberculosis. She remained there for five days. When Voronkova called the center less than a week later, she was told that she had died a few hours ago. That she had two-thirds of her lungs badly damaged.

Her family is still waiting for more information from the Cuban consular authorities. "We are devastated, nobody tells us anything," laments her mother, Carmen Cárdenas, by phone from Jovellanos, east of Havana. She was a single mother, she says, and although she has another daughter and is a great support, she was very close to Yenifer. She explains that she wants to repatriate the body and her belongings, but that she cannot explain if it is possible and how.

Report added: 2 Jul 2020. Last updated: 23 Oct 2020

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