As the News of Eusebio Leal Spengler’s Passing Resonates Around the World, Former Plenipotentiary Romanian Ambassador to Cuba, Dr. Dumitru Preda, Opens Up About Their Friendship in this Exclusive Article for Daria!.

By Ambassador Dr. Dumitru Preda

On Friday, the 31st of July, a short message received from the Cuban capital brought me painful news: the death of a great Professor, the Historian of Havana, a man of vast culture, deeply attached to his country and nation. For all who knew him, he was a man in the broadest sense of the word, and to me a friend forever.

Eusebio Leal Spengler, despite his physical disappearance, remains with Fidel, Che or Raúl Castro, a distinct personality of Cuba, a strong light in this passing world, an example of creative energy in the service of an ideal.

I don’t aspire to anything, I don’t even aspire to what they call posterity.

Eusebio Leal

“I don’t aspire to anything, I just aspire to be useful. And I apologize to all those who, throughout my life, in the necessary search for what I thought was my truth, I could have offended; and, for the mistakes I made with the youthful passion in which every man and every society seeks its own ways. I think that in the end I found it, and that the light I see now, there, in the middle of the darkness of the sunset, is finally the way”, explains Leal.

Eusebio Leal in Old Havana

In the few thoughts I have now, with a heavy heart, I will try to relate some sequences of our meetings and collaboration during the five years of my mission as ambassador to the Caribbean island.

During my training in Bucharest, his name was repeated insistently, emphasizing the urgent need to know him and listen to his suggestions on the cultural dimension of the action I was going to take in order to relaunch bilateral relations between our two countries. Shortly after my arrival at the Romanian Embassy in Havana, I headed to the Oficina del Historiador de la Ciudad in the Old Town, located along the canal over a kilometer from the Havana Bay area (Avenida del Puerto). Everyone knew the place and the master who worked for this Patrimonio de la Humanidad that is inscribed on the UNESCO list since 1982. 

The meeting and discussion with Professor Leal, prolonged for over an hour as a result of common affinities and vibrations, would be the prologue to some intense and diverse contacts, based on professional respect soon transformed into a sincere and open friendship. Its fruit materialized in the organization, for the first time, of the Cultural Day of Romania in 2012 that continued for the following years with exhibitions of painting, philately, photography, folk art, and concerts held at emblematic sites of Havana, as well as conferences, round tables and many other activities. Some of the events had the great honor of the distinguished man’s direct involvement. In this context, I mention the Professor’s advice and support in marking the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between my country and Cuba (1960-2015), including an exhibition at the National Library José Martí.

Eusebio’s attention, doubled by a remarkable knowledge of Romanian history and an appreciation of national cultural values as well as by a moving kindness shown to the guests from Romania that I had the pleasure to present, was also manifested in the materialization of the Romanian Film Week project that was inaugurated in 2012 with the presentation of the feature documentary Brasov, Probably the Best City in the World that was directed by film maestro Bruno Pischiutta, and produced by my young compatriot Daria Trifu, president of Global Film Studio.

Film Director Bruno Pischiutta, Producer Daria Trifu, and Ambassador Dr. Dumitru Preda in Havana.

The two were soon to meet Eusebio Leal right at his headquarters in Havana, in June of 2013. The conversation brought about an exchange of views and ideas related to the upcoming 500th anniversary of the founding of the city-fortress of Havana, the future of this treasure of Civilization rebuilt and valued thanks to its initiative and direct support by the Cuban leadership, and, of course, the contribution of cinema to the promotion of the fundamental values ​​of Humanity.

The open and direct atmosphere in approaching the aforementioned subjects, and especially the personality of our interlocutor, were soon the arguments of a bold film project that Bruno, with his recognized sensitivity and intuition, revealed to me in the immediate period: a history of Old Havana through the life and the work of Eusebio Leal Spengler, who for more than half a century has dedicated his existence, all his creative forces, while overcoming obstacles of all kinds, recovering a fabulous past, giving it for preservation and inheritance to the sons and daughters of Cuba, but also to mankind in general.

Since then, I have spoken several times with the Professor, who with his unmistakable modesty told me:

Yes, Havana deserves to be known and cherished! I have always been by its side with my heart and faith, working to restore its spirituality, dignity and splendor. 

Eusebio Leal

The last short meetings I had with him were in August of 2016, on the occasion of Fidel’s 90th birthday, and then in November of the same year, both keeping the hope of reunion on the 500th anniversary of the founding of Havana that was going to take place in 2019, and that of the realization of the proposed and accepted film project in the form of a tribute to the City and Cuba.

However, the wish for a reunion was never again fulfilled. But the film project, I believe with conviction, will be made as it must honor the memory of this brave son of his beloved Fatherland (Padria amada). I am therefore confident that Daria and Bruno, together with all lovers of truth and facts in the service of Humanity, together with the leaders of Cuban Culture and the Havana Historical Office, will be able to offer a film about this unmistakable creator of history, symbol and example of dedicated work.

In a writing of his, which Eusebio entrusted to me before my return home to Romania, I find this confidence:

An old proverb says that ‘every large and bushy tree lives from what it has at its roots’; that is why, meditating on it, we feel obliged to take care of our past in order to be able to build a new future, that is, a city reborn from its own ruins.

Eusebio Leal

The road traveled with tenacity and the rich legacy of Eusebio Leal are today a reality that must not only be known and preserved, but especially capitalized in the work of education in the spirit of respect for ancestors, for the history of each nation that is a part of this Earth. D!