In our little room, he told us that morning about the time he had spent in the USSR. He’d only been in Havana a few hours, after an Aeroflot plane had brought him back from his long sojourn in the land of Gorbachev. The gothic letters on his diploma showed he’d graduated from the university in some kind of engineering my childish mind couldn’t understand. It was the first time I’d heard about the Juragu nuclear reactor, which was built in Cienfuegos in 1983. The recent arrival’s voice described an enormous VVER 440 reactor located in central Cuba as if it were a live dragon breathing its whiffs on us. Hundreds of young people, trained in research centers nearly 6,000 miles from home, would work there as atomic scientists.
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