Grandmother who survived persecution by General Pinochet in Chile dies with coronavirus

A grandmother who survived persecution by a dictator in her homeland has died after a fight against coronavirus.

Orita Godoy, 75, of the Studley Estate in Stockwell and known as Maria, was cremated on  May 20, two days after what would have been her 76th birthday –  without any family or friends present because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The mother-of-two was remembered instead by her devastated family who held a virtual memorial for her, and by her neighbours, who held a vigil outside her block on May 17 – and they have vowed to nurture the many blooms she planted around her estate.

Orita’s husband, Rolando Godoy, was one of thousands of people seized on the day General Pinochet staged a coup and murdered elected Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973.

Orita spent the following three months after the coup looking for her husband every day, walking the streets of Maipu, five miles from the centre of Santiago, in the vain hope of finding him.

But Rolando, then 41, had been arrested while at work and shackled along with thousands of political prisoners at the national stadium.

He never found out why he was arrested or why he was released. The couple fled to London in 1976.

Rolando died two years ago of cancer without ever knowing that a tribute had been installed at the national stadium in his honour.

Orita said last November: “The authorities made our life hell in Chile. We were so grateful to be given refuge here.”

Orita was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital on April 14 and was put on a ventilator the next day.

She fought for another three weeks with her family calling everyday with messages in the hope it would help and praying for her survival. But she died on May 10.

Daughter Alejandra said: “It was heartbreaking to get the call from the hospital saying her condition had deteriorated.  I was fortunate to be  allowed to see and hold her hand briefly whilst wearing gloves and protective equipment just before she passed away.”

Doctors told the family her age was against her and she had scarring on her lungs.

“Nurses were positive at the beginning. I feel angry, upset, devastated and let down.

“I did not want my mum to be just a number. Her funeral was very upsetting – no family, no service. She came into the world on her own and left on her own.

“My mum was a fighter, intelligent, spiritual, wise, lovable, generous and a strong woman taken too soon.

“The government didn’t do enough. They brought lockdown too late. They didn’t take it seriously. And even now not enough is being done.

“They have not even provided any support for my family and other families that have lost their loved ones in terrible circumstances.

“I am not sure when I am going to get over this. It has left me traumatised, along with my children and the rest of my family.

“Mum never got to know how much she was loved by her neighbours.

“So many people have lost loved ones – it is heart-breaking for them all.”

Pictured top: Tributes to Orita Godoy




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