Sent to America
Until she was 10, Amelia (known as Amy) grew up with four sisters and a brother in Lioni, Italy, a small town about 60 miles outside of Naples. In 1955, her father died very unexpectedly, at the age of 38, and her mother could no longer care for all six children. While an uncle in New York agreed to adopt the four youngest girls — Amy, Rose, Maria, and Marguerite — her sister Lina and her brother Rocco stayed in Italy to take care of their mother, who was devastated by the loss of her husband.
The oldest of the four sisters sent to America, Amy stepped in as a caregiver for her three younger sisters, helping them adjust to their new life in the United States. They all looked to her as a mother, and even today they remain very close. Amy, Maria, and Marguerite live together in Great Neck, NY. Rose, who they see frequently, lives nearby.
But Amy wouldn’t see her oldest sister Lina again until 1964, when she and her sisters visited Italy. After that, 50 years would pass before all five reunited.
Lina Moves Across the Globe
In 1968, Lina — who is now 70 years old — left Italy with her husband, who had been offered a job in Melbourne, Australia. What was once a difficult trip across the Atlantic now became a nearly impossible one across the globe.
“I look back on my life,” says Amy, “and realized I missed growing up with her and doing what sisters generally do . . . sharing clothes, birthdays, being at her wedding, getting to know her husband and four children.”
When Lina lost her husband, Amy regretted that she wasn’t there to comfort her and her family. But it was difficult to get away from her duties as caregiver. When her adoptive mother and father got sick, she looked after them until they passed away. When her stepmother’s health failed (her adoptive father remarried after the death of his first wife), she took care of her, too. And when she passed, Amy took on a bigger role as financial and emotional support for her sisters.
Later in life, Amy’s own health began to fail. She suffered from severe sciatica and breast cancer, both of which prevented her from traveling.
Wish of a Lifetime Steps In
Of course, the sisters kept in touch through letters, emails, and phone calls, but neither had the time nor the resources to fly to the other. So, when Amy saw an advertisement for Wish of a Lifetime in People Magazine, she, Rose, Maria, and Marguerite decided to give it a shot.
“Having her visit my sisters and I would be a monumental wish of a lifetime,” she told them.
On October 6, 2014, Lina and her son Mario arrived in New York. The four sisters met them at the gate, welcoming their sister and the nephew they’d never met with flowers and open arms. The girls were overjoyed, the touching reunion recorded and posted on YouTube.
Lina stayed in New York for six weeks, sightseeing, catching up with her sisters, and telling story after story about the family in Italy. She was even able to answer questions the four sisters had about the mother who was obligated to give them up.
The Family Reunited
When the rest of the family heard Lina and her son were coming, they pulled together to plan a reunion. It was a tremendous success, and the family showed up 50 strong.
“The reunion was very, very nice,” Amy remembers. “The family got so emotional.”
“I was the happiest when I had my twins,” said Lina. “This [reunion] was the second-happiest day.”
The women described their reunion as an “overwhelming reality.” For Lina, she always knew she had sisters, but because she hadn’t seen them, she felt she had nobody.
Amy, Rose, Maria, and Marguerite aren’t sure if they’ll ever see Lina again. The trip is an arduous one — particularly for Lina, whose health isn’t perfect either. But being reunited now has allowed them to assemble the puzzle pieces of their family history, making the sisters very happy.