BERWYN – Tina Colosimo recently sat in her Berwyn dining room chatting in her native Calabrese dialect with her sisters, Loredana and Melina, reminiscing about the past and catching up on the present.
During their chat, Melina was several thousand miles away, living in Polla near Naples, Italy, and present by virtue of video chat service, Skype. Loredana was sitting at the table with Tina – chatting face-to-face for the first time in 35 years.
Their story is a familiar one, yet no less tragic: A father barely making a living with several mouths to feed and finally forced to make the decision to find other homes for at least some of the children, so that all could survive.
For Tina, the pain of leaving her beloved family behind for a strange land at the age of 9 is always there.
On June1, Loredana Ippolito, accompanied by her daughter, Valentina, arrived from Cozenza, Italy to see her little sister for the first time since she left with her adoptive parents for America. They did the obligatory trip to Chicago, the Brookfield Zoo, the Art Institute, but for the remainder of the month-long-visit, the sisters kept close without interference by the rest of the world.
"Basically, we've been having a big slumber party," Tina said. "We've spent a lot of time cooking, hung around and caught up."
Loredana was asked to recall that day her sister left Italy for good and what it was like to see her sister again. Tina translated for her.
"She had forgotten and wanted to forget because of the pain," Tina said. "But now she remembers how I used to smile, my expressions. She sees me as a little girl. She said because I remembered, she remembered."
The memories come hard and with tears for both.
It was 1979 when 9-year-old Tina was introduced to a couple, Louis and Jean Colosimo, who were from the same town of Cozenza, but had moved to America during WWII. They came there after Tina's father had asked them to come and take his daughter and raise her as their own in the U.S. Tina's birth mother died when she was 5 years old.
"I still get chills," she said. "It was at my father's brother's house in Italy. They invited all my family there to say goodbye," Tina said. "It was in the evening, some of them had tears running down their face. My dad felt I should have a better life and gave me away, it makes the story simple."
Despite it all, the little girl immediately started calling her adoptive mother "Mamma," Tina said, because she needed to bond with her. It turned out to be a loving union between Tina and Louis and Jean. The couple took to the child as if she were their own, and Tina found all the love that parents can give from them.
"My dad was my best friend, I was daddy's little girl," Tina said.
The sisters began communicating regularly last July on the Internet after Tina's son, Louis Lawrence, connected with his Italian relatives to cheer up Tina, who was grieving over the death of her adoptive mother, whom she had been caring for in her later years as she battled Alzheimer's Disease.
It was Valentina who put the plan in motion when she purchased the tickets for her mother and her to come to visit.
Valentina said, through Tina, that while she loved seeing Chicago, the most amazing thing was seeing her aunt and her cousin.
Tina said for herself, she couldn't adequately describe how it felt to be with her sister again.
"It's a feeling like you've been waiting for and waiting for, and now she's here close enough that I can touch her," Tina said.