‘I could never forget her’



It’s not uncommon for reunions to take place within a few years of the initial event—or maybe ten to twenty years after the first meeting. But a reunion after 75 years is truly astounding.

That’s exactly what took place recently between immigrants Lena and Yolanda, who were young girls when they first met during a 14-day ocean crossing.

In April of 1947, both the young girls were emigrating with their Italian families to the United States. They met each other aboard the Saturnia, a ship sailing toward America’s Ellis Island—and became instant friends.

In the last few years, Lena’s youngest son Steve had been researching their transatlantic voyage, and uncovered the actual ship’s manifest online.

Lena, now 85 years old, had always remembered the name of her sailing buddy, Yolanda. So, Steve diligently searched for the whereabouts of her friend, who had remained only a memory frozen in time.

Lena left her hometown of Pallagorio when she was ten years old. Nine-year-old Yolanda left her home in Belmonte—a 2.5 hour drive between them on today’s maps.

The Saturnia

Steve continued tracking down the lost friend who, if alive, would be 84.

Lo and behold, Yolanda was still thriving—and the two girls, now matured, had been living within 2.5 hours of each other their whole lives.

Steve found Yolanda’s phone number and left a message on her answering machine explaining that her childhood sailing buddy wanted to get in touch. Covid-19 and other obstacles delayed the reunion, but finally a time and date were set.

Yolanda‘s son Rich drove his mom across state lines from her home in Weirton, West Virginia, to Lena’s house in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where they greeted each other at the front door, embracing with tears of joy.

Lena and Yolanda

“They were celebrating a momentary friendship that has lasted a lifetime,” Yolanda’s son Tony told GNN.

As well as reminiscing about their few memories of that voyage on Saturnia—which included feelings of wonderment and trepidation of what the New World would be like—they also packed in as many stories of their unfolding lives as possible within the short afternoon lunch.

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“Yolanda was the face and name that was synonymous with my transition from one life to another,” Lena said.

“For that reason alone, I could never forget her. Now that we’ve been reunited, I am even more grateful to call her my friend and to have had the chance to share our stories.”

It’s almost as if they were sisters separated at birth: They both uphold their families’ Italian traditions.

WATCH: Long-Lost Brothers to Be Reunited After 77 Years and 10,000 Miles, ‘I still can’t believe it’

Ship’s manifest

The 75-year reunion was so successful that they decided to meet again in a few months, hoping for more precious time together.

In these ‘silver’ ages, it’s not always easy finding a new friend—let alone an old one! Maybe the Ellis Island database at the National Archives can help you search for your ancestor’s voyage, and uncover a lost friend.

RELATED: Sisters Find Each Other After 45 Years Apart – Living in the Same City With Sons Going to the Same School

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