It’s fairly uncommon for reunions to occur within a few years of the initial event—or perhaps ten to twenty years later. But a reunion after 75 years is absolutely remarkable.
That’s exactly what happened lately between immigrants Lena and Yolanda, who met as young girls on a 14-day ocean journey.
Both little girls were moving to the United States with their Italian families in April 1947. They met on the Saturnia, a ship headed toward America’s Ellis Island, and became fast friends.
Lena’s youngest son Steve had been investigating their transatlantic adventure for a few years and had discovered the real ship’s manifest online.
Lena, now 85, had always recalled the name of her sailing companion, Yolanda. So Steve painstakingly sought for her companion, who had become merely a memory trapped in time.
Lena moved away from Pallagorio when she was ten years old. Yolanda, nine, left her house in Belmonte, a 2.5-hour trip away according to today’s maps.
Steve kept looking for his long-lost friend, who would be 84 if still alive.
Yolanda was still alive and well—and the two girls, now grown, had lived within 2.5 hours of each other their entire lives.
Steve located Yolanda’s phone number and left a message on her answering machine stating that her childhood sailing companion wanted to contact her.
Yolanda’s son Rich drove his mother over state lines from her home in Weirton, West Virginia, to Lena’s home in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where they embraced with tears of delight at the front door.
‘They were celebrating a fleeting bond that has lasted a lifetime,’ said Lena’s son Tony.
In addition to reminiscing about their scant recollections of that voyage on Saturnia, which included feelings of amazement and fear about what the New World would be like, they crammed as many stories about their lives as they could into the brief afternoon lunch.
The 75-year reunion was so wonderful that they agreed to meet again in a few months in the hopes of spending more quality time together.
It’s not always simple to make new friends, let alone reconnect with old ones, in these’silver’ years.
Perhaps the Ellis Island database at the National Archives can assist you in searching for your ancestor’s voyage and reuniting with a long-lost buddy.