So close to you

Now 54, Santina’s recollection of her era of stardom is quite limited. The sight of her and her sibling in old pictures brings back a period in life she had once attempted to repress; when she could only use one of her two legs to walk; when going to the washroom was a daily struggle; when people stared and shied away.  

In 1965, the twins were separated at Torino’s Regina Margherita Hospital by Doctor Giuseppe Solero, with an extremely high-risk six-hour operation – a procedure that had only once before been successfully accomplished in 1953 at Cleveland, Ohio’s Mount Sinai Hospital. (For the medical causes linked to conjoined twins, see article: The Science behind twins).

Immediately following their separation, the sisters were quickly conditioned to entirely forget the six years of clinical treatments received in Torino, including the memory of Pope Paul VI blessing them for their first communion, held shortly before the operation. Following months of physical and psychological readjustment, they simply referred to this period of their life as “prima” – their first life.

Separation was like a rebirth for the Foglia sisters. The operation enabled themto live a relatively normal life. Today, they are part of a restricted group of close to fifty healthy and happily divided conjoined twins.

Giuseppina works as a clerk in a bank in Monferrato, while Santina is married to a pastry chef from Casale Monferrato, and is the proud mother of a boy named Andrea.                   

While the sisters admit to having lived a happy life, they also concede having only recently managed to completely free themselves from the unforgiving nature of their original condition. Besides the remaining physical scars, it was the psychological scars that were most difficult to tame. Even once divided, their success story was bittersweet.

The media attention it attracted had almost negated the independent life they had finally conquered; and they were still perceived as ‘different’. They would be recognized and still be referred to as the ‘Siamese twin sisters’. In the end, it wasn’t the calming of the public’s scrutiny that set the sisters free; it was Santina and Giuseppina’s ability to love and accept each other for who they really were that granted them the inner peace they so strived for.                       

written by Gabriel Riel-Salvatore