Giorgio Angelozzi, p2

Marlena Riva and her husband Elio and their two teenage children, Dagmara, and Mateush live in Spirano, a town in the north of Italy, not far from the large city of Milan. They had had a difficult time in 2004. Elio’s parents, who had been living downstairs in the same house, had both died. And his brother, who had been living upstairs, had also died. Elio himself was about to have an operation for a cancerous tumour on his face. Marlena, who comes from Poland, has no family of her own in Italy.

One evening, the family was eating supper and watching televison and they saw Giorgio being interviewed. When the interview was finished, Marlena looked at her family and said: “Do you think you would like a new grandfather.”

It turned out that everyone was enthusiastic; so they wrote to Giorgio. Marlena warned the others not to expect anything. She was sure that Giorgio would get many replies and that there was almost no chance he would choose them. But when Giorgio got the letter, he liked it — and he especially liked the fact that every member of the family had signed it. So he phoned the Rivas. The conversation was a big success. One thing that meant a lot to him, he said later, was that Marlena’s voice reminded him of his wife’s.

After that things happened quickly. Giorgio had more interviews with other people who had replied to his ad. But, he says, he was troubled by the feeling that he was being insincere because he had already made his choice in his heart.

Within a few weeks, Giorgio took his first ever ride on an airplane. He flew north for a short trial period of living with the Rivas. Everything went well. He liked the whole family and they liked him. He was happy with the spacious and private living space they gave him in their house.

He went back to San Polo dei Cavalieri and packed. When he was ready to return to Spirano, Marlena flew south to Rome to accompany him. As it happened, this was only one day after Elio had had his operation but he insisted that Marlena go to pick up Giorgio. There were reporters and photographers on the plane and more at the airport.

A month or so later, Giorgio and the Rivas had settled down into a happy life with one another. Giorgio was helping in the kitchen and helping Dagmara with her Latin. She and Mateusz were calling him ‘Nonno’ — which means ‘grandfather’. He was getting up early in the morning so he could spend a few minutes with Marlena before she went to work. And he was able to enjoy reading again: living in a warm family atmosphere, had given him the courage to have his cataracts removed.

- information from: Christian Science Monitor, 04.09.23 (Sophie Arie); Christian Science Monitor, 04.11.05 (Sophie Arie); Grand Rapids Press, 04.10.31 (Frances d’Amilio (AP); Philadelphia Inquirer, 04.11.18 (Ken Dilanian, Knight-Ridder); National Post, 04.09.04 (Francine Dubé)