Separated twins lived on other continents. They met years later

Separated twins lived on other continents. They met years later

When Isabella Solimene told her twin, Ha Nguyen, that she was going to become a US diplomat in the Middle East, it was possible to forgive Nguyen when she told her sister not to leave. After all, the twins did not grow up together and did not meet until the age of 13.

The story of the twins began in 1998, when their biological mother realized that the newborns were malnourished. She had no money to buy them food.

She put Solimene in an orphanage. However, she made sure that Nguyen – the weaker of the two girls – was adopted by her sister and her partner. A couple who lived in a farming village looked after Nguyen while she was growing up.

Solimene had to wait until she was four to be adopted by a wealthy white couple from Chicago. They flew to Vietnam with a dream to enlarge their family. When they visited the orphanage, they decided to take the little girl home. She grew up in the USA with five other children.

The story of the twins is featured in Erika Hayasaki’s new book, Somewhere Sisters. It includes interviews with Nguyen, Solimene and their families.

The girls found out about their existence when they were old enough to understand it. However, they were too young to deal with the situation.

Solimene’s mom wanted to find her daughter’s identical twin

Hayasaki admitted that neither of them pressured her parents to find the other sister.

– I was curious about my twin. I knew he lived in America, Nguyen told the writer. – I thought I would never go to America. I was convinced that I would never meet my twin sister either – she added.

– I grew up curious about it. There was another person like me, but I didn’t feel like I needed to know who she was, Solimene said.

Nguyen’s adoptive parents – a rice picker and babysitter – raised their daughter in a modest village with limited access to electricity. The village was in the mountains, in a coastal region plagued by typhoons. They didn’t have the means to find her siblings. But it was Solimene’s adoptive family.

Solimene and Nguyen.

Solimene and Nguyen.

PR Newswire /

Solimene’s mom told Hayasaki that she felt obliged to bring them together. She has read many professional studies on the psychology of twins.

“I thought I’d find this little orphan and bring her here, and Sister Solimene would be the seventh child in our family,” she said.

The mother was determined to find Nguyen. Hayasaki writes that she visited Vietnam, where she questioned the orphanage workers for directions. Tried to get adoption files. But there were too many privacy rules. It was especially difficult because she didn’t know Vietnamese.

Finally, she asked a local woman for help. She had many contacts in the region and became her eyes and ears.

Hayasaki describes the search for Nguyen in her book. She told how the journey began with local rumors about the twins’ biological mother. People said she put them up for adoption because she couldn’t afford to feed them.

The Vietnamese woman discovered that Nguyen was raised by her biological aunt and her partner. The Vietnamese woman explained the situation to all three. She showed them a picture of Solimene – it might as well have been a picture of Nguyen.

Solimene’s mother visited the family in July 2008. She played movies of her foster daughter playing her favorite sport.

Nguyen told Hayasaki that she felt overwhelmed. She remembered how the Vietnamese woman explained her conversation. At one point, Solimene’s mother asked Nguyen, “Do you want to get in my suitcase and come with me to America?”

The twins met again in 2011 at the age of 13.

Nguyen was shocked. As Hayasaki describes, she said firmly in Vietnamese, “No.” “Its defenses suddenly went up,” writes the author of the book.

The girl wondered if it was a scam. She wasn’t sure that the American was her sister’s mother at all. She told the translator that she wanted to meet Solimene in person. The American replied that she would bring her.

The woman began transferring money to Nguyen’s parents to help them with the cost of raising the girl. As Hayasaki said, she questioned her white privilege and her desire for Nguyen to come to the US.

“Do you know who I am, to think that I will come here and save this little girl?” She told Hayasaki. “She is so happy,” she added.

In 2011, she decided to fly from Solimene to Vietnam. The twins met again at the age of 13.

Hayasaki wrote that the meeting that took place at the airport was awkward. The girls compared their features, but their hairstyles differed. They couldn’t communicate due to the language barrier and noise at the airport.

Solimene, who was always aloof, said her body went numb when Nguyen hugged her. She said she felt offended because she already had sisters in the US and didn’t want another one. But Nguyen was very touched and did not notice it.

The beginning was sluggish. Hayasaki wrote that the twins began to establish contact with each other. They talked about their childhood. They laughed when Solimene remembered that a child had been tormenting her by blocking the playground slide. Nguyen said she never had a slide like this. “I would be tormented if my pebbles were taken,” she told her sister.

“We have similar scars in similar places,” Solimene told Hayasaki. “We have various small cuts and birthmarks all over the body,” she explained.

Nguyen and Solimene attended the same college in the US

The Solimene family paid Nguyen to study at an elite private school in Vietnam. They rented an apartment so her parents could live nearby. They also gave Nguyen the latest electronics including laptop and iPhone.

In 2016, Nguyen decided to graduate from high school in Chicago. She confessed to Hayasaki that it was difficult to leave Vietnam. She said after saying goodbye to her parents and boarding the airport bus, she thought, “This is not forever. This is a normal goodbye. I’ll be back.”

Twins became inseparable as Nguyen got used to living in the USA. They graduated from high school in 2018 and studied at the same university for four years.

Solimene told Hayasaki that her sister helped a lot to become more emotionally present. – It allowed me to grow in an environment that is a safe space. I’ve always felt that he was supporting me, she explained.

Nguyen said she was happy her twin chose a career in diplomacy, even if that meant once again they had to be thousands of kilometers apart.

“I know she’ll tell me the same,” Nguyen told Hayasaki. “And I know we’ll always find a way to get back together,” she said.

Author: Jane Ridley; Translation: Mateusz Albin

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