In 1952, Kantor was born in a small town in the Italian region of Bari, a southern region that partially borders the Adriatic Sea. She was born Nicoletta, a name that was changed when she and her older brother, Vito, were placed in an orphanage by her grandfather. Kantor was 3 1/2 and her brother was 5 1/2."The devastating effects lies and secrecy can have on adopted children and their parents." Indeed.
At 3 1/2, Kantor was old enough to remember her birthmother, a woman named Mery Marotta Pesce, and when she would cry out for her mother in the orphanage, she was comforted by the nuns. They showed her a picture of an Italian couple who had recently immigrated to the United States. Kantor and Vito had met them only once, but were told the picture showed their parents and they would soon be joining the couple in the United States.
And what of the woman, Mery, who Kantor remembered as her mother?
“I had a bond with my (birth) mother,” she said. “I missed her and they would lie to me in the orphanage.”
Kantor lived happily with her parents and brother until she was 18-years old when she learned the couple she considered her mother and father had adopted her from the Italian orphanage.
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In 1984, a Catholic priest from Ohio was vacationing in Italy when he met a woman named Costanza. For 25 years, Costanza, her sister, Silva, and their mother Mery had been searching for a daughter and son who had been sent to America and adopted by another family. Their research suggested the siblings might live in Chicago, but they had gotten no closer.
The priest agreed to do what he could to help reunite the family. He called the telephone operator asking for any listings of Vito or Nicoletta Palazzo living in Chicago. His leads came up dead, but being persistent, he asked the operator to try again, this time connecting him to the Chicago suburbs, Kantor said.
Kantor’s name had been changed at the orphanage, then again once she was married, and her brother was unlisted, but the priest was connected to a cousin with the same name, Vito Palazzo.
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Friends and family heard Kantor’s story and helped her travel to Italy to meet Costanza and Silvia. Vito also joined his sisters in Italy.
A few years after Kantor’s visit, a nephew let it slip to his grandmother that he met Zia Nicoletta. Kantor’s birthmother, who she chose not to meet in Italy, flew to Chicago and arrived unannounced at O’Hare Airport, determined to meet her biological daughter.
Kantor was surprised again last summer when Costanza and Silvia met a woman they would later discover is Kantor’s twin.
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Now that she’s back, though, Kantor has a new perspective on her experience as well as the adoption process.
She considers herself a strong advocate for open adoption, and is keenly aware of the devastating effects lies and secrecy can have on adopted children and their parents, both adoptive and biological.
But her feelings about adoption haven’t stopped the bond from growing between Kantor and her biological family.
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