‘You want sex? I’ll kill you’:the capers that bonded these 90-year-old twins

Together,90-year-old Melbourne twins Liliana del Porto and Lydia Marcuzzi have survived wartime bombing,a taste of Italian Hollywood and a total of five husbands. They’re happiest at home watching TV detective shows.

Liliana del Porto (left) and Lydia Marcuzzi:“It’s like having a good friend who never goes away,” says Lydia. “We know what we mean to each other without talking smooshy.”

Liliana del Porto (left) and Lydia Marcuzzi:“It’s like having a good friend who never goes away,” says Lydia. “We know what we mean to each other without talking smooshy.”Wayne Taylor

LILIANA: We don’t know who was born first;our mother wanted only[our brother] Giorgio,then she got two more who were nine kilos! She got thrombophlebitis,so for 40 days she had her legs up,and we had wet nurses. We were born in Skopje,Macedonia,because our Italian father was a diplomat. Lydia was a terrible,rebellious child. After church,she’d go off with the orphans to queue for a piece of bread with jam. If I had new shoes,she’d want to ruin them,so she’d wipe her feet on them.

Lydia (front) and Liliana at Bagnoli,a refugee displacement camp near Naples,Italy.

Lydia (front) and Liliana at Bagnoli,a refugee displacement camp near Naples,Italy.Supplied

After our father died in 1939,we went back to Zara[now Zadar in Croatia],where our parents had been born. The bombing started in 1943. One day,a bomb exploded as we were coming home from church. I was the only one left standing. My mother was covered with big stones;her leg was hurt. She was saying,“My Lydia! My Lydia!” We couldn’t find Lydia for two hours. It was terrible. She was buried under two ladies. Now I am claustrophobic and Lydia is afraid of thunder.

For the next seven years,we were moved around refugee camps. When we were 18,we went to Roma,where they were making movies;Mussolini had built Cinecittà[a large film studio],like Hollywood. We were extras in three movies,includingQuo Vadis with Peter Ustinov;he wrote a love letter to Lydia. They wanted to put Lydia in other movies,but my mother said,“Forget it!” She was terrified of us[being with men]. When Lydia first got married[in 1952 in Melbourne],she didn’t consummate the marriage for three days because she was so scared.

Lydia (left) and Liliana spent seven years moving around refugee camps.

Lydia (left) and Liliana spent seven years moving around refugee camps.Supplied

We arrived in Australia in 1951 and,after two weeks at Bonegilla migrant camp[east of Wodonga in north-east Victoria],they put Lydia and me in two beautiful villas in Toorak to learn English and nursing. We used to take a suitcase to Prahran Market and fill it with[animal] heads,tongues,tails,eyes … we ate everything. It was free because nobody bought it;the butchers thought we were crazy.

“We couldn’t find Lydia for two hours. It was terrible. She was buried under two ladies.”

I’d met Ugo in Naples and he came to Melbourne to marry me in March 1952 at St Patrick’s Cathedral. We lived in Broadmeadows in a little house that rained inside and,every Wednesday,Lydia came with a lobster. We found a magpie in the kitchen one day,so we got a blanket and caught it. We took off the feathers and boiled it,but the meat was terrible.

I had one husband and four sons and Lydia had one son and four husbands! When she married the fourth one,Lydia was crying at the altar. I said,“Lydia,were you moved?” and she said,“No,I already regret marrying this one.”

We are not similar at all. She likes a bit of a drink:scotch and champagne. I drink maybe a spoonful of Baileys in the evenings. I like blues and jazz;she likes classical. Lydia doesn’t ring anybody and nobody rings her. She’s not crazy for the clubs like me;I like bingo. To everything,at first she says,“No.” I always say,“Yes.”

Lydia lives around the corner. She comes every day at about 8am – “Do you need something,Liliana?” – then drives to Malvern Central to go shopping. At 2-2.30pm,I go to see her,then at 5.30pm she comes back with dinner for me:salmon with an egg on top. We both loveFoyle’s War. I tape it and we watch it together. I love her generosity. And the closeness.

LYDIA: My mother said,“I wanted you both dead because I didn’t have any milk and the wet nurses all had syphilis”,so they imported two from overseas:I had one type of milk and Liliana another. Maybe because of this we are a bit different. I was a very naughty child – I used to run away – but Liliana was very good.

In Roma,they put ads in the paper:“Extras wanted.” It was like living in Hollywood. And we were beautiful. They used to say,“Liliana’s got a bum like a guitar and Lydia’s is like a mandolin.” The Italian men used to follow us. Our mother said,“You want sex? I’ll kill you,then I’ll kill myself!” We were terrified. She threw a knife at me once because I was talking to a Hungarian. We were virgins when we got married.

“To me,marriage wasn’t very important;it was easy come,easy go. Liliana was serious about marriage. I got tired of them.”

Sometimes,we didn’t feel very welcome in Australia;if we spoke Italian,they didn’t like us. But being nurses’ aides[the twins worked in a number of hospitals,including Caulfield Hospital] was all right;we were happy to help people. Liliana and I worked together. At Caulfield,there were 20 or 30 people on each ward and the nurse told me to wash their teeth. I got a bucket and went,“Give me your teeth,give me your teeth …” I collected all the dentures,washed them in Dettol and took them back. They said,“Those aren’t my teeth!” I didn’t know[dentures] were all different!

Liliana (left) and Lydia with Liliana’s grandson Nick at Mt Martha beach in the 1980s.

Liliana (left) and Lydia with Liliana’s grandson Nick at Mt Martha beach in the 1980s.Supplied

It was sad when Liliana went back to Italy with Ugo[for 14 years],but you get used to it. And I was busy getting married. Four times is a lot! They all died,but I divorced them,then they died. I didn’t kill them. To me,marriage wasn’t very important;it was easy come,easy go. Liliana was serious about marriage. I got tired of them. And childbirth was so terrible,I screamed and screamed;they put on a mask to shut me up. But Liliana didn’t complain. She’s stoic.

Liliana is more elegant,I’m more casual. I love animal print. I like the colour. My hair? I went to the chemist and bought a bottle of pink dye for $5. I just did it for fun. We are happiest together when we watchFoyle’s War. She tapesJudge Judy andDr Phil,but I don’t like them. I likeDiagnosis:Murder with Dick Van Dyke. AndJake and the Fatman. I like the policemen.

Liliana is beautiful,gentle and talkative;she talks,talks,talks. She asks questions all the time. I really don’t care about people. Liliana cares. All my friends have died and I haven’t made other friends. Sometimes I see a person and cross the road not to meet them;I don’t like to talk. With Liliana,I can be a silent witness. We never fight. It’s like having a good friend who never goes away. I moved here from Wollongong because I wanted to be near Liliana. She loves me,I love her. We know what we mean to each other without talking smooshy.

twoofus@goodweekend.com.au

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