Many of you would say that you don’t know who Giuseppina Brigandi is, but if I were to mention Pina’s name, many people would say that they have worked or spent time in the community with Pina at some event or activity.
In 1968, when Pina was only 13 years old, her mother was offered a job as a seamstress through a work visa and that is how they moved to Reading, PA from Sicily. They lived on South 6th Street, and she attended St. Peter’s School and Holy Name High School. In 1973, just five years after arriving in the United States, she became a citizen, then she shortened her name to Pina and, shortly after she married, she took her husband’s last name, Ugliuzza.
I personally know Pina and have worked with her for over 12 years. It has always been a wonderful experience. She is a strong woman with a big Italian heart, but not only does she have a big generous heart, but she is also firm in her decisions, dedicated, an important asset for the law firm where she works, she has a voice and, as a bonus, she is also even trilingual as she speaks Italian, English and Spanish.
I’m not sure if there is a title or award for someone who has done what she has done for our community. She began helping her Italian community as a teenager, helping neighbors fill out medical and legal forms, job and school applications, as well as helping them find legal representation. All of this at a time when many immigrants including her own family dealt with language barriers, discrimination and cultural barriers and knew nothing about their own rights. One day it touched home and became personal when Pina’s own father was injured at work and his rights were violated. Pina stepped in to handle everything she could, including finding a lawyer, who was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Little did she know that helping her Italian immigrant neighbors, friends and her father would become a paying career for her where she continues to work today, called the HGSK Law Firm formerly known as WSK.
As the years went by, she connected HGSK directly with the community, especially the Latino community. She has not only helped many undocumented immigrants, but also many of those who were being taken advantage of. Also, HGSK has sponsored many events at the Hispanic Center, La Belleza de Nuestra Salud, has had turkey giveaways and recently gave away turkeys to all employees of the Hispanic Center. Pina herself has served on many boards including the Hispanic Center board. She has dedicated her entire life to giving back through her role at the law firm. Not surprisingly, the firm is also known as “The Lawyers of your Community.”
Lastly, I can’t interview someone without asking them about their cultural foods and recipes, especially an Italian woman. She told me that she makes a seven fish or shellfish pasta and also shared with me secrets of how she still buys her salted cod the old-fashioned way and as a Latina I am familiar with cod as it is also a staple in our Latin meals. People may not know that Latinos and Italians have many similarities, especially when it comes to food and language. For example, we both eat a lot of rice, fish and bread. Also, you may be surprised to learn that many of our words are spelled, pronounced, and mean the same. Spanish words like: “si, luna, cielo, fresco, triste, agosto, uno, casa, libro, telefono, vino, cantante” and some forty or more words with the same meaning. In addition, Italians, like Latinos, do not abandon their culture when they arrive in another country, but rather they adapt to other cultures, but never forgetting their traditions and where they come from.
So, there you have it… an Italian immigrant who has always cared about helping others and who possibly never suspected that it would become her career and her life. We appreciate people like Pina who put others before themselves and, in her case, it never mattered if you were Italian or not. She has helped everyone, but she has really connected with the Latino community to the point of learning our customs, traditions, and even our language. And that is why we love to say that our Latino community has adopted this incredible Italian immigrant woman. We love you Pina, thank you for always giving back.
Rosa Julia Parra