Olivia Robello Breitha:

"Fighting Ignorance; Fighting That Hurtful Word"

Olivia Robello Breitha's life was "ordinary and uneventful" until 1934.  That year, when she was 18 years old, about to be married, and happily living with her family, she was told she had leprosy.  In those days, all those diagnosed with this disease in Hawaii were forcibly taken from family, friends and community and isolated on the remote peninsula known as Kalaupapa.

Olivia has lived at Kalaupapa for 65 years, during which time a cure for leprosy has been discovered, the isolation laws have been abandoned, and Kalaupapa has been designated as a National Historical Park for the education and inspiration of present and future generations.  Olivia has traveled to different states and other countries, but has chosen to live out her life at Kalaupapa her home.  This is where she fell in love, married Johnny Breitha and chose not to have children because she knew they would be taken away from her at birth.  This is where she wrote her autobiography and made a documentary with Tim Baker, a 32-year old man who has since died from AIDS.  And, this is where she continues to fight for her own rights and those of others.

 

My name is Olivia.  It's not L-E-P-E-R . . . . I wrote a book because I wanted people to know what I feel, what I felt, how much I struggled, fighting the disease, fignting ignorance, fighting bureaucrats, fighting that hurtful word . . . . Trying not to be a statistic - - trying to be a person. 

                        - -  Olivia Breitha

 

 
 

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