Engines of society - Morena Luisi

Sponsored content Switch to French for original article

Listen to this article

In cooperation with Losch Luxembourg, we regularly present women who have a very special impact on Luxembourg society through their professional careers or simply through their personal stories.

A blue sky that has imposed itself against the fog, the sun shining without heating up, puffy jackets accompanied by sunglasses, and a pickup truck waiting for us in a crowded parking lot. The setting may be confusing, but no… we are not in a ski resort in France or Austria, but rather in Howald.

At Losch, to be precise. The door opens and sees yet another ray of vitamin D enter her glassed-in reception. Her hair slightly curled and her long coat in the wind, Morena Luisi, a takeaway tea in hand, strides forward, excited to pick up the keys to the car she is about to test drive: the new VW Amarok.

Morena is a 33-year-old Luxembourg woman with Italian roots. "But I feel like I'm 23 (laughs)." She works in a nursing home, got recently engaged and lives in Soleuvre. "Although I am a girl from Esch, " she says. "A die-hard one." About her relationship with cars… "I love them. I love driving. Give me a bus, give me whatever you want, I'll gladly drive it."

In Mid Blue Metallic, the Amarok suggests that the colour of the sky reflects on its bodywork. "It's the same colour as my very first car, a Swift, " Morena recalls. "But this one is a Swift on steroids. (laughs)" It's a great car too. Power, sovereignty, agility; the exterior of the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles premium class pickup illustrates its key characteristics to perfection.

The SUT is available in 8 paint schemes and 4 versions. The Life providing the greatest of comforts, the Style for the most fashionables, the PanAmericana and its unbeatable strength and the Aventura – right in front of us – to embrace adventure all in style. Each has a unique exterior design that enhances its 5 350 × 2 208 mm of happiness, from redesigned decorative bars to American-style sports bars. In short, whoever the customer, the car will suit their taste.

"I saw a video in which they had turned the rear bed of the pickup into a swimming pool the other day, " laughs Morena. A creative way to take advantage of its maximum load of 885 to 1 177 kilos. Unfortunately, it's too cold for that today. As soon as she gets behind the wheel of the car, Morena tries to turn on the heater. She laughs: "It's so cold I'd like to pour my tea on my hands."

The interior is spacious, comfortable. "Ah, the heated seat!" The whole family feels like in an armchair. Around the 8 – or optional 12 – inch digital colour and touch panel, the double cabin is covered in the finest materials. Savona or Cricket leather, sometimes velvet… "Minimalist and clean", Morena describes it. With the heater on, she puts her foot down on the pedal and gives it a first burst of acceleration.

A superb engine purr and a road junction later, we're having a blast: "Everyone to the side. I own the road." With its size, yet "not at all awkward" behind the wheel, the Amarok naturally imposes itself. "You can see well over the bonnet, you're not afraid because it's so easy to drive and it's so comfortable. I love it, it's great." A delighted tester.

On the motorway, Morena Luisi takes advantage of the 200-plus horsepower of the Amarok, Volkswagen's new off-road pickup… and its engine turns the A4 into Road 66 for a moment.

"I went on holiday to the US and drove down the coast from Orlando to Key West in a similar car, " recalls Morena who loves to travel. "But this one is better." Employed at the Miami University in Differdange before moving on to other fields, she accompanied students on excursions to London, Berlin and Slovenia. On the motorway to Lallange, our first stop, Morena takes advantage of the Amarok's 200-plus horsepower… and its engine turns the A4 into Road 66.

The new VW pick-up offers two engines: A 2.0-litre 4-cylinder diesel with 151kW and 205hp for the Life and a 3.0-litre V6 diesel with 177kW and 240hp for the other three, both in a 4×4 Automatic that can be activated. In addition, 6 driving modes are available. To the usual Normal and Eco are added Slippery for ice-covered roads, Trailer for better towing, Sand for the beach – or, let's be crazy, the Paris-Dakar – and Mud.

For our ride, Normal is enough. Instead, it's the car's high-end Harman Kardon audio system and its 8 speakers that Morena plans to take advantage of. A little over a year separates her from a time when she was a Project Manager and Audio Producer at Pulsa Creative Studio. This was after a stint in radio. Because although she still lends her voice to freelance commercials today, a very difficult period made her switch: "The last 10 years of my life have had a huge impact on me."

Morena passes a roundabout and parks at the side of the road, in front of a building under construction – the future sports hall. Lallange. "This is where I grew up, " she smiles. Behind us are several buildings. "In the third one. My dad still lives there." Her old schools are right next door. "I had everything within 500 metres. I didn't know what a school bus was. (laughs) Well, I did, but I never got on one."

In front of the construction site, a large photo of the local cheerleading club catches the eye. Morena stands next to them: "Those positions are etched in me." A longtime member of the Sweet Devils, she has lived for cheerleading for years. "One season we even qualified for the European competition at Disneyland. Later, the girls qualified for the world championship"… but Covid spoiled the party.

"This club made me who I am today, " says Morena. She met her best friends there. "We used to go to CenterParks with the whole team. Today, we're still a clique of six. They'll be my bridesmaids. I wouldn't have it any other way." They even continue their trips to CenterParks… but this time the group is growing. "One baby, then two… Now there are more kids than adults. (laughs)"

The Amarok slightly protrudes from its parking space. Not easy to park, such a long pickup… though with Park Assist Plus, there's no need to worry. Even if parking problems are rare in off-road driving, parking spaces in urban areas are often narrower. In that case, the system can park itself. What is more, the Area View 360° cameras make driving through narrow streets more comfortable.

But those are just two of the more than 20 new assistance systems available. Take changing lanes on a busy motorway, for example. Never fun, is it… unless the car has an LED light in the outside mirror that warns of vehicles approaching from behind or in the blind spot. This is the case with the Amarok.

Before setting off to our second destination, Morena takes a look back at her childhood flat. "When I used to go to cheerleading practice, I would walk around here and my mum would watch me from the building. Once I got here, we'd wave to each other… We were super close, she was my best friend." Gilmore Girls with a Luxembourg twist. "Everyone thought I was going to sink when she left us."

Morena turns on the car. We're off to a place that is equally dear to her. She has only good memories of her childhood. Especially since the obstacles life threw at her forced her to grow up fast. "I lost my brother – my half-brother from my mum's first husband – 10 years ago, he committed suicide. When you go through something like that at 23, 24, you become an adult faster than you would have liked…"

4 years later – 6 years ago – she was the one who was stricken with cervical cancer. "I went to see my gynaecologist for a check-up. When I got home, I thought that was it." It wasn't. A few days later, the doctor called her in. She went with her mother. "'It really wasn't necessary', the doctor told me." Nothing serious. Atypical cells had appeared and they were going to have to operate.

A blind operation to remove part of the cervix with the hope that it would be enough to make them disappear. "Once again, after the operation, for me, that was it." But once again, it wasn't. Morena was called back to the doctor and, once again, she went with her mother. "However, this time the doctor said, 'Yes… maybe it's better'." The biopsy had revealed something. "Cancer. At 27, you think… Shit."

Following that, same procedure. Blind surgery in the hope of getting rid of every single cancerous cell. "The three weeks after the operation I was in the dark, waiting for the results. It was horrible. But my friends went through every eventuality with me, like egg freezing. I can really say thank you to them. They were there when I needed them most." The operation worked. "Phew!"

The trigger that made her change jobs though was the death of his mother. "My mum died in April 2020, during the first lockdown, " Morena explains with tears in her eyes. On the way up to the Gaalgebierg, the "huge and beautiful green puddle" at the top of Esch, the landscape is peaceful. Under an ever-blue sky, the Amarok plots its course, Fola's Emile Meyrisch Stadium to its left and a handful of tennis courts to its right.

"She had, among other things, lung cancer and metastases in her head, " Morena continues. "In December 2019, she didn't want to do chemo, but the doctor told her, 'Ma'am, it's your choice. But if you don't do it, you won't see Christmas.' So she made the effort and it lasted until April. Chemo can be good or bad. When you are already weak, it destroys you. I would have supported her no matter he decision."

At work, she went straight to part-time. "My dad spent the morning with her, I spent the afternoon. I was lucky to have my mum at home and not in hospital. I knew her entire medical file by heart. Every word, every footnote. Every day she and her father washed her. Morena would put make-up on her and dress her in her favourite clothes. "I wanted her to be herself, that was very important to me."

Eventually, Morena's mother passed away at home. With her husband, her daughter and her little dog who spent a lot of time with her during this ordeal. "I am very grateful for that. All the more so since, at the beginning of 2020, visits to the hospital would have been complicated if not impossible. "Some people don't understand that I can be grateful for that, but good. It means they haven't lived it."

Morena parks. With its high slope angles and higher ground clearance, the pickup guarantees better off-road ability for more thrills and a qualitative drive. "Great, " she reiterates. The new Amarok also comes with a new range of wheels and rims in its adventurous character. Powerful or elegant, aluminium or steel… From 17 inches for the Life to 20 on the Aventura, there is something for everyone.

With a view on Esch worthy of La La Land scenes, Morena sits in the back bed of the pickup. "This is my Esch, " she says. "Look how beautiful it is." We could stand there for hours, watching the night fall. The country's second largest city lit by IQ.Light, Volkswagen's signature dynamically adjustable matrix headlights that will respond to any situation and weather. "I'd make a good mayor. (laughs)"

The reason she loves Esch so much is not only that she has lived there for a long time, but also that the town is synonymous with family for her. Her father, a truck driver when he arrived in the Grand Duchy, now owns a café there. And not just any café. "An Italian café that is well known in the country's football scene." Café Italia. "We broadcast the matches. When Italy won the Euro, it was crazy. All the press coverage was at home. (laughs)"

While families get together for Christmas and birthdays, the Luisi family adds Euros and World Cups. "At those times, the whole family is behind the counter. I see my cousin every leap year, but for these kinds of events, she is there. I like that." Her future husband also had to get into it. "He didn't miss out either, he was in charge of grilling the sausages. (laughs) That's how we are."

Despite a busy life, Morena thinks about her mother every day. Even to the point of changing her lifestyle to do even more good. "In December 2020, I realised how much I miss my mum, " she says. "I thought to myself that there must be lots of elderly people in retirement homes in the same situation." People who have no one, who miss their loved ones terribly.

"I contacted the CIPA in Esch and asked them how many inhabitants they had. It was 167 or 197, I don't remember. Anyways, I had the idea to collect enough drawings that I could give one to each of them just before Christmas." The Mol e Bild action was born… and Morena managed to collect 970 drawings. "I was able to give some to the homes in Esch, Schifflange, Dudelange, Differdange and Belvaux. Huge!" This obviously got the press talking. RTL even accompanied her to their distribution. "It was great to see the reaction of the people, how happy they were."

That's when she noticed how good helping out felt and decided to quit her job for social work. Now she is an entertainment officer in a retirement home. "I entertain people. I play cards with them, listen to them when they need it. Death is never far away, but it doesn't scare me. I want to take time for them all the more. That way, even if they don't have anyone left, they still have someone."

"I want to make time for them (the elderly, ed.). That way, even if they don't have anyone left, they still have someone."

Morena Luisi

"I'm doing this in an athentic way. To be honest, I earn less than I used to." She prefers to fill her heart than her wallet. "What brings me the most is when people say, 'Thank you for listening to me.' I melt. Then: 'Huel der nach eng Kammel! (Have another biscuit!) The classic!" Morena bursts out laughing. "I could talk about my grandpas and grandmas for hours!"

As for the return trip to Howald, the hour has come. No more detours planned. Although Morena wishes she could squeeze more time out of the pick-up. From point A to point Z, without a hitch; that's what the Amarok was designed for. Morena confirms: "I'd say it's as versatile as I am." Ready for anything. Never shies away. "It has more in it than you might think." That's exactly right.

Whether it's going for a ride in the country, out on the town or on holiday. Loading equipment, hauling loads or crossing terrain that no other car could. Picking up the kids from school or going on safari. Whether it's soft or hard use, impassable is not Amarok. The all-in-one pick-up par excellence. A Kinder Surprise on wheels.

"Everything I did, I would do again, " Morena finishes. "The most important thing for me is to dare to speak out. Even though I understand and respect those who can't, it has helped me a lot and it raises awareness. When I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, I was still very active in cheerleading. I sat down in a circle with the girls, some of whom were 10 years younger than me, and from the bottom of my heart, I advised them to go to their check-ups."

"If I was able to help anyone, that means everything to me. When I was very little, every time I walked out the door in the morning, my mum would say to me, 'Morena, treat people the way you would like them to treat you.' It's a phrase that follows me to this day."

A phrase that will stay with her forever. Like her mum.