The following is reprinted from Pier21.ca
My memories of the ten day voyage were very mixed. I was excited to be on a ship but I saw so many sad people that I was confused. I remember people crying hard and waving handkerchiefs in the air. I looked over the side and saw big fish following the ship. I now realize they were dolphins but at the time, I was convinced we were going to drown because these huge monsters were attacking us. I now know that people were crying because they were leaving the European continent. It was the last goodbye.
My first memory of Canada at age six was entering an ugly grey warehouse. There were people all over the place: some were in uniform and very scary. They were opening suitcases, slicing open parcels that had been wrapped in cloth and things were strewn all over the floor. Women were crying, holding on to their children. My mother had been very seasick on the ship and was taken away. There were lots of women in white dresses talking in a language we didn’t understand. I didn’t know where she was going: I was confused and frightened and thought maybe I was next.
I always remember Dad saying that the way out of poverty was through education. After WWII, Italy was devastated. We came from Calabria, the “toe” of Italy which has always been economically challenged. He worked deep in the coal mines in Belgium but the work was dangerous and dirty so he wanted to leave there. His father and brother were already in Canada so they made application for Dad to immigrate to “the Sault”. Canada was desperate for workers so it was an easy process, especially because he had a letter guaranteeing his employment. After working and saving for one year, Dad applied to bring the rest of our family to Canada.
I recall being the family translator whenever anyone needed to go someplace where they only spoke Inglese. Whether it was going shopping, to the doctor’s office or needing a letter read or written, I was it. My first job was as a salesclerk in a shoe store that had a large Italian clientele. I never had trouble finding work as a result of those experiences. I eventually went on to teach at Sault College and I also went on to earn a PhD in adult education. I think my Dad would have been proud of this journey.
I remember being asked, what do you like better—Italy or Canada? How can someone answer a question like that? It’s like asking who do you love most—your mother or your father? I love them both. When I visit Italy, I am very Italian. When I am in Canada, I am Canadian and am proud to have dual citizenship.
My parents made sacrifices to come to Canada and I am thankful.