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L'histoire de l'immigration de Giovanni Lucente (immigrant italien)

Le Musée examine et accepte les dons de souvenirs et d'histoires, personnelles ou familiales, à la collection. En tant qu'institution pédagogique, ces récits nous aident à comprendre comment les individus se souviennent d'expériences vécues, comment ils les interprètent ou, encore, comment ils créent un sens à partir de celles-ci. Les histoires ne sont pas modifiées par le personnel du Musée. Le point de vue exprimé est celui de l'auteur et non celui du Musée.

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My father (Pasqualino Lucente) and my mother (Angela Bruno) were born and raised in the small town of Aprigliano, located in the hills near Cosenza, Calabria Italy. Their plans were delayed by the war but married soon afterwards in 1946. I was born within a year and my brother Rocco was born in 1948. My great-grandfather, grandfather and three uncles were carpenters in Aprigliano and made furniture and coffins in their shop. My paternal grandfather was Giovanni Lucente and my grandmother was Assunta Bonofiglio Lucente. My father was the eldest in a family of 6 boys and 2 girls. The family also had a vineyard. Three of my uncles (Egidio, Pietro & Ernesto) immigrated to New York.
My maternal grandparents (Rocco Bruno & Assunta DeLuca Bruno) lived in Dearborn, Michigan. My grandfather had worked in the US since 1922 and in 1947 sent for my grandmother and their daughter, my Zia Maria, to join him in Michigan. They travelled on the Saturnia to New York. When my parents decided to immigrate to America, immigration to the US was difficult, so they chose to settle in Windsor, Ontario because it was close to the border and my mother’s family.
My father left Italy in October, 1950 and flew to Canada (via Shannon, Ireland & Gander, Nfld) through some sort of work program that required him to work for a period of time on a farm. He worked on a chicken farm outside of Windsor, but soon found work at his trade as a carpenter. He sent for us the following year. My mother, Rocco and I left from Naples in August 1951 on the ship Conte Biancamano and arrived at Pier 21 on August 22, 1951. The ten day Atlantic crossing must certainly have been a formidable undertaking for a young mother with a 4 year old and a 2 year old. Both she and I were sick most of the time and my younger brother was upset for leaving home and did a lot of crying. I also remember her recounting the train trip from Halifax to Windsor and how difficult it was to keep us clean on the dirty train pulled by a coal burning steam engine.
I would not start grade one until the following year, but I attended kindergarten for a couple of weeks that first September before moving to another house. I remember not understanding a word. The kids were playing marbles – new to me. Who would have known within a few short years Rocco would be a marble hustler – a pro. He could go to school, borrow a marble and come home with two pockets full. I don’t remember actually learning English but I must have picked it up playing with neighbourhood friends that first summer before starting school.
In 1954, my father was hospitalized due to a serious infection caused by shrapnel remaining in his leg from the war and was near death. This was a time without social safety nets – no OHIP, no UI etc. He recovered and our baby brother, Francesco (Frank), was born in 1957. In the same year my parents bought their first and only home on Windermere Road. Their only trip back to Italy was in 1971 for their 25th anniversary, taking Frank along with them.
Both Rocco and I graduated from university with Civil Engineering degrees. Rocco manages his own successful consulting firm in Windsor and I am approaching retirement from a career with Ontario Hydro/OPG, having lived in Windsor, Brantford, Mississauga, Oakville, Ajax and St. Catharines. I married Jean and have four children - Michael, Virginia, Christina and Paul. Rocco married Nicole and has four children – Jacqueline, Danielle, Rocco and John.
Frank has had a long career with Ford Motor Company in Windsor and continues to work there. He married Linda and has five children – Troy, Jason, Tabitha, Patrick and Natalie.
In 1969 I worked in Halifax for Canadian Bridge on the erection of the A. Murray McKay Bridge. During construction it had not yet been named and was referred to as the Narrows Bridge. I was thrilled as a newly graduated engineer to work on such a unique once-in-a lifetime project. During that time, I was oblivious to the fact that Halifax was our port of arrival to Canada and knew nothing about Pier 21 and never thought of visiting the site. This year (2007), my son Michael visited Pier 21, and returned with a photo of the Conte Biancamano.
In October, 2007, Jean and I took a trip back to Italy. This was the first time I visited since leaving 56 years ago at the age of four. My Italian may not have been very good but had no problem communicating especially in Calabria where I could slip into our Calabrese dialect. I visited with many relatives, saw all the old homes of both sides of the family and even was in the room where I was born. We saw the church where I was baptized, the family tomb and many other churches in the small town. We stayed in Cosenza with Zia Nina who was truly a super host. As I promised her, I will be back soon.
We are all very grateful for the sacrifices of our parents, who left their homeland, family and friends to find a better life for us here in Canada. We thank them for that and for the rich heritage and culture they passed on to us.