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L’histoire de l’immigration la famille Fiorita (immigrants italiens)

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 Silvio Fiorita left Italy by air and arrived in Montreal in the middle of a blizzard in December 1951. He worked for 4 years in order to make enough money to send for his wife, my mother, Filena Bruno Fiorita and my 3 siblings to come to Canada. Filena was already 41 years old and my siblings, Maria, age 15, my brother Dionigi or Dan as he came to be known, age 8, and Laura, age 4 boarded the ship La Biancamano in August 1955. Filena remembered how seasick many passengers were during the voyage to Canada. She was not affected and was immediately put into service helping other women with their young children. Upon arrival in Halifax they remembered being given small packages of Corn Flakes to eat. This was somewhat strange to them as in Italy corn was consumed by animals, not people. However, it soon became a breakfast staple in our home as I was growing up. Their trip was not over. They boarded a train, fueled by coal, for the long trip to Montreal where they were reunited with my father Silvio. Dan remembers being covered in coal soot.
My father rented a house in Park Extension, a neighbourhood where many immigrants settled. A year later in August 1956, their daughter Silvia was born in Montreal…their contribution to their new country. The children started school…Dan repeated one grade because he didn’t speak English but after picking it up quickly he was promoted to the next grade. Life was difficult…Filena knew no one here, had 4 children to care for, couldn’t speak wither English or French. She was totally dependent on her husband for everything. She was very resourceful, however, and began to earn some extra money for the family by taking in children and by starting a cottage industry embellishing evening and wedding gowns for a boutique, work she did for many years. Silvio worked construction for Francon, eventually becoming a foreman. He paved many of the major highways in and around Montreal, including the Queensway in Ottawa and the airport in the James Bay LG2 project. They stayed in the Park Extension area all their lives until they had to move into residences when elderly and no longer able to remain autonomous. Filena missed her family in Cosenza, Italy very much and anticipated letters from her relatives which at that time took many days to arrive. Filena also prepared and sent parcels with staples like coffee and sugar to her family back home. Though they were not financially well off my parents fared better than some of the family they left behind. They wanted to help anyway they could. I remember my aunt’s returning the favour by sending us packets of oregano and chamomile and delicious fig confections know as crocetti. Filena never learned to speak either language of her new country so it was incumbent upon her children to act as translators for her in many situations…some funny, some awkward and always surprising situations throughout the years. As a result, her children all retained their mother tongue as well as picking up English and French. Filena adapted to the Canadian winter after learning that you should not hang out clothes to dry on cold, sunny days…her sheets cracked in half after a day on the line.
They couldn’t phone their family back home as there was no phone installed in their village of Redipiano. In 1968 that changed and Filena heard her father’s voice for the first time in 13 years. Needless to say, tears of joy were shed all around. Everyone, with the exception of Silvia, who was born here, became Canadian citizens. The developed the Italian Canadian habit of including many Anglicism into their Italian dialect so that store no longer was known as magazzino but simply called ‘storo’. This led to some confusion when Filena returned to Italy on a visit and realized that even her language had changed. Filena and Silvio were honest, hard-working members of Canadian society whose children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren grew up in one of the best countries in the world offering them many opportunities to flourish. Now involved in such diverse areas as communications, medical and security services they have each made their mark on the adopted country of their parents and grandparents. Dan, their only son, was to become in 1985 the first foreign born Canadian to be named Canadian representative to ICAO, a post he held for 5 years. Unfortunately, Filena and Silvio were to bury two of their four children, Dan and Maria, before their own demise. They both lived to be 100 years of age…Silvio left us in 2013 followed by Filena in 2014.
As the only non-immigrant in the family, I have learned to appreciate the little bit of Italy they placed in my heart and as a proud Canadian, I intend to pass on a little of that cherished place to my Canadian children and grandchildren.