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L’histoire de l’immigration de Maria Grande (immigrante italienne)

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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La Mia Storia
Maria Di Benedetto Grande

On April 22, 1957, we bid farewell to my grandfather at the port of Naples, Italy. We boarded the ocean liner the “Saturnia” destined for Halifax, N.S. I was eight years old at the time and was travelling with my parents and two younger brothers. This was the beginning of a pleasant voyage for my family and I headed to the land of opportunity. During our trip we stopped at Lisbon, Portugal and continued our voyage to Halifax where we set foot on Canadian soil on April 29, 1957.

Upon arrival we went through Canadian Customs and Immigration, as you can see from the attached identification card, which bears my signature. We then proceeded to the most memorable train ride I have ever experienced. We took the C.N. electrical diesel train destined for Montreal. Although we were travelling at a moderate speed, to me it felt as if the train had wings and I was enjoying every second of the ride. Then when the light snack tray arrived in our wagon I was so impressed I thought we were getting the royal treatment. Never having been on a train ride before I was overjoyed when my dad offered my brother and I a piece of chocolate – my very first piece of Canadian chocolate. Our newborn two month old baby brother slept through most of the ride and, even thought we were sitting on wooden benches, to me it felt as comfortable as cotton.

Our train ride gave me the opportunity to see the first Canadian trees, lakes, grass and dandelions. However, there was a question in my mind that stood out above all and vivid to my childhood memory. It was a question I repeatedly asked my parents whenever we passed a little house – is that our “Casetta in Canada?” (Little house in Canada) – is that our “Casetta in Canada” (Little house in Canada). This was a very popular and famous song at that time and we often sang it at school and it went as follows: “Avevo una casetta piccolina in Canada, con vasi e peschiolini tutti fiori e ri-ri-la, e tutte le ragazze che passavano di la, dicevano che bella la Casetta in Canada”. ( I had a little house in Canada with vases, fish, flowers and laughter and all the girls that passed by would say what a beautiful little house I had in Canada). Coincidently, this song was released in spring of 1957 and in Italy it became an instant success with every aspiring immigrant to Canada. It also made my train ride even more special as I was often looking for the “Casetta” which I thought one day would be ours. Approximately, after 30 hours of this very enjoyable train ride we reached Central Station in Montreal where my uncle was waiting to welcome us.

Today I am married and proud of two University graduate children both working in their respective professions. I was educated in Montreal where I lived and worked most of my life in several offices across the city.

Thank you Via for giving me my first childhood train ride with lasting memories of hope for a new and better life in Canada.

Sincerely yours,
Maria Grande