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The Immigration Story of Maria Disipio (Italian immigrant)

The Museum reviews and accepts donated personal or family memories and histories into its collection. As a learning institution, the accounts help us understand how individuals recollect, interpret, or construct meaning from lived experiences. The stories are not modified by Museum staff. The point of view expressed is that of the author and not that of the Museum.

Country of Origin: 
Date of Arrival: 
May 18 1953
May 1954
Creative Commons: 
Accession Number: 

Story Text: 

As recounted to my daughter Grace - on my behalf.

I married my husband Frank, before we had even met. He was living in Ottawa, Canada, having arrived here in 1950. He befriended a gentleman named Alfredo,who had emigrated from my home town and who was also a friend of our family.

Frank told Alfredo that he wanted to marry, but it had to be a nice Italian girl from back home, so Alfredo gave my address to Frank.

I replied to Frank's first letter, and we subsequently exchanged photographs. After 3 months of correspondence, Frank proposed and I said yes. At almost 20 years of age and not yet married - I decided I had nothing to lose and embarked on this new adventure.

On October 11, 1953, I was married in our local church. With my father standing in for Frank, we became married by proxy. The following May, escorted by a family who were friends of my parents and who were also leaving for Canada, I left Italy to start my new life (loaded down with two trunks containing my wedding trousseau and all my earthly possessions).

Our passage was on a ship named the'Roma' of the Lauro flotilla, and I arrived in Halifax in May 1953. After being processed, the family I was traveling with and I boarded a coal train for Montreal. In my clean blue suit, I was nervous and anxious.

On the train, we were offered pasta, which to our shock and disillusionment, turned out to be canned Chef Boyardee. By the time I arrived in Montreal, my nice suit had become a shade darker (thanks to the soot from the coal train).

Frank met me at the station with his sister Carmela and her husband Luigi. It was the first time I saw Frank. We drove back to Ottawa, to a home Frank shared with his parents and siblings. For the first 4 days, we slept in separate rooms and did not consummate our marriage. On the 5th day, we went to St. Anthony's church to receive a blessing from the parish priest. A small reception followed at the home where Frank and I would co-habitate with his family.

We moved many times before purchasing our first starter home away from'Little Italy', where we lived for several years.

After a series of odd jobs, Frank found a permanent position working as a Mason for the Department of Public Works. I worked for 10 years for the Public School Board as a Janitor, as well as being a full time homemaker and mother to our son and two daughters.

Frank and I returned many times to Italy to care for my aging parents, but sadly, My father passed away in 2001, and my mother in 2004 - both lived to the age of 96.

I am proud'Nonna' to a delightful 10 year old boy. I adore him, and he adores my'gnocchi', which I gladly make for him whenever he's not away at a week-end hockey tournament.

I am fortunate to have my children living in Ottawa, we are a close and loving family and try to see each other regularly. In 2004 I celebrated 50 years in Canada, and this year, Frank and I celebrated our 52nd anniversary. While I still have warm feelings for my birthplace, I am also proud and grateful for the life we have made in Canada.