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The Immigration Story of The Zappitelli Family (Italian immigrants)

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.

Category: 
Culture : 
Country of Origin: 
Port of Arrival: 
Date of Arrival: 
February 28 1958
Language: 
English
Creative Commons: 
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Accession Number: 
S2012.1558.1

Story Text: 

OUR STORY

Pier 21

The year was 1953 as the ship pulled away from the docks of Naples. Leaving family, friends and possessions; Vincenzo Armenti said goodbye to his homeland. He also left behind memories of unemployment and destitution in a country still suffering from a devastating war. He set out for Canada in hopes of finding prosperity with a chance to work and earn money so his family could have a better life other than the certain poverty they faced in Italy.

It took twelve days to cross the rough seas that brought him to Pier 21 at Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was surrounded by a multitude of immigrants speaking foreign languages with unfamiliar customs. He was given strange food and was especially displeased with the sweet bread! He grinned and bared it though. These were not obstacles to him. Through his strength, patience and perseverance; he learned to adapt. He boarded a train and three days later was dropped off in Ignace, Ontario. In this barren small town he took a job with the CPR Railway. Grandpa was an opportunist and was not afraid to work hard - and work hard he did!

In 1956, my grandparents were finally reunited. His wife, Rosina Armenti and two of his four children, Lucy and Carmen, joined Vincenzo in Ignace. Five years later, Feb of 1958, Grandpa sponsored our parents, Nicola and Dora Zappitelli, and their first born daughter, Margherita. Mom remembers the endless rocking of the ship, her sea sickness, and fear of not making it across. And the thought of not being able to find her luggage - her only link with Italy.

She vividly remembers hunger and the bitter cold that seeped through her poor winter coat. The land seemed so desolate to her and she was not used to this climate.

Grandpa Vincenzo helped Nicola purchase an old CPR bunkhouse for seventy-five dollars. It took one year to tear it down and build a small grocery store in its place. At that time, it was the only store around. Dad was quite the business man! Our Mom worked as cashier and also managed to raise three more daughters, Vivianna, Suzie and Rita. We moved to Niagara Falls April 3, 1971 the exact date Dad prospered in the auto repair business and eventually owned his own business. As in Ignace,

Dad, like Grandpa, could see what this country offered those willing to work for it. He became an active and generous community member. He even sponsored the soccer team that had a player who eventually married Margherita! To this day, our Dad proudly displays the Canadian flag in front of his house for all to see and know he is so proud to call Canada his home.

Grandpa worked for the CP Railway until 1967. Sadly, he was struck by an oncoming train and died. Grandma Rosina died in 1989. They passed all their strengths to us. Their generosity extended to family, friends, neighbors and the Church. They inspired us to believe that we can reach our dreams with a little hope and a lot of faith. They taught us not to fear the unknown but to move forward and embrace the future. When Vincenzo first arrived he had little currency but a lot of hope. That is his legacy to us. We know there are no bounds to what we will do for our loved ones. Vincenzo cameto Canada as a landed immigrant giving us what we have today - the right to call ourselves Canadians. A golden opportunity and priceless gift. These reflections of a memorable man to all those he helped could never be forgotten.

Thank you Pier 21 for saving our memories of the past.

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Here ends one version of the Zappitelli's story and begins another version.
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The year was 1953 as the ship pulled away from the docks of Naples. Vincenzo Armenti was saying goodbye to his native land and leaving family, friends, possessions and the only homeland he knew of. He also left behind memories of a devastating war, unemployment and deprivation and for this reason alone he set out in hopes of finding prosperity and a chance to work and earn money so that his family would have a better lifestyle than the poverty they faced. Grandpa had little currency but his courage made up for what he didn't have. His steel determination led him to Canada where he became a refugee and than a landed immigrant giving us what we have to day. What I like to call today a golden opportunity.

12 days he took to cross rough seas to arrive on the coast of Halifax, Nova Scotia, at Pier 21. Surrounded by multitude of cultures and strange looking people speaking foreign languages and strange food they were given. All this he grinned and he did bare it; he did not see any of this as obstacles but a need for speed especially when he tasted the white bread. With this he passes on to us his strength, endurance and perseverance.

Obvious grandpa was an opportunist and in his ways he knew he was not afraid to work hard and hard he worked. His generosity exceeded to his family, friends, neighbors and the church. His inspiration made us believe that we can reach our dreams with a little faith and a lot of hope. He instilled in us a desire so strong that he made us not fear of the unknown but to go forward. We gained his courage and know there are no bound what we will do for our loved ones and perhaps our spirit for adventure.

1958 Nicola, Dora, and Margherita Zappitelli were sponsored by grandpa, my mom's parents. Mom remembers the ship, her sea sickness, and her fear of coming out alive or just the thought of not been able to find her luggage would reel her in a state of chaos. She remembers hunger and the bitter cold in a desolate land. Coming off the boat had to be filled with so many emotions. Fear, Hope, A New Beginning, Just trying to communicate to the people alone had to be an obstacle. I can see Mum worried about getting there only belongings from the cargo area and Dad begging for milk for there 11 month old daughter. Imagine the hand gestures in trying to communicate this to this new Canadian family. With very little money in there pocket, they boarded a train to Dryden. Four days later after a bumpy, slow hard seat train ride they finally arrived to the town of Dryden. Why? Dryden, it seems Grandpa saw something in this little town.

2006 and here we are, My family may not always see hand in hands, but a close family we are. I admire my family for we are like a unit of one love. If one is down we are all there to bring them back up. We have been inspired by our fathers and mothers to take and live life to the limit. To follow your dreams if is your desire for what ever the reason may be. We thank Vincenzo Armenti, Our Grandfather the bravest man we could ever meet. Our hero. Thank you Pier 21 for saving the memories of out past and the new beginning.