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Giulio Cesare and Gabriela Maria Alessandroni

On August 4, 1956, the Alessandroni Family had landed at Pier 21, Halifax. There they set foot to a new adventure, a new chapter of a family full of love, faith and hope.

But unlike most immigrants, my family had not left to find the land of plenty. Rather, they had left to find a world where their love would be allowed to flourish.

Giulio Cesare and Gabriela Maria Alessandroni at CMI Pier 21 with their daughter Anna Teresa

Giulio Cesare and Gabriela Maria Alessandroni with their daughter Anna Teresa. Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (DI2013.1773.1).

My mother Gabriela was the daughter of a well-to-do landowner. Through wartime Italy, she had remained the jewel of her father's life. And yet the only thing that my grandfather would not allow her was the blessing of a marriage to a poor, hardworking, gentle man named Giulio Alessandroni. My grandfather had disavowed the relationship, though the couple married anyway.

In the spring of 1954, my older sister was born. The young couple named her Anna Teresa, in honour of my father’s own and only sister who had died suddenly at the age of 21. And within two years of her birth, the Alessandroni’s were soon sailing to a new land and a new world. Having borrowed money for the journey, they were headed for Canada and to Pier 21.

Giulio Alessandroni, second to a family of seven children, had tragically lost an eye at the age of 12, due to a childhood accident. Doctors were in short supply because of the war effort, and for the remainder of his life he had been left with a damaged tear duct that would not allow for the adoption of a glass eye. Wearing a makeshift patch made of cotton pushed into place by glasses, my father never complained of his trials, but pursued life with kindness, gentleness and laughter.

Not knowing the language and not a stranger to hard work, Giulio quickly picked up odd jobs until he was able to find a position as baker and pâtissier. And then, in 1959, a son was born.

In Canada, it was my mother who took the reins as the driving force of this small familial unit. Joining the work force, their combined effort and ambition led my parents to open and grow their very own successful bakery, but in 1985, a few weeks shy of his 58th birthday, my father succumbed to cancer. His short life had left behind his life-long love, Gabriela, and two grown children; and a legacy of love, honour and family.

Proud to be Italo-Canadian, our roots remain Italian. But the fortune to which we became was with Canada.

We are who we are because of my dad, because of this great land and because of the gateway that is simply known as Pier 21.

- Henry Alessandroni