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Pietro Di Ioia

Told by his daughter: Maria Teresa Di Ioia


  1. Reasons for immigrating to Canada: To look for work in order to support his large family and to provide all of us, his five children, with an opportunity for a better future.
  2. Date: May 22,1950
  3. Port of entry: Halifax, Nova Scotia-Pier 21
  4. Ship: Vulcania - Third class


Personal profile of my father and my family

In post-World War II, it was extremely difficult to make a living. My father had five children and it was impossible to raise them on the produce of the land that my grandfather had divided among his six children. I know that my father loved his family, his home and his country and the experience of leaving it all behind must have been heartbreaking, nonetheless he pressed on towards the Canadian shores to give his family a new lease in life.

My father arrived in Canada in the spring of 1950 and was received by his cousin, Francesco Di Ioia who had arrived in Canada in 1924 via New York. This cousin was able to obtain a work contract with a farmer outside Montreal.

My father worked on this farm for a year and then he was hired by the Cadbury Chocolate Co. in Montreal.

The idea of emigrating was not new to our family. My paternal grandfather, Giambattista Di Ioia, had gone to the US several times and for several years between 1895 and 1906. He worked both for the railway company, in the several United States and for the mining company in Seattle, Washington. My maternal grandfather, Donato Tartaglia, spent the better part of the years 1907-1946, in Newark, New Jersey, working primarily for Gen. Electric Co. As children, we loved to hear stories of adventures from this new world called North America from our grandfathers.

In spite of bitter cold, enormous distances and the new languages, my father’s first impression of Canada was very positive. He appreciated being treated with respect and enjoyed the rights extended to him as a person and as a member of the Canadian work force. He worked very hard to support himself and to make enough money to bring the rest of his family to Canada. He earned everything that he had and considered it his duty not to be a financial burden, but rather to be a contributor to the welfare of the society that hosted him.

On May 23, 1953 my brother, Giambattista Di loia, came to Canada by himself at the age of seventeen on the ship called Vulcania. Later, on December 18,1953 my mother Maria Tartaglia Di Ioia, my sister Antonietta and my two younger brothers, Donato and Giuseppe, arrived in Montreal. They had sailed on the ship Conte Biancamano. I, Maria Teresa, the first born of five children, had already gone to New York City in August 1953 on a student visa. I lived in New York until I immigrated to Canada in 1980.

My family arrived in Montreal in the midst of the Christmas season. There was music, and there were holiday lights everywhere in the city. After a long and stressful trip on the ship and on the train, my family eyes finally rested on this joyful and happy vision of Montreal in the midst of the great celebration. One cannot describe the joy expressed in the hugs and tears when the train at last pulled in to Windsor station Montreal...! Everyone got out looking for familiar faces of relatives standing on the platform of the station to welcome them to this new land. Years later, my family recorded their first impression of this event in a family bulletin we used to publish once a year (volume VIII-95 is attached).

My dad had rented a little apartment on the second floor of the house on Papineau Ave. near his cousin, Francisco Di loia who had immigrated to Canada in 1924, and who had been the facilitator in my father’s coming to Canada.

Our reunited family was also very close to the Consolata Parish Church on Jean Talon Ave. There, Mom and Dad gathered their children to give thanks to God for the great blessing of family and for the chance to start a new life in this great land we call Canada.

In September 1955 my grandmother Maria Teresa Silvaggio/Diloia, came to Canada via New York City. At 73 years of age she had crossed the Atlantic alone, (a woman who had very seldom traveled 100 Km outside her village). She lived with us until she died in July 19, 1984 at the ripe age of 102 and 6 months. She is now with God and her remains rest with my mother and father in the cemetery of Norte Dame des Neiges in Montreal.

I wrote this poem at Jean Talon hospital as we were waiting hear from doctor about her condition.



Ore, giorni, anni...
passati nella gioia e nel dolore
tra fiori e grano nei campi dela vita
ove L’amore nasce ma non tramonta come il nostro sole.

Ora siamo qui
fiato difficile-minuto per minuto-
faticosi, incerti
llcuore centennario!

Si aspetta
la corsa del tempo si confonde col sonno dell’ eternita !... nostra luce di tenebre s’illumina di Dio
Sto testimoniando la nascita di un nuovo giorno per LEI...

C’e in questa stanza la presenza
Di quanti l’hanno preceduata nele fede.
Lei lo sa ... Ed e‘ in pace ...

...ll Signore e’il nostro Pastore,
Lui ci cerca, ci trova, ci carica sulle sue spalle
E ci riporta all `ovile del Padre.

Signore nelle tue mani raccomando il suo spirito!

July 13, 1984, 11:00 p.m.
Jean Talon Hospital, Montreal


An immigrant will finally feel part of a new country only when he has thrust his roots in the soil of the new land by burying in it the people he loves. Only then he can feel that he belongs there because his ancestors have consecrated the soil he walks on by their resting in.


The First Day in School in Canada

The morning was bright and sunny as I looked out the window. It was the morning of probably January 20, 1954. I do not remember the date exactly of my first day at school, but I do remember the arrival date that we disembarked from the ship CONTE BIANCOMANO in Halifax on Dec. 17, 1953. It took close to 2 days by train to arrive in Montreal from Halifax that would make it close to Christmas and therefore the schools were closed till probably January 6, 1954, this is why I am making an approximation of January 10, 1954 my first day at school.

The street of PAPINAU was a spotless white as the snow shimmered in the sunlight with blinding reflection against the sun. I noticed the smoke behind the cars forming little clouds and immediately disappearing in the sunlight. On our side of the street, there was a cart being pulled by a horse breathing heavy and blowing smoke out of his nostrils. The horse stopped in front of our house knowingly and a man stepped out of the colourful cart with 4 bottles of cool milk to leave behind our doorway. I discovered later that the bread man had the same system only I did not see him in the morning because his round was later during the day. I was still looking through the ice frozen windowpane when suddenly I heard mamma calling out reminding me to get dressed and come for breakfast.

The breakfast table was laid out as if a party was taking place; butter, milk, coffee, juice, jam, and toast - tons of toasts that we devoured with an insatiable appetite. Mamma was scurrying around the kitchen with such energy as if half of the day had already gone by, it was only 7 a.m. After devouring what seemed to be about a dozen toasts, the parish priest, of the Church La Consolata, showed up in our house to accompany us; me and Donato, to St. Dominic elementary school on DeLormier Street. I am now assuming that papa could not miss a day’s work, therefore he had arranged for the priest to bring us to school. Donato and I were dressed with heavy woolen knickers with leather patches on the knees. He wore plaid shirt and a heavy winter coat with a hood. The coat was sold not by how much it cost, but by now much it weighed.

Saying good-bye to mamma, and leaving together, me and Donato with this strange person that was a priest, we faced our first adventure outside the house in a strange land, and not knowing a single word of the official native languages. We were standing at the corner of Papineau and St. Zotique, the three of us, the priest, Donato and I, waiting for the streetcar. We were silent, cold and uncomfortable as this care rolled up to our corner. It had two long sticks on top that touched two wires as the power source. The conductor had a greenish uniform with a hat and greeted us with a strange language. Donato and I walked straight in and we beat two ladies to the only two empty seats in the car. For me it was adventurous to ride on this one car train, because I felt secure and reassured by Donato’s presence. I let my imagination wander as I stared at the endless rows of houses with their snail steel staircases, icicles hanging from the electric wires and mountains of snow in front of each ‘porch’ as they whizzed by the half frozen windowpane of the streetcar. After half an hour we arrived at the ‘huge’ building made of old, discoloured brown bricks. It had two wide tall oak doors, which gave access to a wide hall with lockers on each side. The wooden floors squeaked under our feet as we walked to the principal’s office to register our names.

After 10 minutes, the principal, whose name was Brother James, accompanied us, Donato and I, to the third grade class. The teacher first asked us and then motioned us to sit down in two empty desks. As Brother James walked out of the class and closed the door behind him, the longest day of my 10 year lifespan, began. I felt alone unable to communicate or understand anything. All I could do is use my imagination to try to understand by the gesture or the tone of voice, although I had no problem understanding numbers on the blackboard. To break the monotony and my daydreaming was the shrill of a bell announcing the 10:00 recess. It was a mad dash down the stairs to try to get to the schoolyard to play for the next 15 minutes.

I remember our teacher was a short chubby elderly woman. Thinking back, I can now compare her to Aunt Bee of the Andy Griffith Show. I must say though, she was a very kind hearted and patient person, especially with new immigrants. I guess that is why we were assigned to her class. Her calm and understanding mannerism relaxed us and made us feel accepted. I’ll always remember her as one of my better teachers. Soon it was lunchtime and after consuming my lunch, which was big enough for a construction worker, we stepped outside into the cold, icy and windswept schoolyard. Donato and I started wandering in the schoolyard not knowing whom to talk to or what to say, but in one corner we saw something that we could identify with: a few kids kicking a tennis ball around.

Joining in the game we started feeling as part of the team, made a few friends and one in particular I still see, because we play soccer together. At the end of the day, papa, who worked for Cadbury chocolates and was closed to our school, came to pick us up. On the train, papa was careful to show us how to get on the bus, how much to pay and what corner or landmarks to look for so we would learn our way to school, and on the very second day, we did it. We went to school, with the ‘train all by ourselves, me and Donato. The biggest thrill we had regarding our first experiences about school in Canada was finding out that schools are closed on Saturdays.


Christmas 1995 - Giuseppe Di Ioia



Finally the day had come when my mother, my two brothers Michele and Fernando and me, were leaving for Canada to be reunited with my father.

The year was 1957, with great expectations and with a young girl’s eagerness, I would explain to my friends that in the new country two languages would be spoken. It was beyond my comprehension that there would be two languages being spoken, especially after thinking that Italian was the only language in the world.

Our first house was near Botanical Gardens so guess where we went for walks on Sunday afternoons? We lived in a 4 1/2 , it was supposed to be rented to 4 people, so whenever the landlord would come upstairs, my role was to quickly hide so as not to be seen. A week after our arrival my father took me and my brothers to an English school near Ontario and Pie IX. We got assigned to our classes that same morning. After having a terrifying experience being separated from my father and my brothers, I now found myself facing another challenge. It was lunchtime and I had to go home. I assumed I was going to meet my brothers at the main entrance, but they were nowhere to be seen. I later discovered that my brothers thought that I would not attend school that day and that I had gone home with my father in the morning. After waiting for about 5 minutes, I made the drastic decision to go home by myself.

Not knowingly I headed the wrong way, when the surroundings and landmarks started to be different from what I had seen in the morning, I started to panic. A feeling of terror and helplessness crept inside me, I felt confused and unprotected. I wanted to see a familiar face and wanted to be able to communicate - to tell somebody my predicament. I felt like crying but I also realized that crying would not help the situation right now. At 9 years old I was too embarrassed to show my emotions to strangers. I kept on walking convincing myself that eventually I would come across familiar surroundings. After crossing a railroad track I ended up in a warehouse. I stopped at the doorway where a man saw me. He must have read the lonely and scared expression on my face. He spoke to me in the famous two languages, which were not familiar to me. It was at that point where I think he called the police.

At the sight of the police car I did not feel totally relieved, but I did feel reassured because I now felt that it was somebody else’s responsibility to locate my parents. After the police had made a few phone calls in the station, they put me in touch with this woman who thought she spoke Italian. She had a hard time to understand my Italian and I hers. We were not able to communicate with each other. The only thing I understood was “which school do you go to?” where upon I answered “vada alla scuola Americana.” Thinking with a typical Italian “furbita,” I refused a sandwich that the policeman offered me thinking that I would be poisoned (I used to watch a lot of movies in Italy!)

Not arriving at a conclusion at the station, we got back in the police car and cruised around the schools hoping that I would recognize my school. The radio communication in the police car was exciting and distracting, but I still felt anxious and embarrassed especially when the police would ask other school kids if they knew me.

At this point I had no control of time, but it seemed an eternity since I had left school. A strong loneliness was creeping up inside of me again, my throat felt choked as I held back the tears. All I wanted to do right now was to hug my mother. It was at this point, gazing outside the police car, that I saw a familiar face. I spontaneously cried out "Papa!" and I nudged the policeman that it was my father. I could not wait to get out of the car so that I could hug my father and feel protected by him and to be safely with my family again!!