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Single Men and Women

Roberto Pellegrini
August 1949

My father, Roberto Pellegrini was born in Osoppo, Italy (province of Friuli) on April 8, 1920.

He was just a young man when he had to join the Italian army during WWII.

He seldom told us stories of the war as I don't think he liked to think back to those times as they were very difficult. I remember him telling us a story of his ship going down and he and the other surviving members spent almost 24 hours in the ocean waiting to be rescued. He lost friends to sharks and others just couldn't make it. He was only one of a few who survived! He was even taken prisoner by the Germans and eventually managed to escape.

Sadly, my father passed away in 1997 so I never really got to hear all the tales like I would have liked to.

As the years passed, my father decided to come to Canada to get married to his fiancé from back home who would follow him over and start a better life; have better opportunities. He came on the Saturnia in August of 1949 with a cousin. It took approximately 8 days to travel from Italy to Canada and it was a very rough ride; something that he would never forget. He arrived at the port of Halifax and then took the train to Union Station in Toronto. The train ride too was a long one and he wondered about his new life as he looked out at the open land before him. From Toronto he then travelled to Port Credit to stay with his aunt.

Starting out was not easy, as he had to learn the language and work very hard for very little money. He found work at the Cooksville (Ontario) brickyard which was actually a P.O.W. camp during the war.

He lived there for two and half years.

My Mom (his fiancée at the time), Noemi Gubiani from Gemona del Friuli eventually came to Canada in 1951, also arriving in Halifax.

She remembers the long boat ride and the train ride to Toronto and how scared she was. [She knew] that they were starting from practically nothing and it was a new country, a new language. She was terrified.

My parents married in 1951 and managed to save enough money to buy a house in 1953 for $15,000 and 3 mortgages. 

They went on to have two children, my brother Frank was born in 1962 and myself (Sonia) in 1965.

They worked very hard and went back home to Italy several times but have never regretted moving to Canada.

My mother is making the journey to Halifax to see Pier 21 this June.

My father will be in her thoughts.