La Dolce Vita

Start­ing a new life in Canada wasn’t al­ways easy, but this cou­ple has no re­grets

More of Our Canada - - Contents - by An­na­maria and Ezio Cucinelli

We have raised two chil­dren, helped raise six grand­chil­dren, and have fed many neigh­bours and friends over the years since im­mi­grat­ing to Canada from Italy more than 50 years ago. Here is our story:


When I ar­rived in Canada from Italy 54 years ago as a young bride, Canada was very dif­fer­ent from the coun­try cel­e­brat­ing its 150th birth­day this year—ex­cept for the cold and snow, which I have come to wel­come ev­ery win­ter. In 1963, the lit­tle town of Bel­mont near Lon­don, Ont., was not very dif­fer­ent in size from my home­town in Italy, but it was full of the op­por­tu­ni­ties I didn’t feel I had at home. Here, I was free to do things my own way, whether it was go­ing to school, work­ing, stay­ing home to look after my fam­ily, or all three.

Peo­ple in Bel­mont wel­comed me and ap­pre­ci­ated my abil­ity to sew; I made wed­ding dresses and dresses for the ladies at the lo­cal lodge. They helped me learn to speak English and fig­ure out how things worked in this coun­try. The store­keeper would tell me, “It’s not a gal­lon of milk, it’s a jug of milk,” and I re­mem­ber the ma­trons of the town act­ing as role mod­els for “the Cana­dian way” of do­ing things. When I took high school classes here, the his­tory teacher let me take oral ex­ams be­cause I could speak bet­ter than I could write.

I never looked back, and I’ve never re­gret­ted com­ing here, but I don’t think the same free­dom or that way of life ex­ists any­more, even here. One of the things I en­joy do­ing is volunteering as a gar­dener and an in­ter­preter at Fan­shawe Pi­o­neer Vil­lage, be­cause it is a way of re­liv­ing the way of life that used to ex­ist here.


I left Italy in 1958 at the age of 19, to start a new life in Canada.

My first en­coun­ters in Canada were not quite so wel­com­ing. When we got off the boat at Pier 21 in Hal­i­fax, it was the first time I had ever seen peo­ple of dif­fer­ent colours, but that wasn’t what I found dis­turb­ing—it was what they were say­ing to us, telling us to go back home so we wouldn’t take their jobs. It wasn’t a good first im­pres­sion. But in fact there was al­ways a lot of work for us, as tile set­ters and ter­razzo work­ers, even though some­times we had to work out of town, leav­ing at 5 a.m. and driv­ing for three hours through the snow and bush to the mid­dle of nowhere.

I still re­mem­ber de­posit­ing my first $5 at the Sco­tia­bank on Som­er­set in Ot­tawa, and the feel­ing of ac­com­plish­ment that gave me.

The good times have def­i­nitely out­weighed the bad, and the thing I value most about Canada is how peo­ple here re­spected and trusted me. Now I’m try­ing to give back any way I can by volunteering in dif­fer­ent ways within the com­mu­nity. ■

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