With Heart and Soul: Calgary's Italian Community

With Heart and Soul: Calgary's Italian Community

With Heart and Soul: Calgary's Italian Community

With Heart and Soul: Calgary's Italian Community


With Heart and Soul goes beyond the normal treatment of causes and consequences of immigration and focuses on the ways in which "Old World" cultural traits were transformed and altered as immigrants encountered an urban, industrial--and at times, hostile--new environment. Based on 48 in-depth interviews with first-generation Italian immigrants, the story Fanella tells is compelling and informative, not only for Italian-Canadian readers, but also those interested in more general ethnic or immigration studies. With Heart and Soul is a sensitive testament to those whose lives were defined by the social and cultural upheaval that is immigration.


On 5 February 1968, my parents, my younger brother and I arrived in Calgary from Milano, Italy As Italian immigrants to Canada, we were latecomers in the process, and unlike many earlier immigrants, my family was not from a peasant or farming background. My paternal grandfather was a member of the Carabinieri (the Italian federal police force). My maternal grandfather worked for the Italian railway, the Ferrovie dello Stato. But, like many others before them, my parents came to Canada in search of economic prosperity.

My father had made the decision to come to Canada. His maternal grandfather had been a sojourner in the United States. Nonno had wanted to emigrate permanently, but his wife had steadfastly refused, and shortly before the First World War, he returned to Italy for good. Like his grandfather, my father also wanted to emigrate. the only problem was that the opportunity had not presented itself. Now he had a chance to come to Canada. He had been enticed by letters from his sister, who claimed that there were plenty of jobs and never-ending opportunities for those who wanted to become wealthy. My mother was not impressed. She knew her sister-in-law was prone to exaggeration and felt that my father was being duped. She refused to go. They argued for months, and in the end he won. My mother was partly right. While my father, a cabinetmaker, quickly found employment in the construction industry, the streets were clearly not paved with gold. the work was not what he was accustomed to, and it was seasonal in nature.

Neither of my parents was prepared for the cultural shock. My mother found the adjustment particularly difficult. Separated from her large, close-knit family, she spent many days alone and depressed. She begged my father to admit he had made a mistake and return home. He was determined to stay “per I bambini, per il futuro”: “For the children,” he argued, “for their future.” My mother reluctantly agreed. Both of them worked hard and made many sacrifices so that my brother and I would have a better life than they themselves had known. All they asked for in return was love and respect.

My parents were not so different from other Italo-Canadians in this aspect. Italy is a country of vast regional differences. There is, however, one common thread that unites all Italians: their love of children and their commitment to their families. Family is the most important element of Italo-Canadian culture. It shaped the pattern of settlement, set the social code and transferred part of the culture to the younger generation. There . . .

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