The discussion centred around Mr. and Mrs. Cavaliere's emigration
experiences, their community activities and issues of self identity.
- Emigration - Rudy and Rita both emigrated after
WWII, while in their pre-teen years, from the town of
Grimaldi in the Italian region of Calabria. Rudy was 8
years old when he arrived in Canada with his mother and
younger brother in 1954. From their debarkation
point in New York, they took a train to Toronto and on
to Kapuskasing in northern Ontario where they met up
with his father who had left Italy five years before.
- Differences and difficulties - had a tough time in Kapuskasing. "We knew what we were leaving behind, but we didn't know what we were getting into." Houses seemed temporary; they were made of wood, not stone. Feeling of isolation not only because of language barrier (they were the only Italian family in Kapaskasing), but also because they left a place where a "whole village raises a child". Feelings of
embarrassment over language - was put into kindergarten when he first arrived, even though he was almost 9 years old. He caught on to English quickly, and then refused to speak Italian. It would take over 20 more years before he developed the required pride in his heritage to speak it again. Rita was almost 11 years old when she, her mother, and two older brothers came directly to Edmonton in 1955 to join her father and three other brothers who arrived in 1949 and 1951. Other members of her extended family were already in Edmonton, she learned English quickly, and thus remembers her start in Canada as a happy situation.
- Community identity - in 1955 , when Rita arrived, there was hardy anything organized by or for the Italian community in Edmonton. There were family gatherings, and the group from Grimaldi would get together. In 1958 when the priests came, the church brought the entire Italian community ("those from elsewhere") together. As more Italians arrived in waves in the 1950s and 1960s, different regional divisions began to identify themselves. The community became more divisive, yet it kept certain aspects of the culture alive.
- Occupations - Rudy's mother (nee Franca) worked as a seamstress at GWG, then at a drapery company. Carpentry was in the Cavaliere family background, and before Rudy became a teacher he worked at Alberta Motor Boat Co. repairing and storing boats. Both Rudy and Rita had teachers who inspired them to become teachers as well; Rita taught Grade 3; Rudy taught math.
- Community involvement - helped establish the NCIC, Edmonton District in 1979. -With direction from Sab Roncucci helped found the Appennini Dancers in 1979/80. General folk dance (the
ciccarenella) classes were held at St. Mark's School where Rudy taught. Both of Rudy & Rita's sons participated. -Rudy started photographing in the community around 1977 (exhibited 'Christmas Around the World' in the
Basilica), is a photographer for Il Congresso, and continues to visually chronicle events in the Italian community.
- Self-identity - as opposed to how he felt as a youth and recent immigrant to Canada, today Rudy takes a great source of pride in being Italian. His trips back to Italy had a lot to do with this; he became aware of the great cultural heritage of which he was a part. "Grimaldi is the centre of the universe." He speaks of being hurt by how Italians in Italy regard emigrants. Those that left are thought of as "the lowest of the low". But he thinks that "they should be thanking us instead." Both Rudy and Rita had instilled in them pride of who they were because of how they were raised, not necessarily because they were Italian.
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