The Unforgotten Journey: Honoring Those Who Shaped Italian America

In keeping with our mission to preserve our past, we've provided the following accounts from ISDA readers.

Pat Caliguire My grandparents came here alone when they were very young. They were 14 or 15 years old. They were able to make a living for themselves, learn the language, make friends, marry, raise families and live a better life than they had in Italy. I will be forever grateful to them for what they taught me.

Joel Cavicchia In 1948, my dad left his home in rural Italy for work in Venezuela ,at the age of 18….before emigrating to the US a few years later. Until he visited Italy 16 years later in 1964, he did not hear his mother’s voice, (or those of other close relatives)and only saw pictures of her, or an occasional letter. Phone calls were virtually impossible to make (for those few who had phones) and hideously expensive. In 1957, he learned of the sudden death of his young sister in Italy, from third parties in the US, who somehow got a phone call from somebody.. . and knocked on his door to tell him the news. Like something out of the Middle Ages, almost. You grew fast as an immigrant in those days. Just the way some immigrants, from other parts of the world, have to grow up fast today.

Anna A. Muraglia: My father came through Ellis Island as a young boy from Italy in 1910. When World War 1 broke out, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, as an Italian Immigrant. For his service during the War, he was given the honor to become an American citizen. Later, he returned back to Italy for a visit, met my mom and got married in 1927, and both returned back to New York. It was very difficult for them raising 7 children, and I am the youngest. My father worked very hard to support us, and never never ever did he receive any handouts. We grew our own fruits and vegetables, and mom made bread and pasta every day. I travel back and forth quite often to Bari to visit all my cousins in Italy. We are all in contact with each other every day. I had my Mom’s and Dad’s names inscribed on “The Wall of Honor” at Ellis Island. I cry everytime I see the Statue of Liberty, and the hardships my parents suffered, but they made a better life for us, and for this sacrifice, us children are forever grateful.

Alan Fedele: I just saw the “home” in Italy in which my grandfather and grandmother lived and my uncle was born. I know it was a hundred years ago, but even then it couldn’t have been much more than a few steps above a cave. I love Italy today, but am so grateful that all four of my grandparents had the courage to leave and journey to an uncertain future in America.

Isabelle Richards: I visited my grandfather’s village in the mountains of Campania several years ago. The town is fairly isolated with few amenities even now. It occurred to me how difficult and arduous a journey it was just to get to Naples to get on a ship leaving for America. Thank you, Grandpa, for the opportunities I have because of your sacrifice!

Louis Rotando: My grandfather, Bernardo Rotando, who died before I was born, was a skilled furniture maker. He came here from a small town near Naples and brought a wooden box of carpenters tools and a suitcase. My cousin Bernard got the tools and I inherited the box, which is in my living room.

Rose Lewis: Nana was put on a ship at 13, by herself, traveling across an ocean to a new life. Life was not easy but through hard work and determination she carved a future for herself and for the family. We are very grateful for her courage and strength.

Dolly Pardi Spadaro: When I think of my grandmother coming to America alone leaving her family behind to marry my grandfather all I can think is they were made of stronger stuff. The best part was the love they had for each other. 

ynn Peterson My grandparents were among those who came from Calabria. They were hard working loving people who made their way to America. Who helped make this country what it was. Land of the free and home of the brave. God Bless America!

Jacalyn D’Andrea Melchiano God Bless my ancestors. Love being an American of Italian descent. Worked hard and were glad they came to this great country.

Linda Musi Myers We have a photograph of my grandfather, Carlo Uccellini, on the deck of the ship on which he sailed to America from Abruzzo. He is flanked by other passengers. In his hands is a concertina.

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