Just watched the movie Brooklyn.
I’m first generation Canadian. My father emigrated from Italy in 1951 at the age of 17 all by himself. That, in itself, amazes me. My mother emigrated, from Italy, at 21 years old in 1957. He was on that same ship that my mother was on after visiting his family for the first time in 6 years!
While he was in Canada, he had worked in lumber camps in Manitoba and Ontario. He’d lived in a boarding house and worked for pennies an hour. My mother’s first job was .60/hour working in a sock factory. This was a job she got because she already (at 21) had 7 years experience working in a silk making factory in Italy.
I just watched the movie called Brooklyn. It’s about an Irish girl who emigrates to Brooklyn and how difficult it was for her. She was excited about starting a new life in a new world but devastated at leaving her sister and mother at home. The scenes of her waving goodbye on the ship nearly tore me apart! I imagined my mother or father doing the same thing. I can still hear my father telling me about the time his mother slapped him because he told her he was leaving. He was her only son.
I have a 16 year old son and a 20 year old son. Not in a million years can I imagine them getting on board a ship and leaving us, to go to – say Japan- and not seeing us for 6 years! Life was so different then. There were no cell phones, Skype, TV, nothing. They wrote letters.
This young woman lost her sister while she was in Brooklyn. Her whole life changed and yet she yearned for her old home. It wasn’t until she went back to visit her mother that she realized that she left for a reason. Even though she found some happiness back at home, she knew deep in her heart that her life was now in America. She had left to make a better life for herself and she had.
My parents did the same thing. Not without heartbreak. Not without hardship and pain. Millions of immigrants from all over the world for hundreds of years have passed through this same hardship and pain to make a better life for themselves and their children.
I thank my parents for doing this. I honour their bravery, their courage and strength to keep going, even when things were so lonely and tough.
I didn’t think I’d be so affected by a movie but I was. It really hit home for the first time in my life what my parents went through. I had heard the stories, and I’d even written about them. I just hadn’t experience the pain and sorrow (through some great acting) that they felt.
If you have a chance, and you want to learn what it was like for these immigrants in the 50s, watch the movie. It was an eye opener.