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The purpose of this interview is to study the purposes of Italian immigrants coming from Italy during different time periods and compare and share stories of how each experience is different. There are many personal stories of different generations coming to Canada and what they experienced then compared to later on in the century and even now. There are also differences in age and gender, how people were treated, what opportunities they had, what life as an immigrant meant, and how culture changes and continues. Many people experience new problems and struggles, new opportunities and chances for the better, and in general what it means to leave the culture that you’ve grown with to assimilate to a new place and find a new sense of community and belonging. The way we do this is by conducting interviews with all types of immigrants from different parts of Italy, age, gender, generation, and any differences that could provide a new perspective on Italian immigration. For the purpose of this study, we conducted either in-person or recorded semi-structured interviews to ask our interviewees questions about their stories and hear about their chronicles and see how they are different from the past, and learn about new struggles or advantages from all types of perspectives.
Throughout this interview, though not of Italian descent or heritage, our neighboring countries share some similarities and allow us to recognize differences and learn about different perspectives of immigration stories. Nataliya immigrated to Canada far later than most stories studied in the course; however, this means that there are other obstacles and advantages to consider and look into. The purpose of this study is to learn and compare immigration stories through cultures. This interview is conducted so that we can study the history of Canadian immigration by using as much content as possible and making relations and comparisons on how each journey through time has changed and what each person has had to go through to reach this new sense of home or nationality.
The aim of this interview is to compare stories on immigration but also focus on why Nataliya decided to leave home and start over from nothing in a strange place. This interview also focuses on how immigrants feel about moving and what is home to them, whether it’s where they originated or grew up or where they start a new life.
What age group/generation are you in?
Gen X: 1965-1979 (1973)
What first brought you to Canada? Did you know anyone, friends or family? Where and when did you first arrive and with whom?
In a long-term relationship, her partner got an opportunity to go to Canada and she wanted to follow so she got on a flight to Vancouver to pose as a gymnast at the Olympics and then moved to start their life in Toronto.
How old were you when you immigrated?
25 years old
What do you remember of your first impression of Canada? Did you encounter any obstacles/barriers?
Coming to Canada for the first time was shocking because she had never seen anything like the things that we have, trucks, roads and highways, stores filled and filled with things, everything was so new and out of this world for her considering the small village she comes from. She struggled with the language barrier for some time, trying to communicate in English and learning the language.
Did you bring any items of importance with you? When you left did you think you would be coming back or was it a permanent move?
She did not bring any items because she was only allowed her “gym bag” for her Olympic outfits and equipment, she had to buy absolutely everything all over again, and nothing sentimental was brought. At the time she was permanently moving, she was excited to go to a new place and start a life there.
Did you exchange letters with family, how did you stay in contact with friends and family from home or outside of Canada?
She wrote some letters every now and then and we have some kept back in Bulgaria, but for the most part, there was the convenience of calling cards for phones to buy and call on a one-time use basis.
Where is home for you and why?
I feel Canadian but I am also still Bulgarian and that is where home is where I grew up and by heart. But my first home where I started for myself in a big part of my life.
Anything you would have done differently? Did starting motherhood here make you feel more Canadian or give you increased sense?
Yes absolutely! I was so happy and proud to be Canadian, it was my new home where I started my own life for myself and planted my own roots and where I had my two children.
Did you find it easy to meet other Bulgarians or get involved in a community?
At the time there were no Bulgarian stores or foods or traces of it, but there were Bulgarian churches that hosted events and I would meet people and go out to bars and nights out and managed to establish a sense of group or community the more people met and interacted.
What was it like to go to a new place with a new culture, how does it make you feel about your cultures and traditions while being here?
I didn’t know anything about Canada or Canadian culture at all. The first holiday I heard about and participated in was St. Patrick’s Day and from there the holidays kept rolling in and I kept learning about all these new things, and I was excited to go and do something new, people would say oh there’s something going on let’s go and see it and enjoy, it was fun.
Academic Poster Project – A Neighboring Story
In this interview, though my heritage/ interviewee is not from Italy, my family comes from Bulgaria which is still in Europe and there are interesting differences and similarities in the immigration process. Some of the differences between my mother’s interview story and the course readings are primarily due to generational periods. For example, some of the readings focus on immigration stories dating from post-World War II up to the 1970s and newer generations. Immigration was different then and there have been many changes by the time my mother finally arrived. In the course content and readings, we see that Italian immigrants faced other obstacles, one in particular that stood out to me was the internment camps. These camps were like small cities/village societies where male immigrants were sent to live, separated from their families, to work for the government during industrial times. This was a forced settlement and a struggle for new immigrants who were escaping for a better life. The immigration process for Italians during this time period was significantly different than the process in the later 19th century, seeing as it was under more control and more powerful government influence. Even though my mother’s immigration was at a much later period than internment camps and the industrial era, she spoke about how she experienced more freedoms and chances to do what she chose to do since her country at the time was very restrictive and unfair when it came to being part of society, which is something that many immigrants might relate to, seeking that sense of freedom and change in lifestyle. By this, I refer to the fact that Nataliya expressed concerns about not having enough freedom or opportunity to live freely and was always under strict laws and societal pressures.
Some similarities come from cultural traditions and emotions, my mother would say how it makes a difference to have a sense of community from her cultural background in a foreign place, missing home, finding and creating a new sense of home and a new life for herself and establishing own roots, as well as experiencing similar thoughts and emotions upon first arrival. It’s a whole new world and there is so much unknown and new things that are seen for the first time and are strange to you to see compared to where you come from. Another similarity between the Bulgarian and Italian communities in Canada is the development of nationality; I was interested to learn how immigrants develop a new sense of nationality and sense of belonging in new places outside of where they are from. For example, in the film Enigmatico, many Italian families that immigrated and settled in Canada and have family now explain how they still connect with their Italian heritage and culture, while also identifying with Canadian nationality and culture. One example from the movie showed a family in Quebec where an Italian man married a French woman and started a family in Canada, and they explained that living in Canada and starting a family here made them feel more Canadian. In the same way, Nataliya and many others explain that starting a family or planting roots in Canada gives them a greater feeling of nationality. Some immigrants might associate the question of home differently depending on age and experience but for the most part, those who leave for Canada at a younger age are more likely to associate home with Canada since its where they started their life, but also have a strong connection to their origins.
During this interview project, I learned many new things both about Italian heritage and the history of Canadian immigration but also about the story of my mother’s origins in Canada and how I understand my family history and culture. I was mostly interested in internment and how families and immigrants dealt with that system and other matters throughout history, and it was very interesting to see how far society has come and changed. It made me realize how as a society and as a nation we greeted and treated immigrants from around the world and what kind of life was promised and given to them. I learned about how these cultures and communities coexisted and how generations went through different processes and systems and how men and women were divided and worked. This interview also allowed me to see how each culture has a different story in immigrating, looking at Italian immigrants, there were many in numbers and there were Italian communities and traces of culture everywhere. In comparison, there are far less Bulgarian immigrants entering Canada either due to fewer opportunities for immigration or less desire to leave; either way, the Bulgarian communities are smaller in Canada, culture is less visible and there is less stability or reliance on having familiarity and it causes for people to grow and accustom to a new life and nationality. Before conducting this interview or starting the project, I had no idea what immigration to Canada was like at all from any perspective and I think the more perspectives you hear and stories you read, the more you’ll learn how we function as a society in Canada and from other parts of the world.
Naydenov, Michelle. “Italian Immigration: A Neighboring Story.” YouTube. 12 October 2023. https://youtu.be/EHr-I_FSZUs; access at Italian Communities in Canada: Heritage, Cultural and Ethnographic Studies as of December 2021, www.italianheritage.ca.
Naydenov, Michelle. “Italian Immigration: A Neighboring Story.” In Italian Communities in Canada: Heritage, Cultural and Ethnographic Studies, suprv. Teresa Russo. University of Guelph: 26 October 2021, Guelph (academic poster, www.italianheritage.ca).
How to Cite this page
Naydenov, Michelle. “Italian Immigration: A Neighboring Story.” In Italian Communities in Canada: Heritage, Cultural and Ethnographic Studies, suprv. Teresa Russo. University of Guelph, 13 November 2023, Guelph (http). Italian-Canadian Narratives Showcase (ICNS), Sandra Parmegiani, Kyra Bates, and Gurpreet Kaur.