April 15, 2011
Interview With Gerard Di Battista & Victor Di Battista
Gerard and Victor Di Battista are the sons of Luigi Di Battista, an Italian immigrant who came to Canada in 1913. Luigi married a woman 10 years his junior in 1919 and together they had nine children. The family ran a store in Lachine and Luigi operated a barber shop business. Both Gerard and Victor, along with the other Di Battista children, were born in Lachine and grew up in that multi-ethnic neighbourhood before their father was interned. On June 10,1940, Luigi was arrested and interned at Camp Petawawa as an enemy alien. His family found itself in difficult financial circumstances as a result of this. They relocated to Saint-Henri, Montreal, and lived in small accommodations infested with rodents. Eventually, the older Di Battista children found work and the family situation improved. It was at this time that Gerard enlisted in the Canadian army, although the war ended before he saw any fighting. While his son was away on training, Luigi was released from custody and came home. He found work as a barber again. Both Victor and Gerard believe that their father was different after he came out of the internment camp, particularly in the privacy of his home. They describe him as quiet and taciturn in private, although he was a popular figure in public. They believe that the Canadian government has neglected the issue of Italian internment during World War II, and that families should be compensated for the difficulties the internments caused.
In this opening clip Gerard and Victor Di Battista introduce themselves and talk about their parents and siblings.
Gerard and Victor Di Battista share memories of life in Lachine. They speak about their home life, the neighbourhood and their father’s grocery business.
Gerard and Victor Di Battista talk about the language spoken at home and discuss their Italian heritage.
Gerard and Victor Di Battista speak about attending picnics and church when they were children growing up in Lachine.
Gerard and Victor Di Battista speak about a camp they attended with Gentile Dieni (who was eventually interned along with their father) prior to the war.
Gerard and Victor Di Battista mention that their siblings attended Italian classes in Lachine prior to the war. Their sister Adeline also won a scholarship in 1936 in which she traveled to Italy.
In this clip Gerard and Victor Di Battista describe their family life prior to the outbreak of war.
Gerard and Victor Di Battista discuss their father’s involvement in the Order Sons of Italy and the dopolavoro. They also recall the various processions and bands parading through the neighbourhood and men wearing black shirts.
Gerard and Victor Di Battista recall singing Italian songs such as Giovinezza and Faccetta Nera in their home prior to the war.
Gerard and Victor Di Battista recall the events of June 10, 1940 and the arrest of their father Luigi Di Battista.
Gerard and Victor Di Battista describe how their family coped during their father’s absence.
Gerard and Victor Di Battista further elaborate on the difficult financial situation the family faced after Luigi Di Battista’s internment.
Gerard and Victor Di Battista speak about the strength their mother displayed during their father’s internment. They also explain how they and their siblings went to work to help support the family.
Gerard Di Battista talks about enlisting to serve in the Canadian military while his father was interned.
Gerard and Victor Di Battista recount one of the stories they heard from the camp involving Camillien Houde, the then-mayor of Montreal.
Gerard and Victor Di Battista talk about their father’s return home and his hesitance to speak about the period.
Gerard and Victor Di Battista describe the change they noticed in their father’s personality upon his return home.
Gerard and Victor Di Battista speaks about the redress efforts.
Gerard and Victor Di Battista discuss issues of redress and apology.
Gerard and Victor Di Battista describe how their lives would have been different if their father was never interned.
In this final clip Gerard and Victor Di Battista talk about their father’s working life after his release from the internment camp.