Default header image

Interview With Grace Tomasicchio


July 21, 2011


Columbus Centre



Interview With Grace Tomasicchio

Grace Tomasicchio was born on December 29, 1932 in Toronto, ON. Grace was one of seven children born to Italian immigrants, Maria Rosa (Rose) Maiorana and Giuseppe (Joe) Tomasicchio. Grace’s parents and her uncle first arrived in New York City in 1912 aboard the America before moving to Toronto. Grace explains that her parents had a good life back home and were both educated and that their reason for immigrating was different than other  immigrants. According to Grace, her father wanted to move to America where the streets were “paved in gold.” However, the young newlyweds arrived to face hostility where signs read, “No Italians” or “Italians need not apply.” After a fruitless job search and the unfortunate death of their first son, the Tomasicchios moved to Toronto shortly after.

On June 10, 1940, Grace was seven years old. She remembers being in her family’s store, Select Linen, when two plain clothes Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers, came in looking for her father. They arrested him and escorted him in their police car to the family home, which they recklessly searched. Grace recalls the family visits to the Canadian National Exhibition Grounds to see her dad during his detainment. She also recalls testifying at her father’s trial in an attempt to get him released from Camp Petawawa. Grace talks at length about her family life and her school experiences before, during, and after her father’s internment. She also says that after her father’s release he became a hard man and his love for opera singing ceased. Grace firmly believes that her experiences during what she calls the “concentration times” shaped who she is today. Lastly, she explains that her decision to have a big family and to relocate to California is a result of her experiences during World War II.

Grace Tomasicchio introduces herself and speaks about her family and her birth in Toronto.

In this clip Grace Tomasicchio speaks about her parents. She discusses life in Italy and their decision to migrate to the United States and then to Canada.

Grace Tomasicchio speaks about living in Toronto and the discrimination Italians faced.

Grace Tomasicchio describes a conversation she had with her father the day before his arrest.

Grace Tomasicchio shares the events of June 10, 1940 when her father was arrested.

Grace Tomasicchio speaks about visiting her father while he was detained at the CNE grounds in Toronto and about his internment at Camp Petawawa.

In this clip Grace Tomasicchio describes life at home during her father’s internment. She speaks about her mother’s struggle to support the family, the discrimination she faced at school regarding her father’s internment and the conscription notice received by her brothers.

Grace Tomasicchio describes how her mother enlisted the services of a lawyer after her father was charged with being a fascist and member of the dopolavoro. She then goes on to speak about testifying at her father’s trial and her father’s eventual release from camp.

In this clip Grace Tomasicchio shares speaks about life in the internment camp based on information her father shared with her on his return home.

Grace Tomasicchio speaks about seeing her father for the first time upon his release from camp. She also describes how her father was a changed man after his return home.

Grace Tomasicchio shares more memories from the day her father was arrested.

Grace Tomasicchio speaks about the Toronto neighbourhood she grew up in.

Grace Tomasicchio describes the mood in her neighbourhood after the arrests. She also speaks about the enemy alien designation.

Grace Tomasicchio briefly speaks about Italian community organizations and the involvement of both her parents in these organizations.

Grace Tomasicchio shares information about her father’s experiences in the internment camp.