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Interviews With Antoinette Olivieri


May 17, 2011


Columbus Centre



Interview 1 With Antoinette Olivieri

Antoinette Olivieri was born in Hamilton, Ontario. Her father-in-law, Donato Olivieri, owned a hotel on Sherman Avenue in Hamilton. Many of the Italian immigrant men lived in this hotel and worked hard to bring their wives over from Italy. Donato was one of the first Italian man in Hamilton to be interned during World War II. He was held at the Exhibition Grounds in Toronto before he was sent to Camp Petawawa and Camp Ripples, for a total of 33 months. Antoinette remembers the time of the mass arrests, when the telephone rang every day and her parents received updates on who had been arrested. A couple of Antoinette’s husband’s family were also interned. At one point, Antoinette’s mother-in-law was arrested for one day and put in a Hamilton jail. Antoinette’s parents, Ralph and Louise Di Filippo, came to Canada when they were very young (her father was 9 months; her mother 3 years). They both lived in Montreal and then moved to Hamilton after they married. The Di Filippos were declared enemy aliens; they were fingerprinted, issued special papers stating they were Italian, and ordered to report monthly to the police.

In this opening clip Antoinette Olivieri introduces herself and talks about the reason her parents moved from Montreal to Hamilton.

Antoinette Olivieri speaks about her father-in-law who owned a hotel in Hamilton. In this clip she describes his arrest on June 10, 1940.

Antoinette Olivieri discusses how she found out about her father-in-law’s arrest.

Antoinette Olivieri mentions that her father-in-law did not talk about about his internment once he returned home.

In this clip Antoinette Olivieri mentions that at one point her mother-in-law and another woman were arrested and brought to jail in Hamilton.

Antoinette Olivieri’s father-in-law was sent to the Canadian National Exhibition grounds in Toronto prior to being interned at Camp Petawawa. In this clip Antoinette recalls that her husband was able to visit his father in Toronto and in Petawawa.

Antoinette Olivieri believes that many of the men in Hamilton, including her father-in-law, were interned due to their involvement with the Casa d’Italia.

Antoinette Olivieri mentions that her father-in-law was interned for 33 months and during that time the families in the Hamilton community would band together to help each other out.

Antoinette Olivieri talks about her father-in-law’s experience in the internment camps.

Antoinette Olivieri briefly speaks about the wooden jewellery box her father-in-law made for her while he was interned.

Antoinette Olivieri speaks about her father-in-law’s release from camp.

Antoinette Olivieri mentions that her father-in-law did not hold any grudges against the government after his release.

In this clip Antoinette Olivieri speaks about the discrimination her parents faced during the war years.

Antoinette Olivieri mentions that her parents were declared enemy aliens during World War II.

In this clip Antoinette Olivieri mentions that her mother-in-law had to sell the family hotel during her husband’s internment because she could not manage the business. She goes on to explain how the family had to re-establish their life upon his release.

In closing Antoinette Olivieri reflects on the internment period. Although it was a difficult period for Italian Canadians, Antoinette feels that the community dealt with the difficulties and moved on.


August 11, 2011


Columbus Centre



Interview 2 With Antoinette Olivieri

Antoinette Olivieri was born on April 14, 1929 in Hamilton, Ontario to Ralph and Louise Di Filippo. Her parents were both born in Italy, but raised in Montreal, Quebec, before moving to Hamilton to begin their life together. Antoinette is the daughter-in-law of internee Donato Olivieri — a hardworking businessman and hotel owner from Hamilton. In her second interview she recounts her experiences growing up in the city, including living in a predominantly Irish and Scottish neighbourhood, attending St. Patrick’s elementary school, and the underlying sense of discrimination that was directed towards Italians in the community. Antoinette explains that her parents spoke both of the official languages in addition to Italian, however they were only able to speak English in Hamilton due to this sense of hostility; Italian and French were only spoken while visiting relatives in Montreal. Her parents were both business owners (her dad was a barber and her was mother a hair stylist) in the community, and speaking only English was one way to ensure support from patrons in the community. Antoinette discusses the sense of support she received from other ItalianCanadians in Hamilton during her father’s medical emergency, as well as her experience taking Italian classes at Casa d’Italia.  She concludes her interview by saying that Canada is a good country and that while internees had to re-build their lives, she still identifies herself as Canadian-Italian rather than Italian-Canadian, although her family roots will always be with Italy.

In this opening clip Antoinette Olivieri speaks about the Hamilton neighbourhood she grew up in.

Antoinette Olivieri mentions that most of the Italian men worked at the steel plant. She also speaks about the local church her family attended.

In this clip Antoinette Olivieri speaks about her parents and their early life in Montreal, QC.

Antoinette Olivieri speaks about her parents move from Montreal to Hamilton. She mentions that her parents eventually opened a barber shop and a beauty shop in an area of Hamilton that was predominantly Irish and Scotch.

Antoinette Olivieri describes the difficulties her family faced in their predominantly Irish and Scotch neighbourhood once Canada declared war on Italy. Antoinette mentions that although her parents spoke Italian, French and English fluently, the family only spoke English in order to assimilate better into the community and avoid harassment.

Antoinette Olivieri briefly speaks about her parents being designated as enemy aliens.

Antoinette Olivieri speaks about the fear that existed in the Italian Canadian community after the government began rounding-up and arresting members of the Hamilton community.

Antoinette Olivieri states that her father was never a member of any Italian organization and that the family considered themselves Canadians first and foremost.

Antoinette Olivieri recalls that her mother-in-law and father-in-law were more active members of the Casa d’Italia than her parents were. She also speaks briefly about the youth trips to Italy for that were funded by the Italian government.

Antoinette Olivieri speaks about how the women survived and the community came together while the men were interned. She specifically talks about how her mother-in-law coped while her husband, Donato Olivieri, was away.