by her Granddaughter, Lina Aykler (Colosimo) for The Quiet Immigrant – My beautiful Nonna, Rosa Grieco ( née Schiavone) embarked on her journey from Palermo to Halifax, Canada on March 19th, 1953 when she was only 17 years old. She had never travelled outside of her hometown of Foggia, Italy and did not speak a word of English; but she was incredibly brave! She travelled alone to Halifax and then Malartic, Quebec, where she hoped my Nonno Ciriaco would have received her telegrams and would be awaiting her arrival.
Young, scared, but excited, she departed for Canada. After the long boat ride on the Saturnia ship she arrived in Halifax on March 30th, 1953. She bought something to eat in Halifax, to take with her for the next leg of her trip, some cookies and bread. It was the first time that she had ever seen or tasted white bread; she thought it was cake, and didn’t quite appreciate the taste yet! From there, she got on a train, and travelled for another 3 days, and made her way to Malartic, Quebec where my Nonno Ciraco was working in the Gold mines.
After a joyous reunion with my adoring Nonno, they began building their life together. It was here, in this small mining community, that my Nonna, so far from her support system in Italy, would have her first baby, my mother, Filomena, in 1954. While living in Malartic, they learnt French, and then later English, finally settling in Toronto on May 10th, 1956. Her second child, Celestino, was 9 months old. When she arrived in Toronto, she began working at Weston Bakery Factory, in the cookie shop.
She worked there until 1963 when she then would open, and successfully run, her own clothing business for the next 50 years. They would also expand their family, adding 2 more beautiful children, Anna and Francesca. The store, located at Old Weston and Rogers, Rosa Dry Goods, catered to women and children’s clothing, and fine linens. These linens were often what Italian women would include in their hope/marriage chests. My grandparents lived in the building above and behind the store for most of their lives.