Pietro and Esterina Turri and Family

By Emma (Turri) Rantucci for Transformations – My father, Pietro Turri, was born on January 29, 1903 in Pontecosi, Toscana, Italy to Olinto and Isolina Turri (nee Valdrighi). He married my mother, Esterina Gragnani, then lived with his parents, operating a large farm with every type of fruit, vegetable and livestock. My mother was the daughter of Pietro Gragnani and Annunciata Guidi, also from Pontecosi.

Pietro and Esterina were hard workers and provided all the essentials for family living. They had two daughters, Renata and Emma.

Dad always wanted to join his brother, Sam Turri and sister, Clelia Martinelli who arrived in Kelowna, British Columbia in approximately 1911 and 1915, respectively.

When the Second World War broke out in 1939, my family underwent many life-threatening trials and tribulations as enemies occupied part of our home and stole most of our livestock. During that time, Pietro and his brother-in-law hid in a huge, dried-out chestnut stump to avoid being captured and sent to a concentration camp. Dad had “engineered” this refuggio (underground shelter) to keep us all safe.

 While under there, Pietro had an appendicitis attack and was brought to the local hospital for surgery. During the procedure, due to enemy bombing, the power went out, so the doctor had to carry on without lights or anesthetic.

 After the brutal war, Dad was even more anxious to immigrate to Canada, but he would not leave his aging parents alone. In 1948, the Capozzi family visited our family. “Cap” Capozzi, who had become a successful entrepreneur in Kelowna, guaranteed Pietro work on the Calona Wines vineyard on Black Mountain.

 Pietro’s mother, Isolina, died in 1949 and so Pietro made a legal agreement with his sister, Amerisa, to take care of their father, Olinto, now over 80 years old. Most immigrants at that time, were accepted as single men to work mostly as manual labourers. But Pietro would not leave unless his whole family of four was accepted. When we came, we were the only family travelling on the ocean liner Vulcania.

In early 1952, we arrived in Halifax and travelled by train across the wintery prairies — what a shock! At 48 years of age and not knowing a word of English, Pietro achieved his dream and set foot on “the promising land” that he believed would give his family the opportunity for a better and safer life.

For the first year, Pietro worked for the Capozzis on the Black Mountain vineyard. The rest of the family worked at Casa Loma Orchards, picking peaches. The following year, an Italian orchardist offered Pietro a job at Summerland, and so the family followed him there and also worked in the orchard.