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The Guglietti Brothers Share the Success Story of Their Father Giovanni and His Journey to Canada

Giovanni Guglietti was 16 years old when he left his home of Sora, Italy for Canada. Living in a country devastated by war, Giovanni realized at an early age that there was little opportunity for himself and his siblings if they remained in their homeland. He convinced his father to immigrate to Canada and Giovanni soon followed, leaving his mother and four siblings behind. This was a sacrifice that Giovanni made in order to build a better future for his family.

So it was that in 1952, Giovanni landed at Pier 21, alone and penniless, unaware that when he arrived he would have to purchase a train ticket to Toronto.

“I didn’t have the fare paid. There was a priest there and somehow I think he felt sorry for me. I didn’t speak English, didn’t know nothing. And he gave me ten dollars. And he paid it. It was eight dollars, the fare [from] Halifax to Toronto. And so I was able to get inside the train."

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Giovanni’s first jobs in Toronto included shovelling snow, cement work and bricklaying. His first break came when he began work at a lumber yard. His work ethic was recognized by the business owner and, eventually, he was offered a partnership in the business. Along the way, he met others who shared his vision and the business prospered. Overtime, the business grew to include residential home building and industrial commercial construction.

Giovanni married the love of his life, Concetta, and went on to have four boys – Silvio, Riccardo, Marco and Johnny – and many grandchildren. Giovanni never forgot his humble beginnings. As his children explained:

“Our parents never forgot their roots and they always remembered that they could not have succeeded without the opportunities that Canada provided them. They believed that our first lesson was that success was the result of hard work. Remembering our roots and humble beginnings is the sole purpose to challenge ourselves to seek new opportunities.”

And when asked about what it means to have a national museum dedicated to collecting, sharing and paying tribute to stories like theirs, Giovanni and Concetta’s children said:

“Canada is a land of immigrants and Canada provides vast opportunities for immigrants to shine and realize their dreams. We find it important to share these stories because without the chance to start all over again in a new country, our father would not be able to achieve what he has achieved today…It is important for future generations to know that despite the hardships their ancestors suffered, they were able to believe in their dreams and materialize the same”.

Stories like Giovanni’s are important to remember. These are the stories that have shaped us as a nation and are a part of our shared heritage.