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Families

Gabriella Frainetti nee Di Giovanni
January 1966

My story started out on January 6, 1966, when myself, my parents, two younger brothers and my grandmother decided to immigrated to Canada. I guess that this was because my parents wanted to give us kids a better way of life than what they had had as young children. When we left I remember leaving early in the morning and there was snow on the ground. We were being driven to Naples by some friends of the family with their cars, the trip took about three to five hours—anyways when we arrived in Naples our documents were checked and our luggage was put on board the ship. After a while we said goodbye to our friends and went on board. We were assigned to cabins, one I shared with my grandmother and the other my parents shared with my brothers. The cabins had bunk beds, and were very small. Everything seemed to be going well, until the ship crossed the strait of Gibraltar and then we came across very bad weather. Everyone ended up being sea sick. This lasted for quite a while. The ship had ropes tied alongside the corridor walls so people that wanted to move about would be able to keep their balance. The tables of the dining room had three inch side boards put on to prevent the dished from falling over, this lasted for quite a while.

Finally we approached the shores of Halifax and alongside the ship we saw dolphins. While onboard we were asked that all passengers report on the deck. When we got there we were all given lifejacket and asked to put them on. They told us that this was a rehearsal, hopefully nothing would happen, but in case we would know what to do with the life jackets and how to work them.

On January 26 we docked in Halifax, we entered the Pier 21 and were told to take a seat on these long wooden benches and told to wait until our names were called. While waiting, all the children that were there were given a pair of woolen mittens. When our names were finally called we were issued landed immigrant status, and our luggage checked and marked with a white X which meant that we cleared to go. I remember that there was this family who I believe were also Italians and were just clearing customs, and a rolled up mattress and tied with ropes, the customs officer had to cut the ropes to see what was inside there and they found homemade cured ham, sausages, salami, and cheese these were things that were not allowed to come over. We left and the people were still there.

We took the train and headed towards Montreal, on the train all the windows were frozen with ice and could not see outside, outside all you saw was white of the snow. The train took 24 hours to get to Montreal. My mom's brother was waiting for us there, when he picked us up he first took us to his house and then later he showed us our house. The next week my dad went to work in construction industry and we started school sat first it was hard because of the language barrier but as we learned the language things became easier. Today I live in Montreal, married for 21 years, and have two daughters, aged 20 and 14. Montreal is a great city with great people and so is Canada a great country.