Skip to the Content

Children

Robert Sapienza

I was seven years old when I made the crossing from Naples to Halifax on board the Saturnia (Italian Line). I was accompanied by my mother and two-month old brother. My dad had left the year before and sailed from Southampton on the Samaria (Cunard). Our final destination was Montreal, where I have lived ever since and still can recall our docking on a hot day in May at Halifax. I was astounded at the small size of the city, as I was a native of Rome. During our processing, my little brother was put in a baby's nursery manned by what seemed to be Red Cross personnel. I can still remember my mother's panic as she thought she had lost her baby. She spoke no English and sometime later, through the help of an interpreter we were able to locate my little lost brother.

We said our good-byes to Halifax and were "loaded" on board a rickety, coal-burning immigrant train for our onward journey to Montreal. We were shocked by the inhuman conditions on this train which resembled the ones we'd see in cowboy movies in Europe. I remember arriving in Montreal's Central Station covered in soot!

Today I look back on that ocean voyage and my arrival at my adopted country with warmth and gratitude for the life I have made for myself as a proud Canadian.