Many Canadians, including Italians are not aware that Canadian Italians were interned during WWII because the internees and their families felt shame and many didn’t talk about it with their children and grandchildren.
I’m proud of my grandfather for speaking out publicly about his treatment in a letter to the editor of the Globe & Mail. It was painful to read and transcribe and I won’t deny that I felt upset and angry that my grandfather and grandmother were treated without dignity by members of the military at the Landsdowne Barracks on the Exhibition grounds in Toronto. Tearing and cutting through his letter allows me to let go of my anger and forgive those that treated my family so badly. I don’t know if my grandparents felt any anger or shame but if they did, I do this for them as well. you are welcome to read my grandfather’s letter here:http://www.italiancanadianww2.ca/collection/details/icea2010_0008_0021_a_b.
My Aunt Sylvia (nicknamed Picca) made the papers I’m using to transcribe the “Oaths” written in support of Rev. Libero Sauro’s character (my grandfather) when he was arrested by the RCMP during WWII. Of his nine children, Sylvia was the oldest of his two daughters.
Before shed died in 2021, she left me a stack of papers she made from cornhusks, cattails, plumed grass and Yucca. These are beautiful papers, my gel pen glides smoothly across the page and each sheet feels different and unique from the other. I get goosebumps knowing that her hands made the pulp and pulled and pressed each sheet that I am now using to tell special part of her family’s history.
The Oaths that I have transcribed were written by the following:
My Grandmother, Clementina Sauro
Peter Bryce, Doctor of Divinity and Minister of Metropolitan United Church
William John Mumford, Minister, United Church of Canada in Toronto
Gilbert Agar, Minister, United Church of Canada and Secretary of the Community Welfare Council of Ontario
Thomas W. Neal, Minister, United Church of Canada
Robert B. Cochrane, Secretary, Board of House Mission, United Church of Canada
Proof of concept is complete! What I visualized in my mind, has now been created in the real world - what a satisfying feeling. My grandfather lies in the shadows like a ghost from the past while the actual tapestry is vague filled with fragments of words from the letters my grandmother wrote, trying to get her husband released from the internment camp. Our memories from so long ago tend to be fragmented especially when they are passed from generation to generation. Stitching these fragments of memory together ties us together and helps us honour the past and move forward from it. This sample is approximately 8.5”x14” and the final version will be 36”x48”. Scaling up will be easier than working small but it will take much longer to complete. For more information about the internment of my grandfather, Libero Sauro and other Italian Canadians please visit: http://www.italiancanadianww2.ca/ #italianinternment#italiancanadianinternment#fibreart#canadianart
When my Italian Canadian grandmother met my grandfather she was a public school teacher in Welland, Ontario. She spoke perfect English. Years later, when the RCMP arrested my Grandfather on September 7, 1940 for being an enemy alien of the state, she did everything in her power to get him released quickly. This meant a lot of letter writing back and forth to government officials.
For many Italian Canadian families, this wasn’t an option due to language barriers which resulted in a longer internment of loved ones. Families struggled financially because the main breadwinners were imprisoned.
For this project, I have transcribed the first letter she wrote to Ernest Lapointe, Minister of Justice. I’m using it to build the sample portrait of my grandfather. Transcribing her letters helps me channel that time in history and what my family must have been feeling at the time. Tearing through what I have transcribed and and stitching the fragments into the portrait is an act of letting go and forgiving the past. We must not forget what happened but we can move forward from it in a positive way.
You are welcome to read the letter I just transcribed as well as other letters that were written at the time through this link: https://tinyurl.com/ClementinaSauro. #italianinternment#camppetewawa#textileart
A new project is in the works!
This is the Reverend Libero Sauro, my grandfather. During WWII, he was arrested and held at the Don Jail before being transferred to the Petawawa Internment Camp. As an Italian Canadian and for his association with the Sons of Italy, he was deemed an enemy alien of the state.
During the war, Italian Canadians were put under surveillance, and 31,000 were designated as enemy aliens. Of these, about 600 were taken from their families and held in prisons and remote camps (http://www.italiancanadianww2.ca/villa/home)
The irony is that during my grandfather’s internment, five of his sons, all Canadians, were serving Canada and her allies in the armed forces.
To tell this story, I will be creating seven paper tapestries, portraits of my grandfather, grandmother and my five uncles who served. Once again, I will be using the handmade papers of my aunt, the younger sister of the five boys.
What you see here are the two cartoons or blueprints that I’ll be working from. The little is for the sample I’ll create before making the big one. Hopefully I’ll remember to document as I go and post along the way.
Yay, it's done! Thanks to my family for all your suggestions, I'm very happy with the final results and excited to showcase the crest at our big Easter dinner. As my Uncle Mario suggested, we will toast the crest and my grandparents who started our big family dinners so many years ago. We now have a banner to hang at all our family events! For generations to come, family members will know a bit about where we came from and where the Faveri Clan got started back in the early 20th century.
Do you notice the changes I made from my last post? The one thing I just couldn't get clear was the lace doily around the canary's neck but at some point you just have to say it's done and it's done.
At our last Thanksgiving dinner with all the Faveri clan, my uncle brought up the topic of a Faveri family crest that could be passed on from generation to generation, something he'd started working on. He showed us a preliminary crest that included the place of birth of both my grandparents, the Italian flag, and grapes (because my grandfather made wine). I suggested we might make it a little more personal with imagery that reflected who my grandparents were. I asked my cousins, aunt and uncles, what their most prominent memories were of Mario and Mary Faveri (nee Gliozzi). I received some solid feedback and these were the most common responses: Mario smoked White Owl cigars, kept canaries and worked in construction. Mary was an avid crocheter and painter and cooked pasta diners for her extended family and friends every Sunday. There was always lots of wine which my grandfather made and was kept in 4 litre demijohns, it tasted horrible but everyone drank it anyway.
One memory everyone commented on is how my grandparents transformed a 3 bedroom semidetached house at 354 Caledonia Road into 21 rooms consisting of several apartments. As a kid, I never new which part of the house my grandparents would be living in because they kept switching apartments.
Also unique to the Faveri family is their heavy involvement in St. Paul's Italian United Church. The United Church of Canada sold the property several years back and now it's an affordable housing complex on Ossington Ave. Not too many people realize that protestant Italians exist in Toronto and in fact, a few of my family members including my grandfather were members of the Grand Orange Lodge. Below is the crest I came up with and after having it printed on a mug, I realized it needs some tweaks to make it more legible. More to come.
A little spot for me to document my thoughts as they relate to my work.