As told by her granddaughter Laura Sgotto D’Alessio
“Tempi dei Tempi” is a phrase that is very often used before a recount of one of my Nonna’s treasured stories about her past, and one I always look forward to hearing. It’s hard to imagine living in a time where you were forced out of your home in the middle of the night, separated from your family and told to hide in the mountains. No food, complete fear and uncertainty of what tomorrow would bring was a reality for my Nonna during WW2 in Italy. When it was finally safe to return to their home, they realized that it had been occupied by Germans as evidenced by ledgers, papers and pencils they had left behind. It was the American soldiers that she remembers, who would offer them bread to eat, Wonder bread if you could imagine!
Luciana was born in Terracina, daughter of Fernanda Campoli and Emilio Iaboni and the eldest of four siblings. She went to school for a few years before she was sent off to work, working the land to make some extra money for her family. She has told me many stories about the responsibility of being the eldest and taking on the cooking and cleaning at home so that her mother was able to work and tend to the younger children. As she got older, she met my Nonno, Pasquale Ceci. They dated for a few years, often sharing chaperoned bicycle rides together “giu alla marina” or walks in the piazza. At 21 years old, they were married and a few years later decided to make the move for a better life for themselves. Truthfully, my Nonna always explains how she was never really convinced about leaving everything behind to move to Canada. She even tried to convince my Nonno to go without her, but came to a compromise that they would go, see how things were for a few years, and could always make their way back. With little money in hand, they borrowed money for their plane tickets and left, with their two daughters, Anna (age 7) and Antonella (15 months).
It was October 1965 and winter had already begun in Toronto. When they arrived, they lived temporarily with Luciana’s sister until they could eventually purchase a home of their home. They both worked hard, even taking on boarders in their home to help pay their bills. My Nonna had many roles here in Canada: she didn’t speak English but managed to find work (first cleaning homes, then in catering and eventually at a drapery factory). She had another daughter, Nadia, and went on to be a Nonna to 6 grandchildren and now Bis-Nonna to 5 great grandchildren. In her 57 years in Toronto, she created a full and beautiful life. Without having much family here, their house was always full of friends who are still considered to be like family. Evenings spent making homemade pizza, pasta, lasagne and playing cards with friends were traditions her daughters and grandchildren grew up on. Together with my Nonno, they have had the opportunity to travel, celebrate wonderful milestones and have given all those that are lucky to know them, many years of laughter, great friendship and even better food! Anytime I call my Nonna and ask what she’s up too, it never fails that I hear “dove sto? Alla cucina!”. It is my great honour and privilege to nominate my Nonna Luciana, the matriarch of our family, and truly one very courageous woman who paved the way for our family, here in Canada.