This week I’d like to introduce a new section of this blog. As I said in my first post, there is a new “wave” of Italian immigrants coming to Canada. Since we arrived, I met quite a few and I hope I’ll meet more and more in the future. I’ve always been interested in the stories of those who decided to leave their country. That’s why I started to bug them all with emails with a little interview asking them to tell their story. I hope to share with you as many stories as possible. Here’s the first one.
I met Stefano and his family in August of 2016. They had just arrived in Canada and they were participating in a family event organised by the University of Toronto. Sicily is my favourite region of Italy and when I learned they came from there I immediately liked them. Here’s the story of Stefano, as he wrote me in a wonderful email he sent me just a few days after his Canadian daughter was born.
Hello everyone, my name is Stefano and I’m a Sicilian-Italian who recently moved to Toronto. I can’t really say if this is going to be a real life change or a fixed-term experience (being “fixed-term” a very popular expression in the Italian world of work). I’m a neurosurgeon. I’ve done my studies in Sicily but I traveled a lot in order to broaden my horizons.
Why Canada? Let me try to explain it briefly…
Some years ago a well-known Canadian neurosurgeon came to Messina to receive a Gold Medal for academic merits from the University I worked for. I had the pleasure to meet him and to have some words with him. His name was Fred Gentili, an Italian-Canadian, emigrated from Le Marche with his family when he was 3 years old. My sixth sense was telling me that it might be a good occasion for my career, but at the time everything looked complicated and out of my possibilities.
Almost three years went by after that first meeting, but I was lucky enough to see Prof. Gentili again during an international conference in Ancona. That time I decided to seize the moment and I introduced myself hoping he would remember me from our first meeting. So I asked him if there was a chance to do a training program at his hospital. He said yes and I immediately started the bureaucratic process to get an observership. Unfortunately, I was refused the possibility to spend a training period abroad. But I was determined to go all the way. So, as I had already done in the past, I used my vacation days. I spent the whole summer working, something possible thanks to the wonderful person who stands by me. In November 2014 I flew to Toronto for a month-long observership, obviously all at my expense. It was a complex month as I was away from my wife and my 1 year old son. At the same time, it was extremely interesting and it gave me the possibility to get to know the Canadian reality and, most importantly, a high level ward like that of the world-famous Toronto Western Hospital. I came back home carried away on a wave of enthusiasm. I was hoping to get a fellowship in skull-base and neuro-oncology. I counted on my enthusiasm and, most importantly, on the support of my wife, an incredible person always on my side. I was told it was not going to be easy, especially considering the number of applications received in the last years. Still, I decided to risk it all and so I went back in May 2015 for another observership (at my expense of course). It was right before the candidates’ final decision. The numbers were impressive: 54 applications for 4 positions. Still, I hoped I had made a good impression. I came back home and I was sure I wouldn’t make it. One month later I received the most beautiful email of my life: I had obtained the position!
We were incredibly happy and we decided to leave it all behind, even if it was a fixed-term position. We sold our car and my wife quit her permanent job as a pharmacist.
Here we are. We arrived in Canada on June 13th, 2016. After a little struggle at the beginning we have completely settled in this new reality. Our son Alessio goes to daycare and my wife works as beauty advisor. Everything’s perfect. Our experience became even more incredible just some days ago, when my wife gave birth to our daughter Vittoria. What more could you ask for?
Despite the distance, we feel very close to Italy. Apps like Skype, WhatsUp and FaceTime make everything easier. My wife is an extraordinary cook and for this reason we don’t even miss Italian food. Still, we miss Sundays spent with family, all together. Only those who come from the South of Italy can understand what I’m talking about. And of course we miss our friends. For sure we don’t miss the incredible disorganisation that prevails in our wonderful country. We always try to keep updated mainly by reading online newspapers. Obviously I love soccer and I can’t help following my favourite team, Inter Milan, during the weekends.
In conclusion, I don’t think to exaggerate when I say this is the best time of our lives. We are happy, we feel fulfilled and we know that what we are doing with a lot of sacrifices will have an incredibly positive effect especially on our children. We thank Canada for welcoming us and to make us feel part of a multicultural system where it doesn’t count where you come from but who you are.
Here’s the original version of Stefano’s story in Italian: