Memories of a Past War and Migration: Fieldwork Notes from Montreal

Sonia Cancian, McGill University

Unlike any other war in the history of Italy, the Second World War affected every facet of society on a scale that had never been imagined before in the last two centuries. Once the war was over in 1945, the desire to move on was advocated throughout Italian society, especially in the discourses of the political, imaginary and emotional communities around the newly-formed De Gasperi government, the Allied governments and the Marshall Plan, and the Church. One way that Italian families responded to this call, in addition to identifying concrete opportunities for the economic betterment of their families, and trying to forget the horrors of the war was by emigrating abroad. In the years after the war, over 7 million Italians emigrated to Canada, the United States, Australia, and other parts of Europe. We know little about the impact of war on these migrants, on their identities, on their aspirations, and the overall emotional weight of war on those who ceased to live in their homeland. In Italy, today, through the work of public intellectuals like G.Gribaudi and others, histories of the Second World War are being revisited. By contrast, in the Italian post-war communities outside of Italy, memories of the War have not been examined. What are these memories? What was the meaning and impact of these memories on Italian migrants and their communities in Canada? The contemporary period represents a historical turning point. It signifies a deep sense of amnesia about the impact of war on Italians who emigrated abroad after the end of the war. This research brings together preliminary findings on the meanings and impact of war memories on Italian migrants in Canada. In doing so, it aims to contribute to examining future emotional impacts of current war-migrations on both the migrating communities and receiving countries.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 207. Migration and Mobility in Individual and Collective Memory