With the desire to share their stories of perseverance and leave behind an inspirational legacy, members of the Concord West Seniors Club collaborated to publish a book of over 30 emotionally riveting memoirs. As a testament to the past, present and future generations, A Note of Hope launched May 4. Compiling and translating the memoirs was made possible in part by funding from New Horizons for Seniors Program on behalf of the Federal Government.
Teresa Panezutti didn’t need words to express how proud she was of the finished product; the light in her eyes said it all as she spoke about the year long process that had finally paid off.
As one of the coordinating volunteers for the project and a Concord West Seniors Club member herself, a humble Panezutti was eager to thank all those who made it possible. The club enlisted the help of numerous volunteers, including Andy Cluff’s grade twelve English students at Loretto Abbey Catholic High School, who generously edited the translated copy.
“We got a chance to connect the youth and seniors, and they were so honoured and enthusiastic about it,” said Panezutti. “We’re bringing together the second and even third generations in this book, and that’s what it’s really about.” The journey from impoverished small towns and struggling governments to a new beginning was a long and trying road for most. Although the right choice was obvious, for the late Aldo Cologna it was a bittersweet goodbye as he left his hometown of Castelfondo, Trento, Italy in 1965. “You could not give me what I was looking for then; I was forced to leave. You knew I did so with a heavy heart,” he confesses, in a poem entitled My Town. Recollecting some of their darkest days for the first time in years, many seniors who contributed their stories admitted quitting would have been easy, but hope in providing a brighter future for their families is what kept them holding on.
“When I first heard of my father’s memoir, I didn’t understand why he was writing it or for whom. It was not until his death that I realized that the stories were not for him but for us,” said Cologna’s son Boris. “It’s through his words and memories that I have come to better understand him and the values that he instilled on us.” After their father passed away, Boris and his brother Stefano took what their father had written, filled in the gaps and shared the heartfelt memoir. “Our father was very proud of who he was and where he came from, and he wanted us to remember,” said Stefano. The Colognas weren’t the only family members inspired by the courage and sacrifices of their loved one. Elyse Calvi, granddaughter of the late George Fiorelli, wrote a memoir on his behalf that she had completed years earlier, which she was encouraged to share with the club.
The close bond Calvi shared with her grandfather is unmistakable as a rush of emotion pulses through her words, “He was someone who genuinely enjoyed his life, and he lived with no regrets. He always made the most of every situation that he was in, and I think that was present in every story that he told me.”
“If we tell our children and grandchildren they may forget, but if it’s written down, the memory will live on,” said Julie Seeman, who immigrated from what was then Yugoslavia to Toronto in 1955. The country was under German occupation during the Second World War and Seeman’s family lost everything. “That was the most difficult time of my life,” she recalled.
She and her husband George both understood that hope was a necessity in life. After George became a certified grain mill builder, jobs were scarce in Germany and he was willing to move anywhere. With little money he gathered whatever wood he could find and built a trunk. Inside he created separate compartments for his handmade tools and another compartment for his mechanical tools. This trunk, along with another filled with his clothes, travelled with him from Germany to Chile and to George’s final destination in Canada in 1957. Seeman had the trunk transported to the West Concord Seniors Club for the book launch, and guests were speechless. “People stood around him for hours, as he proudly explained everything in the trunk,” said Panezutti.
The trunk is one of the few psychical reminders of George’s past that remains. Like the trunk, the members of the Concord West Senior Club started from nothing, withstood the trials and tribulations of a long journey and eventually reached prosperity. The beautifully embellished 300-page memoir imparts an abundant amount of life lessons, and offers a true note of hope to generations to come.
written by Panoram Italia