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Scritto da Isidoro Peroni   

Little more than a century ago, a broad exodus started from our mountains.  A first migratory wave was bound for Rome the capital of the new kingdom  of Italy. I cannot help recalling my paternal grandfather, called with my same christian name, when very young he was among the first inhabitant of Ruscio to open the tradition of the wood  and the cool sale in Rome. That soon became the principal job of the  "Rusciani": but this one is another story of which it has already been  mentioned on these columns and about it one could write a novel, if he felt up to do!

Another wave of people, perhaps more courageous, perhaps more  desperate, made for the mithical America. The favourite destination of women  and men coming from our village was Trenton in the New Jersey, because to  that place the franciscan father Peter Jachetti, who was born in  Monteleone, had opened a way already since 1869. There he had built the convent of Saint Francis and in the 1890 inagurated in Chestnut Avenue the  Church of the Immaculate Conception attended by Italians as well as other immigrants coming from European countries. In Trenton the Roebling,  industrialists of German origin and costructors of suspended bridges like the famous Brooklyn bridge, employed workers in his steel-wire rope factory.  One can understand the importance of Roebling for our peasants from the  following anedocte told me by my friends of Trenton. Immigrant people of ours, who knew very little about  american politics and language, at the question who was the US president infallibly answered ''Loobrinze'' pronouncing the difficult name Roebling in the Italian dialectal manner: so we have found out the origin of a nick name used in our parts!

There was, in the same area of Trenton a cigar manifacture where women  could be hired getting an economic independence and helping the family budget.  The landscape and the farms around Trenton, in the winter covered by snow  and with the cold temperature, as I have seen there in my recent visit, reminded to the immigrants the environment of our valley. Besides, in that town there were so many inhabitants, coming from our places,  giving to the newcomers hospitality and help for the first times. So the colony  became more and more crowdy. Afterwards in 1904 Italians accomplished their own Church, St. Joachim, where still today one can hear Mass in Italian language. Soon our immigrants organized themselves in friendly Societies with social  house for the meetings, Societies still now in activity and nearly similar to  the Italian Pro Loco associations. I thank my friends Paul and Peter Innocenzi who have been my guide during  my stays in Trenton.

As you can see in the "Italian Commercial Guide" of 1907, in Monteleone, at that time, there were as many as three emigration agents who used to  get the papers ready for the passport and to supply the ship tickets.  I have skimed through the letter-book of Angelo Sereni  (preserved by his grand-son Mr. Tito Sereni) with carbon copies  of the mail from 1903 to 1913 to the society "La Veloce" of Genoa  represented in Cascia by him. I found out the cost of the ship ticket, of course in the cheaper class,  was 210 Italian lire: 30 in advance for  booking and the rest at the ship leaving from Naples. The amount at the beginnig of the century was a lot of money equivalent to about 3500 present dollars. I have read in that book about so many meaningful questions showing anxieties and  hopes of the emigrants who were about to leave their country. People with some  bodily defect , in spite of that, wished to go to Trenton and they were afraid to be pulled back before leaving in Naples or when they landed in New York. Wives or sons trying to join their family. People under age who were obliged to be accompained by an adult. People carrying with them less than 250 lire, that was the minimum amount of money one was compelled to have in his pocket when landing, they invoked, as guarantors,  some relatives waiting for them  at the port... and so on.

As an example I quote the extract from a letter that the agent Angelo  Sereni was sending to the  emigration office of "La Veloce in Genoa asking  explanations about a case I find very moving. "... Another woman  35 years old, whose eyes are very inflamed for the long weeping, wish all the same to go to  Trenton N.J. together with her daughter 10 years old,  to join her husband resident there since many years.  The question is if such a person, travelling in second class, is subjected to  medical control in the port of Naples or in that one of NewYork and if there is the probability to be rejected because of such illness...".

Whoever has landed in New York Airport and at the passport control for the admission has had a moment of anxiety while he passed the jellow line on the floor, one at the time, and when he was asked about the reason and the length of his stay in the U.S., below the  searching look of a brusque official, that person can immagine the torment of these women and men of ours who had invested nearly all their money and hope in that long and  dangerous journey. They did not know the language and what expected them and they were scared not to be accepted. However many of them succeded and adjusted themselves to the new surroundings, some others  gave up and went back.

And here my thoughts is for my grandmother Eugenia Marchetti: when young bride she shipped in the daring journey to Trenton where my  mother Orsola was born. She was baptized in the Immaculate Conception's Church, as the register of 1894 shows. Mrs Adelaide Lotti the midwife, sister of Father Jachetti was the godmother and Mr Marcello Agabiti (a well known name in Ruscio) was the godfather. I cannot  help to immagine how many pains and troubles my grandmother experienced because three years later, when she was expecting another baby, borded   again the English ship Emis to come back to Monteleone and afterwards to Rome. It sounds like a telenovela  but it is a true  human drama: in the middle of the ocean anticipated by the  wave motion, my uncle Pietro Tazza was born and he lived in Rome until the age of 97 years. How many stories, all different and made of hopes and illusions  variously crowned!

Today the scenary is different. Italians go often to the States as tourists or guests. Italo-americans have gained a position and a reputation, they  come back to Italy to visit their relatives and they are pleased seeing the development that has happened in their country of origin, similar to  that one in their new country. Sons have forgotten the language but not the love of their land of origin.

New immigrants from Central America have taken their dwelling in downtown of Trenton where once Italians used to live. Now most of them have moved to  the residential environs. Also Italy is becoming land of immigration from East Europe and Africa, giving rise to new and different problems. We wish these new guests, following the example of our emigrants, to become good citizens integrated in the new country.

Isidoro Peroni

 
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