An exhibit especially poignant to the Italian history in Trail is on it’s way to the public library next month.
Hundreds of Italian Canadians, including seven men from Trail, were taken from their homes, separated from their families, and held in prison or remote camps during World War ll.
The Canadian government claimed they were threats to national security, fearing many had ties to fascist Italian organizations. Some were released within a few months, and others remained in custody up to five years.
Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Times: Italian Canadian Internment Experience will be on loan from the Columbus Centre of Toronto at the local library from Jan. 11 to March 31.
Trail is the only western city to date, to showcase the display, and it is expected to draw local interest as well as spectators from afar.
After Winnipeg pulled out from displaying the exhibit earlier this year, costs to ship all its parts to Trail increased to $7,835, less a $2,250 grant from the Columbus Centre.
The display is coming no matter what, says Barbara Gibson, chair of the Trail and District Public Library board.
Its value far outweighs associated costs to get the exhibit, which measures 22 feet by 75 feet, to the city, she added.
But the group could use some help from the public to help cover the balance of $5,585 for shipping.
So far, the Warfield Parent Advisory Council has donated $500 towards the cost, Gibson confirmed.
In November, Trail council authorized rental-free use of the Red Floor as well as city staff and resources to help with set up and dismantling the display which includes personal accounts from those who lived through World War ll as enemy aliens and the impact on wives and children left behind.
Anyone interested in contributing can forward donations to the library, care of the Italian Exhibit.
During the 1940s, 31,000 Italian Canadians were designated as enemy aliens.
Not much is known about four of the Trail men, listed as: Ermando Cecconi; Eugenio Della Lana; Augusto Secco; and Vito Di Pompilio. However, Silvio Romano, Ennio Vittorio Fabri, and Fioravante Tenisci were sent to Kananaskis then Petawawa with the latter, interred three years.
Approximately 600 were interned in remote camps after they were fingerprinted, photographed and ordered to report monthly to the police.
The Columbus Centre collected personal memories of surviving internees, enemy aliens and family members. A national inventory and archive, along with related print, photographic and other resources was collated for general public viewing and the Italian Canadian community, through a permanent exhibit housed at Columbus Centre, a travelling exhibit, a website, a monument, and a publication.
The Columbus Centre was inaugurated as a community centre in 1980, serving as a gathering place for people to enjoy the richness of an Italian culture within a Canadian setting. Today, Columbus Centre is a popular meeting place frequented by more than 100,000 visitors every year.
Recognized as the Italian Canadian contribution to multiculturalism in the Metropolitan Toronto Area, Columbus Centre has become an established focal point in the community – a veritable piazza that brings together art, culture, fitness, and food all under one roof.