I am second generation American. Until a few years ago, I hadn't given much thought to that fact. I grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, a city built by immigrant labor in the early 20th Century. All of my friends had similar backgrounds – grandparents from the “old country” who spoke broken English or languages we didn’t understand and who hobbled along in their dark clothes and dated styles.
As I moved around the country and made friends in different cities, I became friends with people who are also from families whose ancestors built their cities, but generations ago, who fought in wars to defend their beliefs and property, and whose lives and histories grew with the land so many still occupy. My personal history, though, is tied more to foreign soil.
In 1906, Liberata Crugnale Berarducci, my then-21-year old maternal grandmother, left her tiny village, Pettorano sul Gizio, Abruzzo, Italy, to come to the United States. She had $7 in her pocket, spoke no English, could neither read nor write, and barely knew the man her older brother had arranged for her to marry by proxy so she could enter the States. Like so many millions of immigrants, she thought she was coming to the land of opportunity but found out life was not much better here than in Pettorano.
Because of the sacrifices of my grandmother, I have had phenomenal opportunities and great adventures. I feel the need to honor her memory by telling her story. I wrote about her in an essay for my thesis, but I plan to expand it into a book.Over the past two years, I've done a lot of research into my grandmother's life. I've tried to pull out the memories, tried to recall/write down bits of conversations, tried to talk with my cousins about the things that they remember. Thanks to the internet, I've found the record of Gram's entrance through Ellis Island and, more importantly, have connected with people in Pettorano to whom I think I'm related.I've done as much from home as I can, so I'm planning a trip to Italy to go deeper.
In a little more than a month, I'll be on my way to Abruzzo. I have connected with someone who is going to rent me a room for about a week so that I can spend time in Pettorano sul Gizio taking photos, researching city records, talking to people, and just living there for a few days.This blog will be the story of that journey. I hope you'll join me and enjoy the ride.