My grandfather Antonio left Portugal to go to France to escape being enlisted in the army. To get there, he walked from our home in Rio Frio in the northern part of Portugal all the way to Paris, France. He survived by eating anything he came across, including leaves, trees and whatever animal he could catch on his journey through Portugal, Span and France, which lasted approximately 30 days. He was only 19 years old at the time. After 5 years, he returned to Portugal to marry my grandma. During this time they also had two children– my two uncles. Shortly after, he moved them all back to Paris to be with him.
While my grandparents and uncles were living in France, my grandpa’s sister and brother-in-law moved to Canada. Soon after, they sent him the immigration paperwork to come to Canada to pursue a better life than what he was experiencing in France and Portugal. At that time, he wasn’t sure if he should leave his family behind in a new country. So he moved my grandma and two uncles back to Portugal and left them there until he was able to establish himself in Canada.
His first job here was hay lifting on farms in north Oshawa, which he did for about a year. From there, he went to work at the Fittings factory, where he stayed for 10 years. During that time, he visited Portugal twice, and my grandparents had two more children–my mother and aunt. After Fittings closed down, he entered the construction business, where he worked until retirement.
My grandfather was able to bring his family to Canada in the mid 1980s to join him.
If my grandfather has not taken a chance and made the difficult decision to leave his family behind while he embarked on this journey, our family would not have the life we do today.
** This blog entry has been extracted from the booklet ’60 Years of Immigration’, which tells the stories of several Portuguese-Canadian immigrants who’ve settled in Oshawa, Ontario. This work was put together by David Ganhão, with the help of some friends.
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