Aldo Nazarko was born in the Italian city of Fiume in 1937.
During the Second World War, Fiume was subject to air raids and shelling by both Allied forces and Yugoslav partisans.
He and his family survived by hiding in air raid shelters whenever sirens would go off.
“We had some pretty close calls,” Nazarko said. “In that the bombs started falling before we got to the shelters. Those were the bad moments.”
Many did not survive the attacks.
“A movie theatre was only half a block away from our building. And there was an air raid once where there were no sirens. And the movie theatre was hit by a bomb and quite a few people died there,” he said.
For Nazarko’s family, the end of the war did not mean freedom.
In 1947, they were given a choice to either stay and live under communist rule, or leave and become refugees. They chose to take their chances elsewhere and spent the next four years in ten refugee camps all over Italy.
“We, escaping from communism, were looked at as fascists,” Nazarko said. “So there was quite a backlash against the refugees from our area. And two years that I went to school in one camp, [I] never made a single friend with one of the locals.”
Eventually, in 1951, they finally got the chance to come to Canada.
“We had Canadian employers coming to the camps to recruit, and that was lucky,” Nazarko said. “Lucky for us.”
His father was a pipefitter and was recruited to work in northern Ontario.
They boarded a ship, the Anna Salen, and made the two-week journey across the Atlantic.
Like many at the time, they arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax.
From there, Nazarko lived in places across Canada before settling in Victoria.
Now in his eighties, he has written a book about his family’s journey to this country.
He says he has experienced nothing but acceptance and support from Canadians.
“You hear tales of discrimination and so on, but we never encountered that,” Nazarko said. “I wouldn’t give up Victoria for any place on earth.”