University of Minnesota
Digitizing Immigrant Letters

Letters from the Antonietta Petris Collection

Shortly after her arrival in Canada from Italy in 1948, Antonietta Petris wrote a letter to her beloved Loris Palma who at the time resided in Venice. He had actually written a letter to her just a few days previously. The following four letters are samples from their correspondence between Montreal and Venice. In 1949, Loris joined Antonietta in Montreal, the two married and lived together until Loris Palma's death in 2007.

Antonietta Petris and Loris Palma were no strangers to `love at a distance`: they had been fervidly writing to each other since August 1946, when they first met in Ampezzo Carnico, a small town nestled in the Italian Dolomites in Northeastern Italy.  Once Loris left Antonietta`s native town, and returned to his home in historic Venice, their daily correspondence ensued.  Until her father`s return from Canada in December 1947, Antonietta had dreamed of becoming a Venetian lady (a “Veneziana”) once she married Loris.  Her father`s desire to return to Canada with Antonietta and her mother interrupted this dream, and new worldviews and new plans took over. Finally, with the promise that Loris would soon join her in Montreal, Antonietta immigrated to Montreal in September 1948. For nine months, this young couple wove their epistolary relationship in a tapestry of longing, desire and enduring patience and nostalgia.

 

1948-9-23 1948-9-26 1948-9-30 1948-10-5
Letter from Loris Palma (Venice) to Antonietta Petris (Montreal), September 23, 1948. Letter from Antonietta Petris to Loris Palma, September 26, 1948. Letter from Antonietta Petris to Loris Palma, September 30, 1948. Letter from Antonietta Petris to Loris Palma, October 5, 1948.

 

 

On September 20, 2011, Sonia Cancian interviewed Antonietta Petris in Montreal about the letters. View the video.

ihrc-mi0071

Below is a transcript of the interview along with a translation into English (both by Sonia Cancian):

[Antonietta reads aloud the first part of the letter dated Sept. 26, 1948.]

Montreal 26-9-48
Mio adorato Loris,

domenica oggi, una domenica piena di ricordi e di nostalgia, la prima che trascorro quì nel Canadà, non mi manca niente no quì, anche oggi che andai a far visita a un amico del papà fui trattata come si suol dire “con i guanti bian_chi” c`era ogni ben di Dio in quella tavola, ogni sorta di leccornie erano mie eppure mai, mai un istante cessai di ricordarti, ogni minuto che passava ricordavo la domenica scorsa, il posto dov`eravamo, il tuo viso ancora sorridente e irradiato di gioia, di quella gioia che solo quando siamo uniti ci invade ....

Montreal 26-9-48
My adored Loris,

today is Sunday, a Sunday that is filled with memories and nostalgia, the first Sunday that I am here in Canada, I have everything I need here, even today when I went to visit a friend of my father’s, I was given the red carpet treatment, the table was adorned with all of God’s blessings, every kind of treat was mine, but never, not even for an instant did I stop thinking of you, every passing minute reminded me of last Sunday, where we were, your face, still smiling and radiating with joy, a joy that invades us only when we are together....

[INTERVIEW between Sonia Cancian and Antonietta Petris:]

SC: In questa lettera che ci hai letto, scritta a Montreal il 26 di settembre 1948, è davvero una lettera bellissima che esprime tanta emozione e  non posso fare a meno di pensare cosa significa per te avere nelle tue mani questa lettera che tu poi avevi trasmesso e mandato a Loris con tutto il cuore oltre 60 anni fa, 63 anni fa precisamente. Quale emozione provi quando rivedi la tua calligrafia, quando tocchi la carta, ti ricordi proprio il momento in cui ti eri messa a scrivere questa lettera?
SC: In this letter that you read to us, a letter written in Montreal on September 26, 1948, a beautiful letter that is replete with so much emotion, I cannot avoid asking myself what it means to you to hold this letter in your hands, the letter that you had sent to Loris over sixty years ago, sixty-three years exactly. How do you feel when you see once again your handwriting, when you touch the paper, when you recall the precise moments in which you wrote this very letter?

AP: Sì, devo dire che quei ricordi adesso che me lo chiedi, quei ricordi diciamo, erano sfocati erano, erano così lontani da me e proprio è come se questo periodo non avesse esistito, invece, eh no, no non è così, non è così...
AP: Yes, I must tell you that now that you ask me, those memories, let`s say, were blurry, they were, really so distant from me, it`s almost as though this period did not exist, instead, ah, no, no, that`s not the way it is, that`s not the way things are...

SC: quindi la lettera ti offre, cosa? una testimonianza? cos`è che ti dice quando tu la tieni? allora non ci sono dubbi che tu hai vissuto questo periodo, è chiaro?
SC: so the letter offers you, what would you say? A kind of testimony? What does the letter represent for you, when you hold it in your hands? Then, there are no doubts that you did experience this time in your life, is it clearer to you now?

AP: certo è chiaro, e mi è venuto ancora più chiaro quando ho letto, ho riletto la lettera perchè queste prime soprattutto non le avevo mai lette, e quando l`ho letta, ecco, è stato un attimo, ho rivisto quel momento, ho rivisto, ho sentito la pena che ho provato 63 anni fa: il dolore, l`emozione e ...
AP: of course, it`s clear, and it became even more clear to me when I read it, when I reread the letter because these first ones, especially, I had never read, and when I read the letter, there, in that instant, I saw once again that moment, I saw again, I felt again the sorrow that I experienced sixty-three years ago: the pain, the emotion, and....

SC: la distanza
SC: the distance

AP: e quella, la distanza, si, lo sai. Non è stato facile però vedi, abbiamo ugualmente..., siamo andati avanti con costanza con la voglia di continuare di arrivare veramente al nostro traguardo,e  ci siamo riusciti! Ma, ci è costato caro. Abbiamo passato dei giorni felicissimi insieme, ma erano così brevi, erano pochi, sai, allora c`era sempre la paura, la paura non..., di perderci, perchè quando si è tanto lontani, può succedere anche quello. Invece, tutto è passato, e rimangono solo i ricordi, ricordi che sono più vivi da quando ho letto queste lettere, le prime lettere che ci siamo scritti io e Loris...
AP: and that`s it, the distance, yes, you know. It wasn`t easy, however, you see, we still..., yet we pushed forward with determination, with the desire to move ahead and reach our goal, and we did it! But, it cost us dearly. We spent very happy days together, but they were so short, so few, you know. At the time, we were always afraid, afraid of not..., of losing each other, because when two people are far apart, that too can happen. Instead, everything has passed, and now all that remains are memories, memories that are much more vivid when I read these letters, the first letters that Loris and I wrote to each other...

 

 


Back to Digitizing Immigrant Letters index page.