Monday, April 27, 2009


The Canadian Furlan, Doriano (left), and brother Gianpaolo (Paul) under family sign - Italy.

IVANO SAYS: Many of my LNostra-Costa 'Blaggatori' have asked me, "Who is this Canadian Furlan who knows so much about Italian History?" Well, Doriano, who is a teacher in Canada, has written a short bio about himself and his family. Thanks Doriano.


I was born in Canada 1956. My parents immigrated to Canada in 1952, just after they were married. My Father left first and then my Mother joined my Dad almost a year later. I was the only child for a long time when my brother Paul was born in 1965, and then my sister came much later in 1969.

My parents were not typical Italian (Furlan) immigrants because they both had a trade. In fact many of my parents’ family and friends discouraged my parents from immigrating and instead asked them to weather out the storm that Italy and most of post war Europe was experiencing economically. My Father, an auto-body repairman’ was involved in a business partnership. He and another fellow Furlan owned a body shop in Udine. It was established during the war and continued until in 1950 - 51.

The partnership was eventually dissolved and my father attempted to do it on his own. However, due to issues beyond his control, Dad was not able to make the business viable. He became discouraged and originally decided to immigrate to Australia. The only reason he changed his mind (to immigrate to Canada instead) was due to the fact that he had a cousin living in Welland, Canada. His cousin Maria Degano had been living in Welland since the 1930's. Even so, Dad and Mom decided to immigrate for only 5 years, planning to make some money and then returning back to Friuli.

As I mentioned I was born in 1956 and our first trip back to Friuli was in 1960. We stayed in Friuli for 3 months. My father looked around and decided maybe we could stay permanently. However, Italy was still economically recuperating from WW II. Things were not yet good enough to stay. My Dad could earn more money working as an employee in Canada then working on his own in Italy. So back to Canada!

It was difficult for my parents because there were only cousins on my Father's side living in Canada. My Mother's brother and my Dad's brother came to Canada for short periods; however, my Mother's brother returned to Friuli. There he found a bride who did not want to leave Friuli. (To this day my, Uncle Luciano regrets not returning to Canada. He always says the life in Canada is much better than in Friuli.)

My Father's brother Giuliano, also came to Canada and did extremely well; however, he became severely ill with an incurable liver decease. He was given 3 months to live (he was 33 years old). My Father convinced his brother to return to Friuli where he lived exactly 3 months, passing away in November 1960. (This was during the time that my family was visiting Friuli.)

After my Uncle’s death, my parents decided to return to Canada. I was only 4 yrs old at the time, but remember it like it was yesterday. My parents worked away loving Canada, but their heart was still in Friuli. My father returned to Friuli in 1963 to look after his Mother who was very ill. He spent another 3 months there with his mother taking her to many places. While there my Father purchased a very large piece of property in Campoformido, Udine. His intention was that one-day we would all return to Friuli and build his Autobody Shop and home in Campoformido.

All he and my Mother would talk about was one day returning to Friuli. In the process they prepared me for the eventual trip back to Friuli. They always spoke to me in correct grammatical Italian. They even sent me to an Italian school on Saturdays. Meanwhile they spoke in Furlan when speaking to one another. As a consequence, I can speak and write Italian fluently and also Furlan.

The years passed, and in 1965 my brother Paul was born. I was the one who chose the name Paul, because the Beatles were popular at that time; I was torn between choosing John (after John Lennon) or Paul (after Paul McCartney). At this point, my Mother took over and said, “We will call him Gianpaolo”. I told Mom that it had to be a North American derivative name since we lived in Canada. I suggested the name John Paul. She said, “No! We are going back to Friuli so it must be a Furlan Italian name!” Thus, my brother was named Gianpaolo; however, in the end, I had my way. I proceeded to call him Paul and I always have called him Paul. Guess what? The name Paul has stuck with him... all these years. And he still goes by Paul.

After my brother Paul was born, my parents really started to get serious about their plans to return to Friuli. One day they finally decided that they were indeed going to leave Canada. Oh Boy! That really hit me. I wasn't so sure that I wanted to leave for Friuli. I was 11 years old at the time and I just finished grade 5 and was going into the 6th grade. I had a lot of friends. I started to feel a little negative about the whole thing! I really had doubts about leaving Canada and all my friends.

After they had decided (in 1967) to move back to Friuli, my parents went through a hectic six months of preparing for the voyage. They had to sell off all their furniture and other things that they could not take with them. We even had to move in with friends for a month prior to leaving. There was a lot of confusion. Even my parents were starting to doubt their decision to move back to Fruili; however, late August 1967 the move was finally made.

Once back in Friuli, we moved into my Father’s birth home in Pasian di Prato Udine. (Pasian is about 5 kilometers outside the City of Udine.) The house my father was born in was shared with Dad's older brother Pascul. Well things did not look so good for me there. My friends were not around and everything was so different. Also my parents could not get used to being back in Friuli. Yes, it was certainly nice to see the family and being close to them and I did make friends who, by the way, I am still in contact with today. But the economics in Italy / Friuli were nothing like in Canada/North America. Things seemed very antiquated! My Father attempted to set up his business again; however, there were too many obstacles (a lot of red tape, too much bureaucracy, etc.). Also, the old house we were living in at the time was not very comfortable. Believe it or not, there was no bathroom inside that house. We had to go outside to an out- house to take care of business.

Meanwhile things were not going so great for me at school. They told me that my Italian was not up to standard, so they placed me three grades back. This was a lot of baloney because I could speak and write perfect Italian. However, the school knew my father was from Canada and they thought he had plenty of money. They wanted to send me to this tutorial school (for a fee of course) that was affiliated with some of the teachers. It really was quite political.
At about this time, I ended up getting really sick. I contracted Spinal Meningitis and was hospitalized for 3 months. (At one point, I almost did not make it.) While recuperating in a hospital in Udine, I actually was quarantined due to the nature of my virus. I was restricted to being seen by adults only.

While I was still in hospital, my father came by one day and told me he was going to return to Canada and set things up for us to all return to Canada. Wow! We were going back home to Canada. I was extremely happy for myself, but also for my parents. Both my Father and Mother experienced considerable stress in the one-year we spent in Friuli. They found it extremely difficult to repatriate themselves after living away for 15 years. They often said, “We have become Canadians and we actually prefer the way of life in Canada.”

I could not believe it! After all those years of preparing me for the “wonderful” life in Friuli, we were going back to Canada. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) Friuli was a total disappointment. However, I could see that my parents’ minds were now at ease. They at least made the attempt to return even if it didn’t work out. To their credit, they had the courage to admit their mistake and placed closure on the idea of returning to Friuli.

Well it really does not end there because my parents, brother, sister and I have returned back to Friuli many times throughout the years. We never really lost touch. We keep our traditions and always to this day my parents’ hearts are still in Friuli. However they also will say without any disrespect to their Friuli, that Canada is now their home because it provided the financial path they were seeking for themselves and all of us as well. My parents had good foresight and became Canadian Citizens back in 1957 after five years in Canada.

Of further note: my brother Paul and Sister Joanne speak Italian but not as well as I do and unfortunately they do not speak Furlan. My sister responds to my Mother and Father in English, my brother in Italian / English. As for me, I respond strictly in Italian and when I want to emphasis things I speak to my parents in Furlan!

My sister Joanne who will be turning 40 this year has two boys, her youngest, Elio, is only 4-months old. This has kept my parents young because my Mother loves children. So my sister has a young family and now my oldest daughter Celina who will be turning 26 in a few weeks will be marrying! Genna my youngest daughter will be matron of honor. My brother Paul who lives in Toronto has two children and is also a teacher.

My wife Suzanne is French Canadian; she is bilingual and speaks fluently in French. This is a story for another time, because my mother and father in law both speak French. They speak limited English because they were born in the province of Quebec, which is a French-speaking province. As you can imagine they also had a lot of hardships when they moved from Quebec to Ontario (an English speaking province). The language and customs were very different and they also went through many years of hardships wanting to return back home to their land of birth.

Well, Ivano, mi caro amico Furlan, that’s my life in a nutshell, or is it a castagna. As you always say: sempre avanti.

ciao e mandi,
The Canadian Furlan

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009


"Fighting Furlans": (l-r) Fortunato [Toni] Degano and Tarcisio [Civon] Rossi
"A very poignant film, directed by Enzio Monteleone, entitled "El Alamein-The Line of Fire",depicts, both with courage and pathos, the Italian soldiers' hopeless plight in North Africa. Distributed by Palace Films, it was shown at the 2004, Italian Film Festival, in Marin." *
While the hopeless war in North Africa was raging, another hopeless war was being faught in Greece and the Balkans. The 'Canadian Furlan", Doriano Degano gives us an historical account of the "Fighting Furlans" who participated in that war.
Ivano "Mio Caro Amico"How are you my dear Furlan Friend !! Sempre Avanti that is a motto we should all take to heart. Well as you know I have been in contact with Reno, we have had some long email discussions and a few telephone conversations. And he has been sharing some information with me regarding the Alpino Reggimento Julia. And as you know I have been doing some research on my family tree and have completed some extensive historical research on my uncle Fortunato (Toni) Degano who was in the Alpino Julia Division 8th Reggimento Battiglione Cividale 16th Compania. In the Photo attached, left hand side, is my Uncle Fortunato (Toni) Degano born 2-October-1919 died 28-February-1941 Albania, and beside him (right hand side of photo) is his childhood friend Tarcisio (Civon) Rossi born 11-November-1919 missing in action never found 19-January-1943 Russia. As you know all Furlans had nicknames as you have experienced with your Father "Bronco". For some reason that was the style in Friuli back then primarily because many had very common last names. In Pasian di Prato Udine where my Father's family originates Degano is similar to Smith here in North America. Today however the nickname is no longer a style used. My Uncle Toni Degano was part of an Elite Division Alpini known as the Julia. The Division is no longer part of the Italian army, the Alpini are but the Julia was basically retired after WWII due to so many casualties. As I mentioned in order to qualify to become an Alpino, an individual must be at least 5' 9" tall and weight at least 160lbs., so this qualified many Northern Italians primarily Friulani, and this was the area that the Julia was formed from. My Uncle Toni and his best friend Tarcisio were drafted in the Army and quickly deployed to Kukes Kosovoe Albania where the Italian Army very quietly over took the very weak and fragile Balkan country of Albania. This was a strategic move to ensure Italy was protected due to their declaration of war against Britain. As you know the plan was then escalated when Mussolini heard of his buddy Hitler, quickly dispatching Poland in 1939. Feeling less of a dictator, Mussolini ill advised entered of Greece with absolutely no plans. Here the Italian armies primarily supported by the Alpino Julia were not prepared to fight a Guerrilla Type warfare in the mountains of Greece in late Autumn 1940, where the weather and the terrain hampered any formal military interaction. The Greek army primarily relied on sniper and ambush attacks using the mountains as their back drop. In addition the Greek army was being heavily supported by the British with equipment and supplies. Now the Regiment my Uncle was in, the 8th Alpino battaglione Cividale were without supplies, another friend of my uncle Vittorio Demarco, who is alive today at 90 years old, spent days with me to recount the sacrifices they all endured in Albania, Greek and Russian Fronts. Like I mentioned out of 350 men in my uncle's Battaglione only 50 men survived. They were basically murdered to put it bluntly. They did not have any clothing for winter warfare. It was brutal. Vittorio told me he was there the day my uncle Toni died. He went to witness the slaughter after major bombings. They were continuously hit by mortar attacks, they did not stand a chance. Vittorio told me the only reason he survived the Greek campaign was because he was given orders that 28th day of Feb 1941, to bring all the wounded down to the medical team from the Mountain top known as the Golico. Otherwise he would have been gone as well. Vittorio also told me all the men that did survive February 28th 1941, were all stricken with severe frost-bite to their hands and feet. My uncle's boyhood friend Tarcisio was badly stricken with frost bite on his feet, and was deployed back home to Friuli to hospital to recover. However, soon as the recovery was over from Frost Bite, both Tarcisio and Vittorio were both deployed to the Eastern Front Russia in 1942, but before leaving again to war they both signed a pack to join the resistance THE PARTISANS. Both Vittorio and Tarcisio both knew that they must rid Italy of this dictatorship that was strangling Italy. Many people joined the resistance forming an army of Partisians to secretly remove the Fascists from power, regardless of the methods used. Once in Russia Vittorio managed to survive through shear toughness. And as evident today, Vittorio has this air about him that one would have second thoughts to pick a fight with him. Tarcisio went missing in Russia never found on January 19th 1943. Many Italian soldiers went missing in action, never returning and their families never really putting some sort of closure to their lives. My uncle Toni Degano was laid to rest in Albania but after the war his remains and all the remains of his soldier friends were moved to Italy.They are resting in a military cemetery in Bari, review the web site where 1,000's of Italian soldiers that gave the ultimate sacrifice during WWII. My uncle Fortunato was really not "Fortunato" as you know fortunato translated means fortunate. He gave his life for his country. The sad part of his my uncle Toni left behind a girl friend that he had intentions of marrying, but she too shortly after my uncle passed away, also passed away from not having quick medical attention due to a severe appendix attack. Many hospitals in Friuli were without medical care due to most Doctors being deployed for the war effort. This is truly a sad story. I have more but this should do well on the 'Blagga'. Wishing all of you and your Families a very Happy Easter. Spend time with your loved ones!! -- Doriano A. Degano
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