Our Journey to Canada
Meet Renata Meo-Primorac, a proud Spanish-Croatian-Italian-Venezuelan-Canadian. Renata has her BA in Modern Languages from the University of Windsor and went on exchange to the Universidad de Valladolid to study Spanish Language and Literature. She is currently pursuing her Master of Business Administration at the Odette School of Business and is the President of the MBA Society. Renata is passionate about travelling, giving back to her community and living life to the fullest. While reflecting on her family's immigration story this is what she had to say:
"I was born in Spain, which is why I have two last names. In Spain you take both your mother’s and your father’s. I am proud of where I came from and my family's various cultures. My mother was born in Madrid, Spain, to a Spanish mother and a Croatian father. My maternal grandmother, whom I call Pepa, is a different kind of grandmother. She sings flamenco and boleros beautifully. Pepa is my grandmother’s actual name. She did not want us to call her grandmother because she thought she was too young to be known as an 'Abuela'.
Darko, my maternal grandfather whom I called Dedo, was born in Croatia. He moved with his parents and five siblings to Sault Ste. Marie, in order to get away from the communism in Croatia. He enrolled in the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto and then went to the Academia De Bellas Artes De San Fernando in Madrid- one of the most prestigious art schools in the world. His work is still found in many private collections and churches in Canada and abroad. During this time, he learned Spanish perfectly. Madrid is where my grandmother, who was 14 years old at the time, fell in love with my grandfather. He was a man who wanted to show her something different from what she was used to, being that she was an only child and was very protected by her parents. For this reason, she got married as soon she turned 18 and by 21 had three children, one of which is my mother.
My Dedo always followed his heart no matter what anyone thought. His adventurous spirit and his entrepreneurial mind moved him to relegate the artistic brush to occasional use as a pastime activity and to test the waters of the business world, where he owned a travel agency and several restaurants in Spain.
He knew that if he did not love what he was doing or did not feel passionate about it, then it was not right for him to continue pursuing it. His experiences taught me to always live life to the fullest, finish what you started, which he often would not do, and to make things work with whatever you are given.
Eventually my Dedo and Pepa decided to get a divorce. My Pepa remained in Spain with the children and in 1987 my Dedo moved back to Canada. He always kept up with his artwork. He actually paid for my parent’s wedding with the beautiful Croatian paintings he created, which are still in the Croatian Hall and St. Francis of Assis Church today in Windsor. When my mother was 11 years old, she travelled to Canada for Christmas to meet the rest of the Croatian family.
The next time that she would visit Canada was when she was 20 and this is when she met my father. In 1992, my mother decided to move to Canada to be with my father, where they would marry and then have my brothers.
I was born in Spain because my mother went back home to get help from my great-grandmother and Pepa, she needed the support from her family while raising three children. She then moved back to Canada when I was a few months old. Having three children in three years was certainly not easy.
My dad’s family also has an interesting immigration story. My dad’s parents are Italian, born and raised. My Nonno (grandfather), who was a Carabinieri (Police Officer) in Italy, immigrated to Venezuela to find work. When my Nonna (grandmother) was in grade three, she moved with her family to Venezuela. This is where my grandparents met and started their family, my dad was then born in Caracas. Once married, my Nonno managed to get a distribution contract with Coca-Cola. As they began to see the troubles occurring in Venezuela, my grandparents sold everything they had and moved their family to Canada, my dad at this time was only 16. Not knowing the language, they worked very hard to start a new life.
They took the chance and bought the Dominion Golf Course, which they still own today. They have taught me to ask a thousand questions until you get the right answer. They always instilled in us the importance of having street smarts and that the act of doing something can teach you much more than a book.
My family and my experiences thus far have taught me that “I do not need much, I simply want to live more.” My grandparents and parents have always encouraged us to work hard, take risks because in the end you will always get so much more out of it, and to keep the family and your heritage a priority.
I have always been interested in cultures which is why I enrolled in the Modern languages program and did a year abroad in Spain. During this year I was able to go home and see my family; however, I attempted to spend almost every weekend in a different country and make the absolute most of it.
My first language is Spanish, and my siblings and I learnt English when we started school. It is very important to maintain your mother tongue. I love that my mother made sure to maintain every sense of her Spanish heritage in our home, although we were living in Canada. Celebrating your family’s culture, carrying on your family's traditions and legacies, and knowing your history is what makes each one of us so unique.
My mother is Croatian and Spanish. My father is Italian and Venezuelan, and I am Canadian by papers. Whenever I visit my home countries, my relatives remind me that this is my country - my home. I strongly believe that we should all be proud of who we are and where we come from; I always make sure to live by this. My parents have shown me that you can start fresh in a completely new part of the world and create a life that you are proud of. I will be forever inspired by my parents’ as well as my grandparents’ bravery when they immigrated to Canada and how they integrated themselves into a new country, while still maintaining their cultural roots. My parents’ story will always have a huge impact on me and my future. I am extremely proud to be their one and only daughter."