Our Journey to Canada
Meet Victoria Pedri, a proud Italian-Canadian. Victoria is currently pursuing her Master of Business Administration at UWindsor and plans on attending Law School starting Fall 2021. She was the Founder/Coordinator of Get Real UWindsor, the VP of Philanthropy for Delta Zeta Sorority, and was on the Board of Directors of W.E. Trans Support. She recently founded the Women’s Justice and Empowerment Association. Her goal is to fight for justice for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence through advocacy, education, and collective action. While reflecting on her family’s immigration story, as well as her own, this is what she had to say:
"My Nonno and Nonna arrived in Canada from northern Italy with very little money and spoke no English. The fact that my Nonno spoke enough French meant that he was able to fill out an application to work at Chrysler and get a job. He continued to work at Chrysler until he retired following fifty years of employment. During this time, his English significantly improved, although he never lost his thick Italian accent or love for homemade sausages and wine. Nonna, who had no more than a sixth-grade education, stayed home to raise their three children: Denny, Nancy, and Rudy. My Nonna is my inspiration. After all three of her children were grown, Nonna went back to school and graduated from high school. She was a relentless homemaker, fierce woman, and excellent cook. At one point, she set up her own card shop: like Hallmark, but Italian. I fondly remember how much she loved to spend time in the sun and enjoy ice cream.
Although Denny, Nancy, and Rudy were born in Canada they all started kindergarten primarily speaking Italian. They learned English in school and took their studies seriously. Denny, my father, has a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Windsor and is the Vice President of a major automotive company in Michigan. Nancy, my aunt, has a PhD in English and teaches at the Memorial University in Newfoundland. She specializes in graphic novels and photography and has published a textbook on the subject. Rudy, my uncle, is a nurse in Toronto where he teaches nursing at the University of Toronto and is working on the front-line to treat COVID-19 patients.
Like my Nonno and Nonna, I came to Canada with very little money. Of course, my situation was quite different. I was raised primarily in Michigan and I knew that after I graduated high school that I had to leave, despite being only 18. I was seriously struggling with mental illness, which was worsened by the fact that I came out in high school as queer and was a survivor of sexual assault. My beacon of hope was Canada and the University of Windsor. Although I knew I had access to a Canadian citizenship, I came to Windsor before I could prove it. This meant I could not legally work or get any student aid, putting me in a financially tight and risky situation. For two years without citizenship, I would frequently visit others to eat or volunteer at places that offered food. I could not see a doctor in Canada. However, I do have to note that my grandfather paid my rent, so I was incredibly lucky to never have experienced homelessness. When I look back at this time, I am extremely grateful and proud of myself, despite the struggles. Additionally, I am tremendously appreciative of my grandfather and mother for their continuous support.
Education is very important to my family and me. I wound up doing exceptionally well at University, in and out of the classroom. By the time I graduated, I was honored with over 21 awards and scholarships, for leadership, academics, community involvement, and human rights advocacy. I not only healed while I was in school, but I transformed. I became the person I am today. The University of Windsor will always be a huge, pivotal part of my life story. I also met my husband at the University of Windsor and we now have a three-year-old son Teddy, who was born during my undergraduate career. My Nonna would have eaten him up!”