OSDIA Cultural Note for April 2023

Coming to America

As Italian Americans, all of us have an immigration story to tell. Some details we may share in common, such as the agonizing decisions to leave friends and family in Italy and try for a better life in America or the heartbreaking conditions famine, war, or unemployment that forced our families to leave Italy in the first place. Nevertheless, each of our stories is unique to our family and deserves to be told. One such story comes from the family of our lodge brother, Bill Rose.

In June of 1945, the 99th Field Artillery Battalion of the US Army arrived at little town near Mantova in Northern Italy. A young American soldier named Albert Rose from Rockham, South Dakota met a young Italian war widow named Eva and her two-year-old daughter, Gabriella. A relationship developed between Albert and Eva and they were married on June 17, 1946.

At that time, it was relatively easy to bring an Italian wife back to the United States with her American husband, so Eva was able to get her immigration papers. Bringing Eva’s now three-year-old daughter Gabriella back to the US was a lot more complicated, so the parents were forced to leave little Gabriella in Italy with her grandmother until they could arrange for her immigration.

Albert and Eva moved back to Rockham, South Dakota and then began the nightmare of red tape involved in bringing Gabriella to America. They enlisted the aid of their state senator, A.L. Coleman, as well as Karl Mundt, the US senator from South Dakota. The Rose family persisted and even got the Red Cross involved in Gabriella’s case. They were desperate to get their little girl home.

Finally, after seven years, Gabriella (who was now ten years old) crossed the ocean on a steamship accompanied by an Italian speaking chaperone from the Red Cross. After arriving in New York harbor, Gabriella spent a few nights with an Italian family while arrangements were made to fly her with a second chaperone to Chicago and then to South Dakota. A storm in Chicago prevented further air travel, so she was put on a train to South Dakota with her third chaperone. After fourteen hours on a train, Gabriella finally ran into the loving arms of her mother and stepfather. In the seven intervening years, Albert and Eva had two more children whom Gabriella now met for the first time, Dennis Rose and our lodge brother, Bill Rose.

The local newspaper noted that there were three lessons Gabriella learned from her unusual journey to America:

1.People in America are kind-hearted.
2.The Red Cross is considerate and foresighted.
3.There are a lot of people in America who speak Italian!

If any of you would like to share your family’s history with our lodge, please contact Charlene. We would love to hear your story.

Written by Charlene Pardo
Information supplied by Bill Rose