Denis, Raymond and Gerry Protti, born and living in Canada, came to Friuli and Veneto to complete the mission begun by their father Luigi in 1936. It took more than 80 years of research, travels to Italy and consultations of various archives, after difficulties and disappointments, they finally made it. Their grandfather Giovanni Battista Protti from Cimolais is buried in the cemetery of Belluno. Laura Ruzzier, a Canadian professor of Istrian origins, accompanied them in this incredible adventure.
In April 1903, Maria gave birth to a son named Sebastiano.Giovanni had to leave Cimolais for America. Giovanni embarked alone for New York at Le Havre, France, on June 13, 1903. From there he traveled to Pennsylvania and then to Canada to a small village called Pocahontas, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in the Alberta Province. In September 1913, a decade after leaving Cimolais, John succeeded in bringing Maria and Sebastiano to Canada. The family was reunited again. Maria and John had three other sons at Pocahontas: Luigi, born in 1914, Vittoria, born in 1915 and Angelo, born in 1917.
When Italy went to war in 1915, again, Giovanni left his wife, this time in Canada, and arrived in Italy in late 1916. He gave them the money he had set aside during the years of hard work in North America, hoping it would be enough to keep the family up to his return. Unfortunately, things did not go as Giovanni hoped: after one year, on December 28, 1917, Maria died of pleurisy and was buried in a small cemetery, now abandoned, at Pocahontas. For a time, their four children, the youngest was just eight months, were hosted by another family who had emigrated from Friuli, the Del Boscos. When the war ended and they realized that their father could not be reached and would not return, the three younger children were sent to an orphanage about 200 kilometers from Pocahontas operated by Francophone sisters. Sebastiano, who then was only fifteen years old, went to work in the mine.
All the traces of Giovanni Protti had been lost. Disappeared. No one knew where he was or where and if he was dead. During their lifetime their children desperately sought information of their father and in 2015 the Protti nephews returned to Cimolais. On the last day in the village, the following document was found in the parish archives: "Giovanni Protti, son of the late Sebastiano, died at 11:30 am on January 8, 1918, aged 44, a worker resident in Cimolais and was buried in the cemetery of Belluno. Death took place in Via Loreto No. 14 " (the then civilian hospital in Belluno). He passed away twelve days after his wife and, at the time of their death, they could not imagine their children could be orphans. Giovanni Protti was hospitalized on October 19, 1917, but nothing was known about his illness and burial place. In May of this year, it emerged from the Udine State Archives that Giovanni Protti had enlisted in the Italian army in April 1917 and was reformed in June 1917 due to tuberculosis, probably because of his hospitalization at the Belluno Hospital and his death. That is why John never returned to Canada.
"On Friday, September 15, from an old archive kept in the caretaker's house in the Belluno cemetery, we discovered his burial place in the cemetery of Belluno - specifies Gerry wiping tears of emotion - and we finally could say thank you, we will go on grandma's grave in Canada to tell her that we finally found him. "
The Protti brothers appealed to the village of Cimolais: "We would like our grandfather to be remembered by adding his name to the fallen warriors on Cimolais's cemetery monument because, returning to Italy, Giovanni sacrificed his life in defense of a nation he loved ".
The sons and grandchildren of Maria and Giovanni Protti have reached important study and professional goals leaving a legacy of seven grandchildren who continue to contribute to Canada's growth through their leadership in the academic, public and corporate sectors.
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