A black and white photo of a man lounging on the lawn with a dog. He has short, slicked-back hair, and is wearing a loose shirt, unbuttoned beneath the collar bone, and white pants. He has sandals on his feet. The dog has his mouth open with his tongue out and is looking away from the camera. The photo is framed in the background by overhanding bushes.
Leone Caetani sitting on the front lawn of his home in Vernon with a dog circa 1927.

“Enriched all aspects of our society”

In recognition of Italian Heritage Month, which is celebrated every June, Minister Hussen stated that “with more than 1.5 million people of Italian heritage, Canada is the proud home of one of the largest Italian diasporas in the world. From business to sports, cuisine, politics, and much more, the community has enriched all aspects of our society, and continues to do so.”

Italian immigrants in Canada and the Okanagan

A circular black and white photograph bordered by a white frame. A small child on the left is seated on a bench with a pillow. She is wearing a white dress, and her waved hair is pinned back at the ear with a white clip. She is not smiling, and looking away from the camera. She is hugging a woman in a white dress, who is leaning in to press her face against the child's. She is smiling slightly and looking at the camera. To her left is a man in a suit and tie, sitting upright and smiling slighty at the camera. One hand rests easily on his knee, and the other is behind the back of the woman.
Leone, Ofelia, and Sveve photographed in 1921, shortly before the family’s departure for Canada. Vernon Museum and Archives #12730.

The immigration of Italians to Canada is closely tied to political and social turmoil in Italy in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. In particular, the rise of fascism under Mussolini changed the fortunes of many Italians, and some decided to immigrate to Canada to seek out new and safer opportunities. Many settled in communities in B.C., including Vancouver, Trail, Rossland, Revelstoke, Kelowna, Powell River, Duncan, and Vernon. The Okanagan’s first Italian immigrant was Giovanni Casorso, who arrived in Kelowna in March of 1883, followed by his wife and children in 1884.

A black and white photo of a man standing, with one knee up on chair. He is positioned near a window through which light is streaming. He has one hand on his hip, and is wearing a bowler hat.
This photo of Leone, taken in 1921, shows him leaning on a chair in Ofelia’s villa in Rome “on the eve of their departure for Canada.” Greater Vernon Museum & Archives #12142.

A duke immigrates to Vernon

Meanwhile, one of Vernon’s most well-known Italian immigrants was Leone Caetani, father of Sveva Caetani, a celebrated local artist. Leone was born on September 12, 1869, to one of the oldest and most distinguished families in Italy. In addition to serving as Duke of Sermoneta and Prince of Teano, Leone was a gifted scholar with a degree in Ancient and Oriental Language and History, and fluent in 11 different languages.

A woman with salt-and-pepper hair is seated in a wheelchair and looking up towards the camera. She is not smiling, and holding a beige blanket to show the camera. On the blanket is printed a black horse rearing up on its hind legs.
Sveva Caetani at a solo exhibition in 1988 at the Vernon Public Art Gallery.

Leone first visited Canada for a hunting trip in 1891, and was captivated by its natural beauty. This likely contributed to his decision to immigrate to the country in 1921 with Sveva and her mother Ofelia. As an avid socialist, Leone, like many Italians, was also no longer comfortable in post-war, fascist Italy. 

The Caetani Family, with Ofelia’s secretary and personal companion, Miss Jüül, and a small handful of staff, arrived in Vernon in the summer of 1921.

To learn more about the Caetani Family, click here

 

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

A pale blue diner on the side of a road with a cloudy sky in the background. A blue, yellow, and white banner above the building's front door reads "Rosalinda's All Day Breakfast." A beige truck is parked off to the right.
Rosalinda’s diner at 2810 33rd Street. Photo: Gwyn Evans, 2022.

The Filipino Community in Canada and Vernon

Celebrated every June, Filipino Heritage Month acknowledges one of the fastest growing multicultural communities in Canada.

Unfortunately, Filipino immigration to the Okanagan, and Vernon more specifically, is not as well documented as other cultural groups. However, as of 2016, Vernon had a Filipino population of 370 individuals.

Canada’s earliest documented Filipino immigrants were sailors living and working on the west coast; up until the 1930s, almost all immigrants were male. The population continued to increase steadily over the years, and by the 1970s, 16,913 Filipinos lived in Canada. By 2016, this number had increased to 837,130.

Vernon has an active Filipino community, with groups such the Filipino Association of Vernon (FAV) spearheading anti-racism initiatives, and relief fundraisers for family and friends suffering through natural disasters back in the Philippines.

Emergency Relief

In November of 2013, Super typhoon Haiyan (also known as Yolanda) made landfall in the Philippines, displacing 4.1 million people, killing more than 6,000 and leaving 1,800 missing. Vernon’s Filipino Community quickly mobilized, raising $26,000 of emergency relief through a number of community events. In 2020, another $1,315 was raised through a virtual Christmas concert for those affected by typhoons Rolly (Goni) and Ulysses (Vamco).

Stand up against racism

Meanwhile, in May of 2021, the FAV launched their inaugural Stand Up Against Racism initiative with a paddleboarding event at Kal Beach. Later that year, they also joined other local community groups in producing Allyship in Action, a short film sponsored by the Social Planning Council for the North Okanagan to show the harmful impacts of racism and initiatives to counteract them.

ROSALINDA’S

In terms of a local success story, Rosalinda Smelser, a local business woman who was born in Mainit in the province of Surigao Del Norte, Phillipines, fits the bill. Rosalinda, who runs a diner of the same name, moved to Vernon in 1999, and opened her business in 2011. Rosalinda’s, located at 2810 33rd Street, serves both Canadian classics and Filipino favourites.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

killiney BeaCH

May the road rise up to meet you this St. Patrick’s Day! Vernon is home to a healthy Irish population, which is reflected in some of its place names. Killiney Beach, originally called Sproul’s Landing by the region’s settler population, is situated on Westside Road. Of course, long before the area bore either of these names, it was known to and used by the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation.

Killiney Beach in 1944.

Killiney Hill

The beach was named after Killiney Hill in Dublin, Ireland. Killiney Hill is a popular destination for hikers, drawn to its spectaculars views of Dublin, the Irish Sea, and the mountains of Wales. The hill is also topped by an obelisk built in 1742 in remembrance of the victims of the Irish Famine of 1740/’41.

Sproul’s Landing

Sproul’s Landing was a stop for the sternwheelers of Okanagan Lake. Some stops along the lake, including Sproul’s Landing, were unscheduled, and the ships would only halt at these smaller settlements on occasion. In order to request the S.S. Sicamous to make an unscheduled stop during its trips between Penticton and Vernon, residents would need to stand on the shore waving a white flag during the day, or light two bonfires at night.

Killiney Hill near Dublin, Ireland. Photo courtesy of the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.

 

Harry Percy Hodges

When Harry Percy Hodges decides to settle at Sproul’s Landing in 1903, he hanged its name to reflect his Irish roots. In addition to running his own farm, Hodges also worked as a bookkeeper at the Coldstream Ranch. He later married Arabel M. Ricardo, sister to W.C. Ricardo, the ranch’s manager. The couple has at least one child, a son named John.

Hodges passed away in Victoria in 1922.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Vaselena and Nicholai Malysh are featured in Vernon’s Multicultural Mural (3101 32nd Avenue); Vaselena is wearing the blue dress in the center of the image, with Nicholai’s arm around her shoulders.

War In Ukraine

This Tuesday, March 8, is International Women’s Day, and in light of Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked attack on Ukraine, it seems fitting to feature some of the many remarkable Ukrainian women who have called Vernon home. In particular, the Malysh family has a long local history.

Vaselena Malysh

In 1903, a young woman named Vaselena immigrated with her family from Ispas, Ukraine, to a farm in Hamlin, Alberta. Here, Vaselena married Nicholai Malysh (also from Ispas), and the couple had 14 children; sadly, 5 children died under the age of four from various illnesses. After this tragedy, and seeing their rights stripped away during World War One, the couple decided to start a new life in the Okanagan, and moved to the Swan Lake area in 1926.

When she arrived, Vaselena felt like she was finally home again, since, in her eyes, the Okanagan greatly resembled Western Ukraine. The couple became successful orchardists. A portion of the property was later given to son Alex, who operated a fruit stand (now the Swan Lake Market).

Anne Malysh

Anne Malysh (nee Daneliuk) married Vaselena’s son Paul in 1950, at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Vernon. Anne was a remarkable community member and a loving mother and grandmother. She was a longtime member of the Ukrainian Women’s Association, and volunteered many hours with the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Women’s Auxiliary.

Anne and Paul also operated Paul’s Driving School, which they started in 1959. Anne was said to be a very patient teacher. She was also a talented baker, and was known for her Ukrainian braided breads, cinnamon buns, cabbage rolls, and perogies (the recipes of which were kept top-secret).

Andrea Malysh

Anne’s daughter Andrea is an active voice for the Ukrainian community in Vernon. She started the Zirka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble in 1979, and later the Sadok Ukrainian Dance Ensemble in 1999, and has always loved to share Ukrainian culture through dance and performance.

Andrea is now central in mobilizing aid from the North Okanagan to Ukraine. These are the aid organizations that she recommends: Canada-Ukraine Foundation/UCC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, and Friends of Ukraine Defense Forces Fund. The Sadok Ukrainian Dance Ensemble will also be hosting a local humanitarian aid fundraiser event in the coming weeks.

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator