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On The Street Where We Live

                                                                       Maggie Fimia  September 3, 2011

The house looks like it is crumbling, but the street sign is very clear, “Via Liberta,“ Liberty Street.  This is the cobble stoned street where my cousin, Rosa Fimia lives.  She is the last Fimia in Vita, Sicily.  Vita remains a beautiful old town on a terraced hillside an hour south of Palermo.  It is where my grandfather, Vito Fimia was born, and his father, and his father before him.

My Sicilian relatives left this verdant place for the same reasons my Irish relatives left their beautiful island - Liberty – The liberty to make a decent living, the liberty to be free of oppression from those who take your land and rob you of your identity.  Most of all, they believed in the liberty to think their own thoughts. 

Growing up I read about the “waves of immigrants” coming to America in the 1800 and 1900’s from Europe.  What I realize now is that the history of our remarkable country is really the collective history of our Ancestors, only much more accurate. 

It’s more accurate because it is not filtered by observers of history but told by those making that history.  We are taught the names and heroic deeds of our leaders but few of us know the names of our great grandfather or great grand mother who provided the labor, sacrifice & courage needed to create the institutions and wealth we now take for granted. 

History is relevant when it becomes personal.  There he is, my grandfather, Vito Fimia, on the passenger list of the “S.S. Citta di Napoli.”  He is only nineteen years old.  The trip from Vita in 1904 took over two weeks.  He boarded the ship with $10 dollars in his pocket.  He is alone.  My Irish grandmother’s story is the same.  They started with nothing in a strange place far from family they would never see again.  But they were free and they knew their people were survivors.

I was only a little girl when they died.  I remember them, but never got to talk with them about their lives or their dreams for me.  By the time I realized I wanted to know about my ancestors, both my parents were also gone.  Piecing their journeys together through letters, documents and stories gives me a solid picture of the sequence of their lives.  Actually seeing the place where they grew up has been life changing for me.  They dealt with real adversity and survived.   Their values and family ties got them through.  Their sense of identity and knowledge about their origins gave them pride and a need to make their people proud.  Despite the sacrifice, they chose to be free rather than to be oppressed. 

This need for Liberty is universal.   Like water, we need it to thrive.  The struggle to find and retain it goes on forever.  It’s our turn to enter the fray.  It’s our turn to make them proud and lift up our children. 

The sign on Rosa’s street is a daily reminder for the people who live there.  This is the street where we live.  This is the place we need to protect.  This is the life worth living. Via Liberta!


Maggie Fimia

Edmonds WA

(425) 412-3674



On The Street Where 
We Live...