Nada Gavrilov

As Interviewed by Nicholas Ray, March 14, 2012

Nada Gavrilov: In Her Own Words

There were 3 girls and 3 boys, and we started walked from Yugoslavia, and we were going on the freeway, and every time we saw the car passing, that's the patrol, we have to jump over the fence and wait so we can go back on the freeway. After when we can go to the mountains, we go off the freeway and went into the mountains, high, toward the border. So, we decide to cross the border when it was midnight when they we changing the guard. So they were all in the house drinking and the dogs, everybody was in the house. And then, we came and the mountain was shaved 550 Yugoslavia part and 550 Italy part, and they can see you, the solders tried to shoot you. So what we decide, we cannot walk all the way down so we rolled down. So when we came down the hill, there was a river there. It was a very cold river, like the Colorado River. And all the snow was melting from the mountains, and we have to swim it to get to Italy. Water was so cold, one girl got frozen. She got paralyzed, and couldn't swim. So, my husband was a big man, we put her on his shoulders so he swims with her across to the Italy.

When we come to the Italy... Most Italians speak Yugoslavian because Italy before was Yugoslavia, but Italy took the part. In Trieste, we went in the street car and asked the driver," Please, take us to the nearest store that we can buy clothes, because we are all wet, torn and dirty. So we went into the story, and changed and got a hotel to sleep and rest. The next day, we went to the police and tell them what we did, that we are immigrants. So the police took us right away to the camps, the United Nation has camps for immigrants who escaped from communist.

So they didn't want you to go back?

No, if we go back there we will get killed because they know that we escape.

Then, they tried to investigate if we were ever apart of the communist party had the red book. So they wound out, and then we can apply for visa. So we told them that I have a family in Canada and my husband has family in the United States, and we would like to immigrate. But, the United States to immigrant you have to for quota or and sometimes you have to wait 10 years. So we agree to immigrate into the Canada, because I have an uncle and an aunt over there that did all the papers for us. And we stay about 2 years for the papers to get ready and we came to Canada.

And when we came to Halifax [Range], where we got off of the ship, we were very happy we were free. And we were free to work and I was qualified because I finished all of seamstress school, 4 years. I got a job in Montreal right away.

Did yet speak your language?

Most people in Montreal and Toronto speak Italian, and because we spoke Italian, it was good for us. Then we had to start learning French, or English. And we chose to learn English and it was very hard. 1959 we came to Italy, 1961 we came to Canada and about 15 years after living in Canada we got into the United States. Because my husband was working for American Aircraft and they transfer us to Arizona and we are here, and that is all.