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Orazio Rizzi

Orazio Rizzi's story is one of compassion and honour - a man who sacrificed everything he ever knew for the betterment of those around him.

He left the only life he ever knew in order to become a Canadian citizen.
"I just want my family to stay together . . . it's as simple as that."

Born in 1946 in Barie, Italy he grew up as a normal Italian child: attending school, playing soccer with friends, and helping his family. Yet he gave all this up when he joined the Italian military at the age of 19. Although he had no family or relatives in the military he had these incredible desire to fly.

"Flying is one of the most beautiful activities, it's just you and the world," says Rizzi.
During his basic training he found everything he had hoped for: new friends and learning to push himself mentally and physically.

"You really learn a lot about yourself and what your capable of (when faced with such challenges)."

After completion of his basic training Rizzi came to Ottawa for his first lengthy period. He continued his pilot training in the Air Force Academy in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and Gimli, Alberta. He remarks of the fond memories he has of Canada from that time.

"It really made me want to experience more of the country afterwards."

During the next 20 years he progressed up the ranks in the Italian Air Force. At age 23 he married his wife Franka and later had two children, Barbara and Aliessandera.

Yet this time period also marked constant struggles in his life.

"I survived, many of my friends did not," he says as his eyes glaze over. The military lifestyle was also very hard on the family, having to move six times in 20 years.

"It's asking a lot of your family to expect them to follow you everywhere," he remarks.

Orazio also mentions the number of friends that all family members have left behind and the number of different schools the daughters have attend. A constant movement towards the logistic branch of the military marked these promotions, where he finally held the prestige's position of Personal Assistance to the Chief of Staff.

Rizzi enjoyed this advancement because he learned the skills of international corporation- the shift from an air force that stands alone to a number of air forces that join together.

Orazio also noted that this is where the future of the military lies. With the movement towards trans-national organizations (i.e. NATO, NAFTA, EU), the need for a focused military force becomes more and more important.

"You can't have everybody pulling in different directions . . . you need one main objective for everybody to work towards," he says.

In 1999 the Rizzi's moved to Canada when Orazio took the position of attaché on behalf of the Italian government. It is a job that he loved while it lasted, but recently he retired from the position. The reason for this was the constant pressure that the job was putting on his family life.

His daughter Barbara, now 29, has established herself in the Ottawa community while his other daughter Aliessandera, 25, is attending Algonquin College. Both daughters also have met very important people in their lives including co-workers, schoolmates and friends.

With the family becoming more and more settled in the Canadian community, Orazio and Franka decided it was in the best interests of the entire family to stay in Canada. They felt it would be too hard to pick up and move again to another part of Canada, and although they wanted to be with their remaining family in Italy, neither parent wanted to break up their existing family.

With the decision to stay in Canada the Rizzi's must make the transition from being Italians in Canada to becoming Italian-Canadians.

"We will always be Italian. Period."

Although Barbara has Canadian citizenship, the other three members of the family do not. Thus they find themselves trying to become one of the last Italian immigrant families, forced to become Canadian out of their desire to stay together.

This is what Orazio represents to me. An individual who is willing to make all the sacrifices needed in order for the betterment of his family. He has had to redefine his lifestyle and future in regards to those around him.

"We don't want our daughters to experience the same lifestyle of always moving around," says Rizzi, "and we can't afford to lose that connection with them."

So the family has applied for Canadian citizenship. Until this is granted they are not able to work. Orazio has determined to fill his time by giving back to the Ottawa Italian community.
He was recently elected the President of Italian Week, and he has large goals to bring his own Italian experiences to this celebration.

"My number one priority is youth involvement . . . that has been the compliant in the past and I believe this needs to be addressed now rather than later."

Orazio has attempted to accomplish this by bringing in two youths as part of the 15-member committee, and giving them the opportunity to express and implement their ideas.
He would also like to see a synergy between all the Italian organizations so their goals can be met together, not on a case-by-case basis. He believes the COMITES is one way to accomplish this.

Until the Rizzi's receive their Permanent Residential Status they wait. The longer they stay, the more intertwined they become with the ideals of the community they are now part of. As much as they want to remain distinctively Italian, they are slowly adopting the ideologies of our Canadian culture: honour, family, politeness.

Orazio even jokes that he now watches hockey games. And thus slowly they are becoming the last Italian immigrants.


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