NORWICH – Norwich’s Italian heritage is a bridge to the past that’s important for many reasons, say organizers of an exhibit on Sicilian immigration that opened Monday in Norwich.
“Sicilian Crossings and the Derived Communities,” created through the Sicilian government and the University of Messina, will be on display from 1 to 8 p.m. starting today until May 22 in the Monsignor Guy Festa Parish Center, located next to St. Bartholomew’s Church on East Main Street in Norwich.
Many of Norwich’s Italian immigrants came from Lipari, one of seven islands in what’s known as the Aeolian Island chain, located off the coast of Sicily. “Crossings” tells their story, and the stories of thousands of Sicilian immigrants who left in a mass migration to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries.
“The exhibit is meant to reinforce the relationship between the Sicilian communities there and in the United States,” said Marcello Saija, a professor at the University of Messina (Sicily) who helped create the exhibit, funded by the Sicilian government. “The best way to reinforce this relationship is to discover the roots of emigration of the Sicilian communities.”
Many Sicilian and Aeolian immigrants relocated to New York state, forming communities in New York City, Norwich, Oswego and Rochester. Locally, many worked in the stone quarry on West Hill or in the Ontario and Western Railroad yards where Norwich High School sits today.