Submitted by: Marianna Randazzo
Ancestor / Family Name: Marianna Firrincieli Biazzo
Ancestral Town: Ragusa Ibla, RG, SIC
Born in Ragusa, Ibla, Sicily, over 130 years ago, Marianna Firrincieli Biazzo (1888-1974) a courageous woman crossed the Atlantic on October 4, 1920, with her husband Corrado, a shoemaker, and three-year-old son, Francesco.
She left behind all earthly possessions and four children that had not survived childhood. Eight years later, in 1928, at 41 years of age, the couple was blessed with a 6th child who lived until the age of 86, my father, Rosario Biazzo.
On January 11, 1934, fourteen years after their arrival, Corrado petitioned for Naturalization, signing papers that renounced allegiances and fidelity to any foreign sovereignty, notably, Victor Emmanuel III, King of Italy. At the time, he resided at 41-43 Bedford Street, New York City. His occupation was listed as a doll maker. By 1942, the family had moved to 107 Thompson Street in NYC where Corrado filled out his Draft Registration card. He was 54 years old. His wife, Marianna was branded an “enemy alien” her naturalization did not occur until ten years later.
Marianna was the woman who taught me to speak Sicilian through hand gestures and limited conversations, after school while watching General Hospital. She encouraged me to eat meals and snacks. She taught me well! A widow, living with her son Rosario’s family, she spent her days sitting in a black, leather recliner positioned aside a dining room window, watching people walk by. During summer she waved through the open windows with one hand while praying on black Rosary Beads. When Mr. Softee arrived, she slipped a dime to me from her coin purse tucked in her apron.
She never mentioned her hardships, leaving her beloved country and babies behind, working in a clothes factory, carrying bundles of garments up tenement stairways, toiling evenings, doing piece work, saving every penny to send her 12-year-old son to a conservatory in Rome to study violin.
Her “Miracle Baby,” my father, did not learn English until the first grade and was shamed by others. By the eighth grade he was accepted into the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in NYC and then Columbia University.
As a senior, Rosario spoke of how Italian-Americans assimilation was a slow process for many immigrants. However, discrimination and prejudices did not deter them from working their way up the ranks of America’s social, political, artistic, literary, religious and economic ladders. They merely measured success by a different yardstick and mainstreamed by a slightly different road.
It was the courage of my ancestors that made it possible for my life today in America. Despite hardships and adversities, I believe they indeed came for us.