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BOOK PRESENTATION: Land of Triumph and Tragedy. Voices of the Italian Fallen Workers.



BOOK PRESENTATION: Land of Triumph and Tragedy. Voices of the Italian Fallen Workers.

Land of Triumph and Tragedy. Voices of the Italian Fallen Workers.

A Century of Italian Immigration to Canada: Immigrants Who Made It and Those Who Perished Trying

By Paola Breda with Marino Toppan

Authors Paola Breda and Marino Toppan will present a ground-breaking new history of the Italian-Canadian immigration experience, including the previously untold story of the thousands of Italian Fallen Workers who died building this beautiful country — a story that’s destined to become a new piece of Canadian History.

Compiled after decades of research by Toppan, this epic new volume includes countless contributions from across the country, by scholars of Italian-Canadian history and the families of the fallen themselves. This new book includes profiles of those in the Italian community in Canada who triumphed with incredible successes, those who died in tragic circumstances, as well as in-depth studies on immigration patterns, labour history, socio-adaptive patterns, labour action, strife and hardships experienced, and other themes pertaining to the Italian-Canadian identity.

Land of Triumph and Tragedy is a sequel to the creation of the Italian Fallen Workers Memorial Wall, unveiled on 28 April 2016 at Villa Charities, a project that was awarded the prestigious Medaglia d’Oro al Merito Civile — the first medal of this calibre ever given by the Italian government to anyone outside of Italy. For Toppan and Breda, this is a living memorial that has a place in every home of Canadians of Italian heritage, so that new generations learn about the sacrifices of their forefathers.



Marino Toppan was born in 1932 in the small hamlet of Villotta di Chions in the Province of Udine, region of Friuli. He attended elementary school there, then frequented the Scuola di Avviamento in Portogruaro, Venezia. By 1955, he knew he had to try his luck in Canada after completing seasonal work in Switzerland, and when it became clear there was not much of a future in Italy. He immigrated to Canada in February of 1955 and took his place in the construction "jungle" for five years, working in Toronto and North Bay as a bricklayer. By 1960, he had joined the Bricklayers' Union as an organizer and then later joined LIUNA Local 506, where he stayed for many years. This was the time of the great change in the direction of his life. He was to be a union man for the remainder of his work life and long into his retirement. Over the course of his many decades working in the Toronto unions, Marino was greatly impacted by the great number of workplace tragedies in Toronto's Italian community, and this was a theme he kept close to his heart. After retirement, Marino did not stop working: he organized the Pensioners of Local 506 to create the Local 506 Recreation Centre, he became President of the Golden Age Academy, he wrote a book of his memoirs called The Voice of Labour, and then finally, in a manifestation of his life-long dream, led a committee to the realization of the Italian Fallen Workers Memorial Wall in April of 2016. Marino Toppan is also co-author of and major contributor to Land of Triumph and Tragedy: Voices of the Italian Fallen Workers, which recounts in great detail the history of Italian immigration to Canada while highlighting the previously untold story of the Italian Fallen Workers — thousands of men who unwillingly gave their lives in sacrifice for the building up of Canada.

Paola Breda is a longtime schoolteacher, raised within Toronto’s burgeoning 1970s Toronto Italian community. In addition to working, she has had a life filled with volunteer work, beginning at Villa Colombo as a teenager, then manning the junior phones at the telethon for Friuli Earthquake Fund in 1976, then being an active youth in the Italian community as a volunteer. She held positions in the youth section of the Club Azzanese and worked on fashion shows for dinner dances under the leadership of long time President Franco Brunetta during the 1980s. She was very active as President of the Italian club at her Catholic high school, in which many of the newly successful members of the families of Toronto’s Italian community were enrolled. She enjoyed being part of many Italian youth dances as a teenager, including helping to organize many at La Luna Ballroom and La Rotunda. She was the first to hold a high school fashion show at the Rotunda in Columbus Centre through her high school Italian Club in the 1980s, donating the funds to an Italian charity. She shares pride in her immigrant community background by having committed to this project and dedicated countless hours of volunteer work for its realization. She enjoys working with Marino Toppan, the Co-Ordinator of the Memorial Project on associated projects such as the documentary and the authoring of this book, and pays tribute to a great uncle, Albino Marcuz, killed in a workplace tragedy in Timmins in 1935.

This project is both unique and trailblazing; a new chapter has been written in Canadian history, and as such, Toppan and Breda have made a significant contribution to the cultural life of this country. — VINCENZO PIETROPAOLO, Award-winning documentary photographer

"Land of Triumph and Tragedy: Voices of the Italian Fallen Workers" is not simply another book about the migration of Italian communities in Canada. On the contrary, Land of Triumph adds a fundamental building block to the cultural, social and historical paradigms of Italian migration. Land of Triumph and Tragedy is an important work, a book that offers a new identity to our community. — SALVATORE BANCHERI, University of Toronto


Date: Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Time: At 6:30 pm

Entrance : Free


Istituto Italiano di Cultura | 496 Huron Street


Paola Breda, Marino Toppan