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      Saturnia brings immigrant voyages to life

      May. 28, 2013

      “The bound that Italian immigrants have with their history, even though they don’t live in Italy anymore, is unbelievable to me. It is quite shameful that Italians in Italy don’t know much about this part of history. We just know that a few people left for financial reasons. But it’s more than that,” explains journalist turned filmmaker Ferdinando Dell’Omo.

      In 2008, Dell’Omo and filmmaking partner Lilia Topouzova set out to interview hundreds of Italians now living in Canada who all share one important history – they immigrated to Canada from Italy by ship.

      The result is a documentary film, titled Saturnia, that follows a second generation Italian who wants to uncover more information about her father’s journey from Italy to Canada. She set out to meet other Italian passengers of the Saturnia to learn from their experiences.

      During their initial research, the filmmakers found the story of the Saturnia to be quite powerful. They soon decided to make this particular ship and its passengers the focus of their film.

      Originally built as a luxury cruise ship in 1925, the Saturnia was considered to be one of the most beautiful transcontinental ships ever built.

      “Many say that the Saturnia was probably the most elegant ship, the most beautiful back then,” explains Dell’Omo.

      During the war, however, the ship was used by American forces in various functions. Once the war was over, the ship was transformed once again, this time for immigration transfers. Between 1946 and 1965, it is estimated that 265,000 immigrants travelled on the Saturnia from Europe to Canada and the U.S. A majority of those travellers were Italians bound for the ports of Halifax or New York.

      Dell’Omo himself is an Italian immigrant. He arrived in Toronto just six years ago to work as a reporter for OMNI Television. His fascination with immigration and transcontinental voyages would lead to his collaboration with Topouzova, a trained historian and researcher. Together the pair founded Still Ocean Films.

      Dell’Omo recently completed a Masters degree in Film Production at York University. His thesis was a short film titled, The Voice of the Fish, which covers a day in the life of an old Italian immigrant, Giuseppe, whose daily routine is still accompanied by silent skirmishes with the invisible ghost of his wife.

      Nostalgia and immigration are strong themes in Dell’Omo’s work.

      “What has come out of my research is that most of the Italian immigrants were not poor. They had financial reasons for leaving Italy, for sure, but I think it was more complex than that, especially for the women. I am fascinated by these reasons,” he comments.

      A one-hour version of Saturnia aired on OMNI TV and City TV in 2011. Last year, with the aid of additional funding from Canadian and Italian organizations, Dell’Omo and Topouzova released a feature version of the film.

      The feature premiered in November at the Moving Images Festival in Toronto. Last month, the film was released on DVD. And there are more plans in the works… The filmmakers hope that this is the just the beginning of the Saturnia’s cinematic voyage.

      To learn more about the film, or to purchase a DVD copy, please visit

      10 Responses to “Saturnia brings immigrant voyages to life”

      1. Rosetta Rosati says:

        I am fascinated by this research on Italian emigration. I now live in Italy, after a number of years spent in Canada and I have started writing the story of my grandparents’ emigration to Canada early 1900. My grandfather left Southern Italy in 1907 on a ship called Luisiana, I was able to trace this passage through Ellis Island’s Archives, but it has also been my big question, “what prompted these people to leave their home towns and go towards the unknown?” I am discovering so many truths of these wonderful and courageous people! My story is in progress because still a lot must be told. I will follow your work with interest and appreciate what you have done. Best regards, Rosetta Rosati

      2. Robert Cosulich says:

        My family owned the Cosulich Line which owned and operated the Saturnia. My grandfather, who worked for the company, was transferred from Trieste to New York around 1935. My father was in medical school at the time of his fathers transfer, stayed in Italy until he finished his studies. I would be interested in any information regarding the Cosulich Line or any of the ships that were company owned.
        Thank you,
        Robert S. Cosulich

      3. Dear Mr. Cosulich,

        My father, Ivan Trcic, sailed on the S.S. Saturnia from Trieste February 4, 1931; and arrived at Port of New York on February 17, 1931. He was a native of the United States born in Pittsbug Pa. (Pittsburgh, PA) on August 6, 1914. He was number 18 on the List of United States Citizens sheet 206.

        Is it possible for me to obtain his ticket information? He was 16 years old.

        Thank you for your most kind consideration.

        • Bob Cosulich says:

          I would have no way to obtain your fathers ticket information. The company was nationalized by Italy during the war. My family lost all ownership of the company to the Italian Government.

          Sorry I can’t help you

      4. Trevor says:

        The Saturnia has quite a history and can be found online…it actually had a name change during the war 1946 when the U.S. returned the ship my 4 year old father who was born in England traveled on it with his mother from there to Ellis Island…stepping foot on US soil on Jan 1st 1946…just before this the ship was named Frances Y Slanger (for a nurse killed in germany)…and if you Google that name you will find a treasure trove of pics of this ship! When it was Slanger it was a ship Hosp…before that it was an allied troop ship…and before that it was a red Cross ship…all this during the war when we took it from Mussolini! The trip my father made was probly one of the first after the war! Anyway…good luck

        • My father, Mario, came to America aboard the Saturnia from Sicily via Naples to NYC. This was in 1928 I beleive. He was so impressed and enamored with the Saturnia that he built an exquisite model of her. Lately , I have been doing a lot of on line research of its history and discovered so many people were touched by her existance.. I wish I had a way of posting a photo here of this superb model. It is here in San Diego . My father , later re painted it to its postwar service as a hospital ship, the Frances Y Slanger..
          Thanks for sharing your story..

      5. Maria Mitchell says:

        My father arrived in Halifax from Naples on La Saturnia in either 1960 or 1961? He couldn’t remember so I am in the process of requesting an immigration record so I will have the exact date of my father’s arrival in Canada. If anyone has any pictures from any of those years and would like to share, it would be greatly appreciated!

        Kindest Regards,


      6. Marilena Urbani Young says:

        I have a group picture of my Dad on the Saturnia in April, 1956. We are from Valdagno, Vicenza and his port of departure was Venezia arriving in Halifax. My Mom, sister and I did the same trip a year later. We settled in Vancouver, BC were my Dad is still doing well in his 87th year! I was searching for the passenger list of his voyage (not found) and came across this website.

        • Tony Di Bona says:

          I would love to have a copy of that photo to include with my collection of Saturnia’s history. I will also send you photos of the Saturnia model once we establish contact…

      7. Mia Freneaux says:

        My grandmother was given a red ribbon by a crewman at a dance in Riga Latvia after the Russian Revolution and before 1939. It has the word “Saturnia” embroidered on it in yellow along with a flag on either side. The flags have a fleur de lis on one half and a cross on the other. Does anyone know if this could be from the ship mentioned here?