Families and social structure

Eli Cizewski-Robinson
Philip Lovetere's and Angelina Giordano's great-grandson
My great grandparents like so many others left their lives in extreme poverty in rural Sicily to seek a better life in America. They came to Chicago because they had relatives that had already moved there, there was a strong Italian American community and there was a large need for workers in Chicago. My great-grandfather Philip Lovetere came over sometime before 1917 and my great-grandmother Angelina Giordano around 1920.

When Angelina came the U.S. she was engaged, but she wanted to go to Chicago where she had family and the man she was engaged to didn't, so she called off the engagement. They were both from Santa Caterina Villarmosa a small town in Sicily, while they had heard of each others families they met and married in Chicago.

Philip Lovetere was illiterate and most likely would not have become a citizen if he had not joined the army in 1918 as many immigrants did and still do today. He was sent over to France where he fought in the 64th Infantry Regiment. During the war even though his unit was involved in some major battles, he was never seriously injured. However his unit was shelled with gas by the Germans almost every day. Later in life he complained about trouble with his senses of taste and smell.

After Philip returned from the war in 1919 he met and married Angelina. At that point they were both living with relatives and actually lived across the street from each other. After running into each other on several occasions, they started dating and eventually got married. They both worked for Roscoe a company that provided uniforms to workers, such as gas station attendants. Philip prepared dirty clothes for cleaning as well as ironing clean cloths, while Angelina was a seamstress.

While working at Roscoe Angelina became friends with an African American woman, but neither of them felt safe in the other's neighborhood so they always met in downtown Chicago.

Philip was the official head of the family but Angelina could read and write in Italian as well as write a little in English, she also made more money than Philip and she held a lot of power in the family. At one point the Mafia tried to recruit Philip and Angelina threw them out of her house. Out of economic necessity Angelina made clothing for their children.

For some time they lived in an Italian-American neighborhood, but after someone was murdered on the steps of their apartment building, possibly by the Mafia, they decided to move. They found a place in a nice French-Canadian neighborhood, but the landlord was worried that renting to Sicilian immigrants would bring the Mafia to the neighborhood. So they decided to tell everyone that Philip and Angelica were French.

Philip and Angelina had three children named Grace, Philip and Anne Marie, my grandmother. When Anne Marie was born, she was named Annita Maria Lovetere, but when she started Roman Catholic grade school the nuns said this is America and now your Anne Marie.

Instead of going to high school Anne completed two years of clerical school and due to the depression when to work as a typist at the age of 16. During World War II Anne and her sister Graces were having trouble finding work, because employers didn't want to hire Sicilian-Americans, so they started saying they were French to get jobs.

Anne worked until she married my grandfather Felix Cizewski in 1948. Felix's Polish family considered him marrying a Sicilian to be a mixed marriage and considered Sicilians to be closer to Arabs and Africans then Europeans. Ironically Felix's sister's marriages to a German-American and a Polish-American both ended in divorce, but Felix and Anne were together until Felix's death in 2004.

Philip and Angelina would have preferred that she marry an Italian-American, they didn't share the prejudice that Felix's family had toward the marriage. After returning from World War II Felix and Anne went looking for a house. One seller saw Felix's Polish last name and commented that he sure was glad they weren't Sicilian. My grandparents immediately told the seller that they didn't want to buy a home from him.

Felix worked as a truck driver for most of his life. Anne didn't start working again until after there four children Philip, Felix, Nena and Leonard, my father, were born. Nena's name was originally spelled Nina but the nurses at the hospital decided to Anglicize the spelling and changed it.

All of Anne and Felix's children went to Catholic schools, but not all of them remained catholic, for example my father is now an agnostic Zen Buddhist. While my dad Leonard Cizewski was in school, he faced some of the mainland Italian racism against Sicilians. Thanks to Felix's union job, he had enough money to put his children through college and gave them economic opportunity.

My family was originally very close, Angelina and Philip lived next door to Felix and Anne, when Anne was working Angelina would take care of the children. Angelina and Philip's other children moved to Arizona and Nevada, and there have been some tensions and disputes that have divided the family. Felix and Anne's children live in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Florida.

My father went to college for a nursing degree and later met and married my mother Cheryl Robinson who is also a nurse. They lived in Chicago for a while, but moved to Madison to get out of the big city. When my brother and I were growing up, my dad worked part time on the night-shift so at least one parent would be home at all times.

Many parts of my family history are similar to those of the main stream, like many people they came to America for economic opportunity, they faced racism that affected where they worked and lived. It was hard for my grandparents and great-grandparents to find places to live and work because of their ethnicity. Due to economic necessity women in my family worked, and sometimes made more than their husbands. Angelina was a very strong willed woman and is a great example of strong women in the past, from leaving the man she was engaged to, to throwing mobsters out of her house she displayed a lot of strength. My family history is similar to many peoples, but it is unique in many ways as well.

A Spring, 2007 paper for the undergraduate Introduction to Sociology class at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Minor spelling and formating changes made by Leonard H. Cizewski

Cizewski, Lovetere, Musbach, & Robinson
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© 2007 Leonard H. Cizewski
Last Modified on November 7, 2007
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