Interview with Gina Benetti

Gina Benetti was born in Anyox, BC on March 21, 1928. She was the first of eight children born to Angela and Emilio Sanvido. Her father arrived in Canada first in 1923 to find work, and then brought his fiancé over in 1927. Before his arrival, Emilio served under the British army in World War II. As a child, Gina attended Seamore Elementary School and then Templeton Junior High School. She explains that she did not face any discrimination from fellow students, but was once embarrassed and anxious when a teacher taught a social studies class on “enemy alien” countries such as Italy. Gina believes that her community so understood during the war because it was very multicultural: with Yugoslavian, Russian, and Italian neighbours. She recounts how a Japanese Canadian friend of hers named Kasako Suzuki left for Japan with her mother in grade 7 and Gina thought she had been killed during World War II until they were reunited over 60 years later. During the war both her mother and father were designated as enemy aliens, however only her mother was forced to report monthly to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Vancouver as her father was sent out of the city to work. She remembers going with her mother and four siblings down to 33rd and Cambie, where they took two street cars before returning back home. As an adult, Gina married John Benetti and they had a son together, John Junior. Gina went to university to study education and worked as a teacher before she was married. In later years she was instrumental in developing an ESL program in the Vancouver area, and taught through the TEAL program and the church.