I know I’m exactly one week late on this father’s day gift – and everyone has already posted their oldest, cutest photo on fbook and instagram with their pops – but this video took me a few days longer than expected to whip up!
This year for Father’s Day, I am giving my dad possibly the most unique present of my life: a birthplace.
Let me explain: My father was born in a displaced person’s camp in Venice, Italy at the end of World War II. They lived in Italy for three years before migrating to Canada. My dad was never told much about that time, and the one time he visited Italy many years ago he was told that the hospital he was born in was no longer there.
But when Chris and I were in Italy, we decided to make it our mission to find my father’s birthplace. See an incredible thing about Venice is that they preserve their door numbers even if the door is removed or a building is changed, so theoretically you can trace back addresses that hundreds of years old. So with just a copy of his Italian birth certificate in hand, we set out to find the spot where my father came into the world.
We started our journey in the jewish ghetto, which actually was the first ghetto in history, at the Jewish Information Centre. They were kind enough to translate the Italian birth certificate and let us know that the address we were looking for was 6778 Castello – the largest of the 6 neighborhoods in Venice.
So we set off in search of 6778 Castello, amidst the insanity that is Venetian alleyways, canals, and corners. The numbers are not in order at all, and we searched for hours. We found 6779…and 6779 a…but could not find 6778 for the life of us. We sat down to have a drink, feeling completely defeated.
We noticed that ironically there was a giant, beautiful hospital behind us that he could have been born in, but we were TOLD that the place he was born was no longer there – so we just assumed it could not be the hospital.
When I was about to throw in the towel and just say that 6779 was it, my husband urged me to not give up. So we finished our spritz’s, and decided to ask the hospital what THEIR number was.
Inside the hospital we quickly realized they spoke no English, but luckily my husband is incredible at sign language and broken Italian (AND speaking english in an Italian accent), so from lots of hand gestures and finally looking at a piece of their mail, we discovered their address was 6777!
So we had found 6777 and 6779 (far across on the other side of the street!), so we HAD to be close! We went outside to survey around the hospital since they had multiple doors, and just our luck, all the numbers on the side of the building were completely SUN BLEACHED out and barely legible! We literally had not seen ANY building numbers like this in Venice except these! You could see the 6 – 7 -7 of the number, but the last number was incredibly difficult to decipher.
We investigated multiple numbers along the outside of the hospital using our best detective/CSI skills, and then at one of the last doors along the outer wall, after heated discussion and questioning our eyesight, we determined that the final number was indeed not a 6, but an 8! We found it! 6778! It looked like the old entrance to the hospital (which has now been built up much more and expanded) and in the end we knew this was the spot. So there you go dad! Mission accomplished, birthplace found, Happy Father’s Day.
And here is the man himself, my father, Lewis Bercovitch: