Old and new destinations: the ships depart

Section 8 of 12   back - next

Friuli's prospects at the end of the second world war were, in certain aspects, similar to those of November 1918.

The necessity to emigrate finds the same outlets and, shortly afterwards, the same obstacles.
The first few years showed that any destination seemed acceptable and the steady outflows took the route of France, Belgium, the United States, Argentina, Canada, Australia and South Africa.

The only change is represented by the rush for Venezuela : in western Friuli, the Val d'Arzino, Val Meduna and Val Cosa and towns like Spilimbergo, San Giorgio della Richinvelda, Valvasone and Arzene show the most interest.

In the second post-war period, therefore, the map of destinations and professions does not seem to undergo major changes.

The fellow countrymen who, in this twenty-year period, moved to countries like France, Belgium, the United States and Argentina served as a point of reference for those who emigrated after 1945.

On the 20th of June 1946 the Italian government, with its Belgian counterpart, signed the first bilateral emigration agreement drawn up by Italy after the second world war.

The Italian authorities committed to sending 50,000 workers into the Belgian mines, possibly at a rate of 2,000 people for week.

In exchange, the Belgian government would sell up to 200 kilograms of coal per day per emigrant to the Italian government.
In western Friuli, the miners were usually from Valcellina, Barcis, Montereale Valcellina, Zoppola and San Martino di Campagna.

The work conditions were extremely tedious and the quality of the quarters was extremely poor.
The miners lived in the metal shacks that were previously occupied by the prisoners of war. Many of the Friuli people came down with silicosis : the inhalation of coal and rock dust saturated the bronchial tubes of the miners slowly compromising their respiratory systems.

Between the 1950s and the 1960s the economic advantages of seasonal work in Switzerland and, to a lesser degree, Germany attracted a great number of Friuli and Italian workers.
They would usually go to do the jobs that were refused by the wage earning natives, therefore occupying the spots left free by the upward social mobility of the local working class.

Switzerland and Germany tried to block the social growth and occupation of the emigrants by putting strict restrictions on their work permits, on the transfer of the families who remained in the home country and on the length of their stay.

The emigrant would therefore slowly transfer his expectations for social mobility from his country of emigration to his country of origin where he would merge the remittances that were frequently used for the purchase of land or the construction of one’s house.