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I Was Born an Italian Citizen

My last name is Slovakian, or Slovak, as my dad says. It stems from “Pastir,” which in short means “shepherd.” All of my great grandparents on my father’s side immigrated to the United States from Italy and current-day Slovakia.

I’ve always been curious about my family’s history, while looking online I saw a link to the website of the Italian Embassy in Detroit. I read that if you can trace citizenship, gather relevant official documents, and present to the embassy, you can apply for dual citizenship.

In order to trace my citizenship back to the most recent ancestor born in Italy, it goes back to 1894 when my great-grandfather, Emilio Cioe, was born in a small rural town called Alatri outside of Rome.

Emilio first came to the states with his brother, Paolo, and father, Stephan. They departed on the Duca D’Aosta in Naples and sailed to New York in 1912. Emilio was only a 17-year-old trying to make money for his family, then return to Italy to fight in the war.

Emilio then came back to the states a second time in 1920. Shortly after his arrival, he married my great-grandmother, Jennie, and had four kids: Joseph, Susie, Richard and my grandmother, Eleanor, though most of her family called her “Ellie.”

Ellie was born in 1932, before my great-grandfather was a naturalized citizen of the United States. Which means she was also born as an Italian citizen.

Now I have to backtrack a bit, because Italy had a law that did not allow women to pass on citizenship until 1948, if she had any children before that they would not be an Italian citizen since her husband, my grandfather, Edward Sr., was not Italian, he was Slovak.

Ellie’s first born child is my father, Edward Jr., who was born in 1957, nine years after the law was scratched. So exactly like my grandmother, my father was born an Italian citizen.

I was born on Christmas day in 1996, 39 years after my father, also as an Italian citizen.

To prove citizenship by descent is a long and sometimes expensive process, recovering marriage, birth and death certificates all up my family tree to my great-grandfather, Emilio. A few weeks ago I started shuffling through the records my dad keeps.

So far, I’ve found the marriage certificate for my dad’s Italian grandparents, Emilio and Jennie, as well as Jennie’s birth certificate. Since we don’t have the rest of the paperwork, the next step is requesting the official documents from the Italian government.Once all materials are collected, I can make an appointment with the embassy and present my case. Learning that I am able to gain dual citizenship and officially be a citizen of my relative’s home country allows me to connect with them in a way that I didn’t realize was possible.

Becoming a dual citizen will also open doors to work internationally. As a citizen of a European Union country, I would be able to work in other EU countries more easily, without work permits. And even after my employment is done, I would still be free to stay.

I’ve been to Italy twice and I’m hoping to visit Slovakia this summer. I enjoy knowing my family’s story and discovering the journeys they took that led them to the United States. More importantly, I feel more connected to where I came from and I can do nothing but thank them for the sacrifices they’ve made to help me get to where I am.




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