Greenwich Historical Society Explores the Local Immigrant Experience in New Exhibition

A diverse cross section of immigrants and refugees from five continents who came to Fairfield County seeking safety and opportunity is the focus of a new exhibition at the Greenwich Historical Society

The exhibit shines a spotlight on the human capacity for hope and perseverance.

The exhibit was organized originally by the Fairfield Museum and History Center and Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants, and expanded by the Greenwich Historical Society.

The exhibition opens October 2 and runs through January 6, 2020.

Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 12:00noon – 4:00pm.

Touching accounts of 10 immigrants’ often perilous journeys from Cambodia, Chile, Congo, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Hungary, India, Rwanda, Syria, and Venezuela are featured on dramatic banners suspended from the Historical Society’s museum gallery ceiling. A dynamic wall of historic and contemporary photos illustrates how many other individuals, including 12 immigrants to Greenwich from Chile, Italy, India, Mexico, Moldavia and the Soviet Union, have sought opportunity and added to the fabric of Fairfield County’s communities.

Born in Bogota, Colombia, Diana Venegas was only two when her parents emigrated to the US to give her the opportunity for a better life.

Raised in a one-bedroom apartment on Greenwich Avenue, she attended Greenwich Schools and eventually transferred to Stamford High School.

She joined the Marine Corps and is now about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from UConn Stamford.

“I learned how to play hockey at the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich. It taught me to be tough and resilient, so I joined the Marine Corps to make my family proud.

I was the first person in my family to serve in the US military and will be the first to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

Everything my parents wanted for me will be achieved. They would have been comfortable living in Colombia, but they sacrificed their comfort for the opportunities in this beautiful country.”

– Diana Venegas

Maha Karamahad fled Syria with her young daughters when bombings from the civil strife became unbearable. With the help of volunteers, she now resides in Greenwich and works for Save the Children.

I miss my country and my family. But I love that I have this chance to start again and rebuild my life.

I am in the land of opportunities. My kids feel safe and are so happy. They’re back to normal life again.”

– Maha Karamahad

Icli Zitella is a renowned musician who came to the US in 2012 to obtain his master’s at the Manhattan School of Music. He previously was a violinist with the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Venezuela and served as professor of Theory at Mozarteum-Caracas School of Music.

Mr. Zitella has a 01 Visa, given to individuals who demonstrate an extraordinary ability in their field. He lives with his family in Greenwich and works as a teacher and composer with premiers worldwide.

“Let me show you the lyrics of the liberty song. ‘In freedom, we are born, and in freedom, we will live. Our purses are ready. Steady, friends, steady. Not as slaves, but as freemen, our money we will give.’

We are victims of theocracies, communist system, totalitarianism. This idea in the US to be protected by the law is amazing.

I think it is the most important contribution of the world civilization.” – Icli Zitella

The exhibition recently won an Award of Excellence from the American Association for State and Local History for its achievement in civic engagement, as well as its preservation and interpretation of state and local history.

“I am inspired by this poignant and visually stunning exhibition of immigrants and refugees who risked everything to achieve a better life and, in the process, have enriched our lives here in Fairfield County,” said Debra Mecky, Executive Director and CEO of the Greenwich Historical Society in a release, adding that the exhibit’s theme is timely and aligns perfectly with the Historical Society’s mission for strengthening the community’s connection to our past, to each other and to our future.


The Greenwich Historical Society is located at 47 Strickland Rd in Cos Cob. Tel. 203-869-6899