Brazil & Portugal  


Review of Two Parks, Two Lives, Memoirs of a Portuguese-Canadian

Abílio de Jesus shares his challenges, twists, and turns in both countries

By Cidália Pereira | February 20, 2024

The sun shines brightly, reflecting off the pond; the grass that needs cutting bends to the gentle breeze. A man sits at a bench and looks pensively out at the water. He looks at his notebook and pencil in his hand, he puts it away in his bag and makes his way back to his home in Toronto.

The man is Abilio de Jesus, born in Outeira da Venda, outside of Caldas da Rainha in Portugal; born to a rural family trying to survive under the oppressive regime of the then Salazar government from the 1940’s to late 1960’s. He immigrated to Canada as a young man facing his shares of challenges, twists, and turns in both countries. His journey echoes the stories of several immigrants that made their way to Canada in hopes of a better life for themselves and their children.

After having some health problems, he found himself exiting the workforce. He began walking to cope with being at home and having a lot of time on his hands. Every day, he would walk. His favourite walk was to the nearby park, Centennial Park, where he would sit, look at the pond, and reflect on his life.

He took his thoughts, his memories, and his lived experiences and decided to write them down. He wanted to give something back to his children and grandchildren; he wanted to share his story.  Through his words, he revealed his life experiences, the challenges he faced, his courage, his persistence and what gave him joy. He was not able to do this on his own and sought help and support from family, friends, and professionals.

Ilda Januario edited the book, both the Portuguese and English versions. She shared, “Once I read the content, it was easy for me to accept to edit the book because Abílio’s life, both in Portugal and in Canada, reflects the reality of a lot of Portuguese immigrant men and their families, and needed to be documented in both languages. For this reason, the book is a “must-read” for anyone who is interested in the topic of Portuguese immigration. Also, Abílio was a very easy person to work with because he willingly accepted corrections and suggestions.”

Additionally, his daughter, Sonia Volkening stated, “Reading my father’s book gave me a better perspective and understanding of the struggles he faced during childhood and adolescenthood in Portugal along with his adult life during the military and in Canada. I am proud and grateful for him to have had the courage to share his story in writing. Having read a variety of memoirs, this memoir was unique and special due to it being written by my father and also, as it reflects the Portuguese immigrant experience.”

The City Builders – Immigrant Construction Workers in Post War Toronto, is a website filled with interviews, videos, and stories on how the city was built by using interviewees’ experiences as immigrants, workers, and union members. He was invited, along with 34 other individuals, to be interviewed and these videos were turned into a documentary.

Book Launch

When:   March 16, 2024 – 11 a.m.

Where: First Portuguese Canadian Cultural Centre ( 60 Caledonia Road).

On Saturday March 16, at 11 a.m. he will hold a Book launch at First Portuguese Canadian Cultural Centre at 60 Caledonia Road. Copies in both languages will be available for sale and book signing.

As his goddaughter I am proud of what he has achieved, of the courage to share his life experiences and challenges that he has faced and overcome. We learn from his openness and belief that if given an opportunity, with hard work and determination, an individual can accomplish their goals and reach their dreams.

His story is his own, it is unique. He can now add becoming an author to his accomplishments.

For advance copies please email

To learn more about his life as a construction worker, check out his interview at

Come out and join us on March 16 to learn more about his story and his journey. Happy reading!



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Cidalia Pereira

Cidália has been working with women with experiences of abuse and violence and supporting the Portuguese-speaking community for over 20 years. She applies her passion and commitment to provide counselling and support services to help youth, adults and seniors connect to possibilities and live happier and healthier lives.

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