My grandfather was Karnig Kalpakian (Dr. John Karnig) and his father was Dr. Janik Kalpakian. In 1920, they escaped the killings in Marash, Turkey, that claimed the lives of my great grandmother Mary Mesrobian, as well as the lives of my great aunts Anais and Armenouhi. During the Ottoman Turks’ mass deportation of the Armenians, Mary Mesrobian’s entire family, with the exception of her brother Kevork, were deported “to the deserts of Arabia” (as my grandfather wrote in his letter to our family).
Janik, a dentist, was the son of Dr. Aboujhon Kuzujian, a prominent medical doctor from Aintab who migrated to Marash. The family name was officially changed from Kuzujian to Kalpakleoglou or Karnoug (in Armenian) when my great-great grandfather received a Kalpak (Persian lamb hat) as an honor from the Sultan of Turkey. Dr. Kuzujian was recognized as a hero for saving the lives of children during an epidemic in Marash that took the lives of many children.
My grandfather and great grandfather were among the ‘lucky’ victims of the Ottoman Turks. Leaving everything behind, they survived. Starting off in a horse-drawn carriage to Aintab, Janik and Karnig set out on their journey to safer shores in America. From Aintab they traveled to Aleppo (Syria); then to Beirut (Lebanon), then on to Jerusalem, and finally to Alexandria, Egypt—where they waited to immigrate to America. In 1923, Karnig, together with his father, new stepmother and a new baby brother, finally arrived at Ellis Island in New York.
I promise to share much more of the details of Karnig’s story, but first I need your help:
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