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Survivor Profiles: Mark Akgulian

They loved being a part of the landscape there and enjoyed being the pastoral sort of situation of their lives. I think that was completely disrupted by the genocide and it only lived in their dreams afterwards.

Mark Akgulian


Mark Akgulian is the descendant/grandson of Armenian Genocide survivors. All four of his grandparents were directly affected by the killings.

Mark’s grandfathers were migrant workers in factories located in Wisconsin, sending back money to their families in the Ottoman Empire. Their families, each with a wife and two children, were victims of the massacres while Mark’s grandfathers watched helplessly at a distance.

Both of Mark’s grandmothers were in the Ottoman Empire when the Genocide began.  Zarouhy (Hripsime) Akgulian, Mark’s father’s mother, was a young girl when the Armenian Genocide began. While her family and community were murdered, she found safety as a housekeeper with a wealthy Turkish family. Her brother and sister survived and persuaded her to leave the safety of the Turkish home, and eventually she immigrated to the United States for an arranged marriage to Avak Akgulian. 

Mark’s mother’s mother, Nazelie (Vartanian) Janikian, lost seven brothers and her husband at the onset of the Genocide, and was forced to march with her infant child and aging mother to Syria from (modern day) Sivas. She buried both her mother and her child along the march.

Mark Akgulian is the former Director of Operations of Spertus Institute and is active in raising awareness about the Armenian Genocide. He is a member of Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center’s Speakers’ Bureau, and his story is represented in the Spagat Family Voices of Genocide Exhibition at the Museum.

Photo credits: Kathleen Hinkel

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