Steven Blinka, 17, presented a paper about how his great-grandfather, Nazaret Avakian, left Turkey in the 1910s, the same decade that his three brothers and four sisters died in the fatal "death marches" Armenians were forced to make under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
Avakian made it to America by way of Argentina via the SS France, a cargo ship on which he assiduously avoided Turkish militiamen who had been guarding cargo during the 17-day journey.
"Had my great-grandfather been found trying to flee the country, he would have been executed on the spot and thrown overboard - which he had heard happened on other vessels leaving the country," Blinka wrote, based on an interview with his grandfather, Samuel Avakian, who is Avakian's son.
The older Avakian eventually settled in Racine, where he worked at Case Manufacturing and later Walker Manufacturing, where he was known as "Charlie Johnson," until his retirement in his mid-90s. He lived to be 104.
Excerpt from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WI - May 23 2005
Students learn from those who lived history
Teens write about people who experienced America's past By JAMAAL ABDUL-ALIM