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Nicholas Kristof

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Nichols Kristof is an Op-Ed columnist at the New York Times. He is of Armenian descent.

My Father's Gift to Me

June 18, 2010
Yamhill, Oregon


My father, an Armenian, was born in a country that no longer exists, Austria-Hungary, in a way of life that no longer exists. The family was in the nobility, living on an estate of thousands of acres — and then came World War II.

My father was imprisoned by the Nazis for helping spy on their military presence in Poland. He bribed his way out of prison, but other relatives died at Auschwitz for spying. Then the Soviet Union grabbed the region and absorbed it into Ukraine, and other relatives died in Siberian labor camps.

Penniless, my father fled on horseback to Romania but saw that a Communist country would afford a future neither for him nor his offspring. So he headed toward the West, swimming across the Danube River on a moonless night. On the Yugoslav side of the river, he was captured and sent to a concentration camp and then an asbestos mine and a logging camp. After two years, he was able to flee to Italy and then to France.

[...] he boarded a ship in 1952 to the United States, the land of opportunity — even though English was not among the seven languages that he spoke. His first purchase was a copy of the Sunday New York Times, with which he began to teach himself an eighth language.

He arrived as Vladislav Krzysztofowicz, but no American could pronounce that. So he shortened it to Ladis Kristof.

Source: New York Times

2016 Pulitzer Prize in Commentary Finalist

For courageously reported and deeply felt columns focused on the crisis of refugees from Syria and other war-torn regions.