Family Stories


Spero Kosmas, Maternal Grandfather

Born circa 1880 in Rodosto (currently Terkidag, Turkey) on the northern coast of the Sea of Marmara, 84 miles from Istanbul. The youngest in a family of 13 children. Orphaned very young. Raised by siblings. Worked as a shop boy in Istanbul. Migrated to Odessa, Russia circa 1902. Eventually immigrated to the United States via Paris, France. Became the owner of a candy shop, soda fountain and movie theater in Washington, PA. Retired to Athens, Greece in 1955. Returned to the US to live with is daughter after his wife’s death in 1963. Died in 1968.


Interview with his youngest daughter, Thalia Kitrilakis

“He had a way with language although English was certainly not his first language — he knew Greek, Turkish, Russian and some French because he had lived in all those countries. He was the youngest I think of 12 or 13 children — so he was very young I think when his parents died and he lived in Asia Minor and he went to Constantinople, Istanbul. He was a shop boy for an Armenian man. And he told me this story, which I love — The Turks used to have pogroms and they would give any Turk the right to kill any Armenian. The owner of the shop he (my father) worked at was Armenian and when this happened — It was going to last for 3 days — He (the Armenian shop owner) went and hid on the roof and he told my father that if they come by tell them that this is your shop — so my father told me that and I said — well how did they know that you weren’t Armenian?


He said — “because an Armenian looks like an Armenian — a Jew looks like a Jew, a Greek looks like a Greek and a Turk looks like a Turk.”*


I said—not in America, in America we all look the same and he hit me on the head (laughs) and said “hazo Americanaki” which means "silly American" — he used to say that a lot to us — to his children “hazo Americanaki.”


* Ottoman law required that each ethnic group dress according to certain codes and it would have been by these dress codes that each ethnicity could be instantly identified.