“This is the Shirley Temple look-alike, you wrote about in your book,” the voice said. It was a voice I had not heard for more than a half of a century. “And I want you to know that I do not have blue eyes; they are brown.”
Before my burst of questions to the caller began, she identified herself as Christine Karibian. “I loved your book, especially your description of me, but for the record my eyes are brown and not blue.” Christine went on to say that she had heard I would be appearing in the Providence area, and that she and her friends would definitely be attending the talk. Unfortunately, her brother, the lanky, sandy-haired Michael, would not. He had passed away in the USSR several years ago.
Christine and Michael were among the youngest of the Armenian American repatriates. Their father, Harry, and mother, Jean, who was of Polish descent, left Detroit in 1947 to live in Soviet Armenia. Christine’s father unsuccessfully attempted to get his family out of the USSR and was arrested after leaving the US Embassy in Moscow. He was tried and convicted as an “enemy of the state”.
“Dad survived the gulag,” Christine said. “In fact, he and mom actually made it back to the States. When you get here I’ll tell you the whole story.”
Christine married an Armenian American repatriate, Ara Lafian, and they had two children while in Armenia. The Lafians made it back to the United States and settled in Rhode Island.
Tom Mooradian was one of 151 Americans who traveled to Soviet Armenia to repatriate during the 1940’s. Thought to be a spy by the KGB, Tom miraculously survived 13 years behind the Iron Curtain winning the hearts of the Soviets through his basketball prowess. Filled with political drama, romance, and intrigue, Tom’s autobiography, The Repatriate reads like a novel, and will have you guessing how Tom managed to return to America alive.
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