Hodja Statue

Hodja Statue, gift to my grandfather
Hodja Statue, gift to my grandfather

My grandfather was born in Kars, Turkey, around 1925. When he was only 5, his father faked his age and sent him to school early. At that time, girls were not allowed to go to school, so my grandpa and his brothers taught their sisters as they learned. I suppose this is where his love of teaching came to be. One of 8 children, he was the first to leave Turkey and came to America for graduate studies in Mechanical Engineering in the early 50s, returning home again afterwards. In 1958 the university he studied at wanted him to come back and teach, so he emigrated to Bethlehem, PA. Knowing very little English, being an exceptionally bright young man, I’m told my grandpa was nearly silent his first few months here, but grew his vocabulary through reading a good many books. He taught himself both English and German this way and continued cultivating a love of learning through his career as a professor at Lehigh University. Every now and again my grandma will run into one of his students who are now themselves a professor, and they have nothing but words of admiration and thanks for all his support. My grandpa also loved to share stories of the Hodja, a quasi-philospher and sometimes fool, one of the most famous Turkish folk tale figures. This statue was given to him by a friend from Turkey, and my dad says grandpa related best to his culture and family through his favorite Hodja stories, many of which he told to teach lessons and share his culture with his children and grandkids.

Place(s): Turkey
Year: 1958

– Michal Erdogan

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant