“I often think it is a miracle I was born. If it weren’t for the perseverance of my great-grandfather and his will to live, and for the many Turks who helped my grandmother escape, my family would never have survived."
Based in Los Angeles and New York City, Anita Vogel is a highly regarded correspondent for the FOX News Channel, which she joined in 2001. She has received numerous awards, including one from the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters for “Best Documentary,” the Edward R. Murrow award and a regional Emmy Award for “Best Newscast.” Of particular note, Vogel received a Golden Mike award in “Best Breaking News Coverage” for her exclusive interview with former United States President Bill Clinton during the Nevada Caucuses. “I don’t know whether I’ll ever encounter a more exciting interview,” Vogel says.
Anita Vogel interviews Dalai Lama.
Anita’s other noteworthy work includes covering the Mexican presidential elections in 2006 and reporting live from New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. Vogel spent the two weeks following Katrina covering the aftermath of that disaster. “Katrina was rough…conditions were the worst I’ve ever seen, and it’s the story that’s made the biggest impact on me. I just couldn’t believe it was happening in the United States,” she recalls.
Vogel graduated from the University of Southern California with a BA in broadcast journalism and political science, and got a job as a desk assistant at ABC News in Washington in 1992. Ever since then, she has been steadily ascending to the top of her profession.
“Convert or die”
Anita Vogel is Eastern European on her father’s side and Armenian on her mother’s side. Although she considers herself primarily American, she has widely acknowledged her Armenian heritage, expressing pride at having been raised as an Armenian along with her brother Mark. Vogel is married to the CFO of Fairmont Raffles Swiss Hotels Mark Rozells. Together, they have a two year-old daughter named Evangeline.
Anita Vogel with her husband Mark Rozells and daughter Evangeline Rozells.
Anita Vogel’s family history on her mother’s side is a fascinating example of what are now referred to as “converted Armenians.” During and after the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire, often after the men had been separated from their families and killed in village after village, the women and children were offered the chance to convert to Islam to avoid execution. Some were converted forcibly despite their wish to remain Christian, while others, like Vogel’s family, converted only symbolically. The latter are referred to as “Crypto-Armenians” or “Hidden Armenians,” and some still practice Christianity in some form in secret. The estimated numbers of hidden or converted Armenian Christians varies wildly, with some sources citing as few as 30,000 and others as many as five million. As of late, ever more of these Armenians have been making their true selves known, especially in historically Western Armenian cities such as Dersim (in the present day Tunceli Province in Eastern Anatolia) and Diyarbekir, as well as in Hamshen, Malatya, Sivas, Van, Kayseri, Elazig and Mush.
Vogel learned about her own family’s story from her grandmother Sarah Bedrosian (maiden name Agzarian), who was 11 years old at the time of the Armenian Genocide. “My grandmother often used to talk about the Genocide before she passed away in 1999 at the age of 94.
She recounted how her family had very little food and everyone was dying.
She said that during the Genocide people in her village were given the option to convert to Islam or be killed,” Anita recalls.
From Evereg to the Bronx: a tale of religion, wits and survival
Sarah’s parents Agzar and Mariam Agzarian, together with their other children Rose, Guily and John, lived in a small village in central Turkey, close to Kaiseri. “It was formerly known as Evereg-Fenesse, but I believe it is now called Develi,” says Vogel. In 1915, when mass deportations and killings of Armenians throughout the Empire began, Turkish soldiers arrived in Evereg and offered Armenians the opportunity to convert to Islam. While Anita’s great-grandfather Agzar saw the wisdom of accepting a “convert or die” proposition, her great-grandmother Mariam was an extremely devout Armenian Christian. “My great-grandmother was so religious,” Anita explains, “that when she prayed, she would see light in the sky.” Mariam did not take to the idea of converting kindly, lost all control and went running on the village streets, screaming. Agzar managed to bring her back inside and told her sternly: “Are you crazy? Do you know what will happen if we do not at least pretend to convert to Islam? They will kill us all.” Thus the family reluctantly passed themselves off as Muslims while planning their escape to America.
Guily, Antia’s grandmother's sister who married a Turkish solider and changed her name to Fatima, with her son Yasar.
But for the kindness of strangers
“My grandmother’s brother John was one of the first family members to leave Turkey and come to the United States. Later, he would make arrangements for his sisters Sarah and Rose to escape to Cuba through some people from Evereg who also lived in the United States. Sarah’s youngest sister, Guily, married a Turkish soldier during the turmoil and never left the country. She and her husband had several children, my cousins, who I am still in touch with today. So I have family in Turkey. They are Turkish liberals; all well-educated professionals and they know their roots. I have visited them in Turkey and they have also visited me. Guily had changed her name to Fatima,” Anita explains.
Anita Vogel, her mother and their Turkish relatives at a wedding.
Everywhere along the way that eventually led them to the Bronx, strangers helped Sarah and Rose make it to America. Had it not been for the soldier who married Guily, the sisters may not have survived in Turkey. It is unclear whether Guily married her husband willingly or whether she was abducted and forced to marry him, but in either case she was apparently well treated and eventually prospered. Were it not for several other Turks whose names Anita does not know, the girls would have never made it out of Turkey to Havana, where there was a large expat community.
Having lived in Cuba for two years, both women arrived in the United States through Ellis Island. “They made contact with Armenians in America who sent two young men—Oscar Bedrosian and Vartan Mikaelian—to marry Sarah and Rose, respectively. Then they moved to New York and started their own families,” says Anita. Sarah and Oscar settled down in the Bronx around 1925. In 1927 Anita’s mother, Mary Bedrosian, was born.
Sarah and Oscar Bedrosian.
It’s a remarkable story, an Ottoman nightmare-turned-American dream. And, of course, along with the pride she feels in being Armenian, Anita also feels indebted and grateful to those Turks who helped her family escape the horrors of the Armenian Genocide.
Anita and her mother at Anita’s wedding in 2013.
“I often think it is a miracle I was born. If it weren’t for the perseverance of my great-grandfather and his will to live, and for the many Turks who helped my grandmother escape, my family would never have survived. I am, of course, extremely grateful to all of them, wherever they or their families may be today. I do think that my family’s past has had an influence on me, as I never take life for granted. I have great respect for older people and the struggles they have been through.”
The story is verified by the 100 LIVES Research Team.