Karpathos, for whatever reason, is not one of the major islands on the tourist circuit. Everyone has heard of Santorini and Mykonos, but when I tell people we are planning a trip Karpathos, it’s pretty obvious they have never heard of the place. So I qualify it by location — it’s in between Crete and Rhodes — and then further explain our connection —it’s the place where Mr. Mad Cow’s grandparents come from. Though, of course, the whole story is not as simple as that.
In the case of Mr. Mad Cow’s grandmother, it was her mother who came from the island. She grew up in the mountain village Volada. According to family lore, a Volada emigrant to America came back to the village in search of a wife. Mr. MC’s adventurous great grandmother said she would marry this emigrant on one condition: Another NY-based Volada emigrant marries her younger sister. Somehow, Mr MC’s great grandfather managed to pull this off, and thus, his grandmother grew up in Brooklyn alongside her first cousins.
As for Mr. Mad Cow’s grandfather, that story is more complicated. His father emigrated to the US with his wife and worked as a coal miner in Pennsylvania where his children were born. However, the US climate did not agree with his wife’s health, so she went back to Karpathos with her children in tow and raised them in Othos, another mountain village on the island. And thus, Mr. MC grew up on the island as if he were any other Greek*. When he reached adulthood, he emigrated back to the US. But he never forgot his island roots nor the village where he grew up. And he instilled that same Karpathian pride in his children and his grandchildren.
In fact, he raised much of the funds for the chapel inside the Othos cemetery.
You can see his children’s names on the frescoes below.
As well as his sister’s with the Madonna and Child, or Παναγια in Greek.
And his dental school class.