By Aram Arkun
CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. — Congressmen of Armenian descent are a rare commodity. At present, there are only two, but a third candidate, thirty-three-year-old Donald G. Boyajian (“Don”), is vigorously making his case in the Democratic primary for New York State’s rural northern 21st Congressional district, which includes the Adirondack Mountains and Thousand Islands regions.
Boyajian’s paternal grandfather, originally with the last name of Nersesian, came to Saratoga County in upstate New York from Aintab, with his name being changed to Boyajian by the American authorities out of a misunderstanding. He arrived during the period of the Armenian Genocide. Boyajian’s maternal grandparents came to Providence from Palu.
Boyajian pointed out, “Since both sides of my family are 100 percent Armenian, I grew up going to the Armenian Apostolic Church, doing ACYOA [Armenian Church Youth Organization of America], and eating Armenian food two or three times a week (my mother is an amazing Armenian cook). We grew the grape leaves right on the fence at our house, and she makes yalanchi and sarma all the time from the leaves. It was a big part of my life growing up, both in the upstate community and visiting my mother’s family in Rhode Island.” He understands a little Armenian, and says that though he has not been to Armenia, and has not taken time to travel in general, it is “high on my list of things to do.”