April 24, 1988

The Boyajians

Mesrop Boyajian

The boy who was sold into slavery for a silver coin

By J.D. Lasica

Joyce Poirot is the only offspring of Mesrop Boyajian, the boy who was sold into slavery for a silver coin.

Boyajian seldom talked about his experience, so it was not until adulthood that Poirot understood her father’s place in the massacres. But she knew, from her early years in Detroit, that there was something about her heritage that set her apart.

“I knew it from the secret language we spoke at home and the way my grandmother dressed me,” she says. “I knew it when I’d open my lunch box in kindergarten. Everybody else would have bologna on Wonder Bread. I’d open mine, and a couple of kuftas (meatballs) or lahmajoun (meat pies), smelling of garlic, would roll out.”

Poirot, 51, rests on a sofa in her downtown condominium. She is a top academic administrator at the University of California, Davis, overseeing a statewide continuing-education program.

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April 24, 1988

Gov. George Deukmejian on the Armenian genocide

Gov. George Deukmejian
Photo of the governor by J.D. Lasica

California’s governor reflects on the Armenian genocide — and how it still affects his people’s spirit

This Q&A with the sitting governor of California appeared in The Sacramento Bee on April 24, 1988 and was reprinted in the magazine Ararat. It was one of the few one-on-one interviews Deukmejian granted during his governorship.

By J.D. Lasica

Gov. George Deukmejian, who is looked upon as a source of pride in the nation’s Armenian community, has made public discussion of the Ottoman Empire massacres a recurring theme of his administration. The governor’s parents emigrated to this country from Armenia in 1907 and 1909, before the massacres of 1915-18. Following are excerpts from an hourlong interview conducted by J.D. Lasica:

Let’s start off with your early years. Were there some Armenian traditions that thrived in the Deukmejian household?

Oh, absolutely. My parents were very much involved in Armenian community activities. My father used to participate in some of the Armenian fraternal organizations. … My mother was actively involved with what they called the Armenian Relief Society, which is like the Armenian Red Cross. My mother used to sing at a lot of different Armenian events and functions, and my sister was a very accomplished pianist and so she had to play the piano while my mother sang. And obviously little Corky, as I was called in those days, used to have to go along to all these events.

Where was your home?

It’s in a village called Menands, New York. It’s like a suburb of Albany.

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October 7, 1987

The forgotten genocide

The boy who was bought for a silver coin and other Armenian stories of survival

The following article appeared in The Sacramento Bee Sunday Magazine in October 1987.

By J.D. Lasica

Mesrop BoyajianIn the distance, Mesrop Boyajian could see the shimmering outline of the city of Mardin. The sun was high, and it pressed down on the band of villagers as they crossed the desert the Syrians called Der-el-Zor. Soon, the Armenians would give it a new name: the Desert of Death.

Mesrop, a small boy from a small village in Armenia, had seen much in his 6 years. But the past few months — avagh!

He saw the men in his village of Khoolu rounded up and marched off; they would never return. Hidden in the home of a sympathetic Turkish neighbor, he saw Kurdish tribesmen descend on the Armenian women and children who remained behind in Khoolu. The Kurds who had guns used them; those without guns used their quick, scythelike knives. After a time, after the last cry was stilled, Khoolu lay silent.

Then came the waiting. Weeks passed before the government soldiers arrived. A Turkish soldier prodded Mesrop into a caravan of Armenian women and children, and he did not resist. Those in line, perhaps 500 in all, had survived the massacres in the surrounding villages. Mesrop noticed there was not a man among them.

For 15 days, the caravan of exiles snaked slowly across the desert. The march was long and hard, but Mesrop kept pace — he did not dare fall behind in the killing heat, as some of the others had. The soldiers, too, frightened Mesrop. Each day they would carry young women from the caravan into the fields; after a time, Mesrop would hear gunfire and then see the soldiers returning, alone.

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