Chen shared the personal family story on The Talk on Thursday

By Natalie Stone
Updated September 15, 2016 07:55 PM

Julie Chen is grateful to her grandfather for teaching her a valuable life lesson.

On Thursday’s episode of The Talk, 46-year-old Chen revealed that both her great-grandmother and aunt were kidnapped, taken hostage and threatened to be killed by bandits until her businessman grandfather paid the ransom.

“Because he was wealthy and well-known, this put a target on his back. People knew who he was, so bandits one day kidnapped his elderly mother and one of his teenage daughters – my mom’s sister. These two women were held hostage and the bandits said that they would kill them if a large ransom wasn’t paid for in exchange,” the talk show host explained to viewers.

“So my grandfather gathered up all the money, got the money together and gave it to his nephew to deliver it for the exchange. Unfortunately, this nephew double-crossed my grandfather, disappeared into the night with the money,” she continued. “As it turned out, because of that, the bandits murdered my great-grandmother and my mom’s sister in the end ended up marrying one of the bandits who murdered her grandmother.”

Though the horrific series of events transpired in Chen’s family, her grandfather didn’t allow them to alter his positive perspective.

“Now, after all this, you would think my grandfather would be out for revenge and out for blood. In fact, it was the exact opposite. He didn’t blame the bandits; he blamed the fact that the bandits didn’t have an education. He said they didn’t know better and they were raised with no hope of a future and they had no means to survive, which is why they had to lead this life of banditry,” she said of her grandfather’s outlook.

“So, what my grandfather ended up doing because of this horrific tragedy in his family, he ended up building a school in his poor, rural hometown hoping that people don’t feel have to live a life of crime,” she continued.

As part of TLC’s documentary TV show Who Do You Think You Are?, the network followed Chen back to the school where she met with children and talked to faculty and members of the community.

“After talking to everyone I really felt the sense of gratitude because everyone told me, ‘This school has completely turned this neighborhood around.’ So what my grandfather did essentially worked. The reason that I’m sharing this story today is
because I personally learned something very valuable out of it. When you’re faced with something so tragic, you can either choose the darkness or you can choose the light. There can be light out of something so dark, but you have to choose the light,” she said of the lesson she learned from her family story.

The Talk airs weekdays at 2 p.m. ET on CBS.