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Julie Chen Reveals That Her Great-Grandmother Was Kidnapped and Murdered

A complicated family tree! Julie Chen revealed on The Talk that her great-grandmother was kidnapped and killed by a group of bandits.

The 46-year-old Big Brother host began her story calmly on the Thursday, September 15, episode, detailing how her maternal grandfather was just 10 years old when his father died, forcing him to quit school so he could start working full-time to support his family.

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After years of hard work, Chen explained, her grandfather gained an enormous amount of financial success, which led to a certain kind of lifestyle (the talk-show host has talked about his polygamist ways before on the TLC series Who Do You Think You Are?) — and a “target on his back.”

The elder Chen’s success eventually led to the kidnapping and murder of his mother — Julie’s great-grandmother — and a series of unexpected events surrounding the tragedy.

“So the bandits one day kidnapped his elderly mother and one of his teenaged daughters, my mom’s sister,” Chen detailed on the show. “These two women were held hostage and the bandits said they would kill them if a large ransom wasn’t paid for it in exchange.”

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

Chen’s complicated family history didn’t end on a negative note, however. According to The Talk cohost, her grandfather took the tragedy and turned it into possibility.

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“He didn’t blame the bandits,” she said. “He blamed the fact that the bandits didn’t have an education. He said they didn’t know any better, and [that] they were raised with no hope for a future and they had no means to survive, which is why they had to lead this life of banditry.”

Her grandfather subsequently opened a school in his native Burma, which Chen said inspired her. “I personally learned something very valuable … When you’re faced with something so tragic, you can either choose the darkness or you can choose the light.”

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

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