Strong, powerful words from a woman with a vision.
Audrey Selian Matian likes to be clear. Great grand-daughter of survivors of the Genocide, she is articulate and thoughtful, but, most importantly she believes that the right words – and deeds – make a difference.
She is well educated, kind and resourceful, but underpinning everything is her sense of gratitude. It is not, in any way, an esoteric feeling for her. It is a practical and empowering sense that pushes her to achieve.
“This is how we live our lives today. It is one of the most important aspects of my family life. Gratitude is absolutely one of the foundations of our wellbeing. My grandparents went through stark and dark times, but it gives me a reference point.”
“People make a great deal of recognition and apology, and I have been a great proponent for both when it comes to the Genocide. But what will we do with it if ever we get it? Without dismissing its importance, it is time to move and think forward. We need to transcend the heaviness of this dark history.”
Her great grandfather was the sole survivor of the village pogroms of the 1890s and her grandfather, at 101, still remembers the consequences of the terrible bloodletting that began in 1915. He is a man who knows the meaning of constant fear, but according to Audrey, he did one big, brave thing: At 50-years-old he took his family out of Istanbul and moved them to Switzerland where he built them a new life with a new legacy.
“Grandfather is a gentle soul and very passive. At the same time, I would say he is the incarnation of intense fear,” Audrey said.
“Like many Armenians raised in a particular era in Turkey, a knock on the door was never to be taken lightly. That kind of thing does not dissipate with time.”
Playing ball on the streets of Istanbul and in full-time work by the age of 13 in America, Audrey’s father moved from working in a post office and driving a yellow cab on to college in New York, to eventually enter the field of international business. When his company asked for volunteer managers to go to countries like Sudan and Nigeria, his was the first hand in the air.
“My dad can speak so many languages. He can mirror people really well. He can engage almost anyone in conversation. He is a chameleon. But most of all, he loved to go places.”
So does Audrey.
She has inherited her father’s gift for intelligent conversation – also in several languages – and his talent for commerce. But while he is commercially minded in the accepted sense of the word, Audrey is a social entrepreneur.
Audrey holds degrees in international studies from three of the world’s top universities. She is currently the Director of Artha Impact Investment at an investment advisory firm. Her job is to instigate and supervise investments made in companies and funds with the intention of generating measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.
She has a supportive husband and a close circle of family and friends. It is the kind of happy, anxiety-free life that her grandfather rarely experienced.
“The pendulum swings, our generation took notice early on that there’s something going on with the carrying of this heavy identity.”
“It is no accident that I am an activist across the board. I have an allergy to sweeping things under the proverbial oriental carpet that I can hardly describe, other than to say I’ve seen enough of that to last a lifetime.”
What is striking about Audrey is that there is barely a shred of self-pity in her conversation. She focuses on her work and her husband and her children, but all the time she’s analyzing the world around her, looking for solutions.
She believes Armenia can move forward. She is clear that Armenians in Armenia need commitment and leadership.
“We are a cultural people. I love visiting my friends there….and I am excited that we are about to see the launch of an impact investing hub in Armenia.”
The story is verified by the 100 LIVES Research Team