Russian-Armenian investment banker Ruben Vardanian, a leading figure of the Armenian Diaspora, is preparing to collaborate with famous Hollywood stars and human rights defenders within the scope of the Armenian Genocide Centennial Commemoration Events.
The ‘100 Lives’ initiative, spearheaded by Vardanian, has designed an annual award with the support of the ‘Not On Our Watch’ organisation founded by George Clooney. The award will be presented to those who risk their own lives to save the lives of others.
The ‘100 Lives’ initiative was launched with a reception held in New York, and focuses on the stories of the ‘rescuers’ and ‘rescued’ in 1915. The collaboration of Russian Armenian investment banker Ruben Vardanian and famous actor, human rights defender and Not On Our Watch founder George Clooney aims to bring a new approach to Genocide commemorations.
Greg Sarkissian, President of the Zoryan Institute based in Toronto, Canada, is among the individuals whose stories will be told within the framework of the 100 Lives initiative. Sarkissian shared his views regarding the 100 Lives initiative, saying, “I call the people who rescued lives during the Genocide the heroes of the world. Unfortunately, our media generally talks about terrible events, death and murders, and only rarely tells the stories of people who rescue victims”.
“My family was saved by Hacı Halil in 1915”
Sarkissian explains that he discovered the story of his own family’s salvation through his own individual research. Born in Beirut, Sarkissian moved to the USA in 1976 to continue his education, and it was during that period that he began to work to discover the events that befell his family in 1915.
The Sarkissians, whose grandfather was executed by hanging in front of other family members, were helped by a Turk named Hacı Halil. Today, about Hacı Halil, who first hid the remaining members of his family for a while, and then helped them escape to Aleppo, Sarkissian says, “Although I wasn’t even born then, that person played a great role in my life,” and adding, “Telling this kind of story accelerates the healing process, and encourages young people to do good. I have three children. My children must know that even in the midst of tragedy, people can carry out good deeds, and recognize the value of human life.”
Vardanian, the founder of ‘Troika Dialog’, one of the largest investment banking firms in Russia, says his grandfather was saved by American missionaries. Vardanyan’s American Armenian business partner, biotechnology investor Noubar Afeyan, on the other hand, tells the story of how his grandfather was saved from execution by German officials working at the Baghdad Railway construction project. There are also Kurds and Turks among the rescuers. “The humanity, power and self-sacrifice displayed by these people who saved the lives of many Armenians makes it imperative that their stories are told” says Ruben Vardanian.