In the aftermath of World War II and the Civil War, Greece was struggling through one of the most challenging periods in its history. Many of the stories of Greek children who were put up for adoption and sent to live in the United States, and elsewhere, at that time are only now emerging. Lost Child of Greece: One Orphan’s Incredible Journey Home by Amalia Gouvitsas Balch with Elaine McAllister recounts Balch’s story as she searches for the truth and for answers to serious questions about her own adoption. This emotionally-charged memoir highlights the traumatic history of the time period and the difficulties Balch experienced as an adopted child adjusting to her new home as well as her later struggles to find her birth family. Balch’s faith is also central to the story, offering a spiritual aspect that further personalizes the insights gained through this journey. Quotes from the Bible appear throughout the book to punctuate various moments in this dramatic story. The many photos included in the book offer a poignant visual timeline for the reader from the first photo of the little Greek girl on her way to America to the later photos with family members in Greece.
Adopted at the age of five by adoring parents and raised in southern California, Balch always knew she was adopted and was always aware of her Greek heritage. She describes her life in the U.S. as “mostly wonderful” but was haunted by her early childhood trauma. Her many questions are not all answered by the end of the book, but the very fact that she asks the difficult questions is significant and will undoubtedly help many people in their own quest to find the truth about Greek adoptions.
Balch writes in the books prologue of her fascination with kaleidoscopes: “Now I see life as a kaleidoscope. Each tiny shard of glass, the good and the bad, rotates as we learn and grow and live… Through the act of writing Lost Child of Greece, I began to see the patterns of my kaleidoscope with even greater clarity, understanding both the good and bad while learning to focus on the good.”
The book is a rollercoaster ride of emotions from the tragic details of her biological mother’s life to the moving story of her adoptive parents, how they met and came to adopt their daughter from a world away. Readers will share the frustration of so many unanswered questions, especially about illegal adoptions, but Balch manages to find the answers she needs to continue healing and offers hope to anyone also searching for the truth. Balch acknowledges the help of many friends along the way and the support of her family. There is still more that she hopes to learn, especially about her biological father, and there are many adoptees who will undoubtedly be inspired by this book.
There are certain points Balch makes about Greek culture, society, and religion that may ruffle feathers for some readers, but this is her story and she has a right to voice her opinions and share what she has learned through her travels and her experiences in Greece and as a Greek-American.
Lost Child of Greece: One Orphan’s Incredible Journey Home by Amalia Gouvitsas Balch with Elaine McAllister is available online.