EMBCA Event Highlights Voices of the Lost Children of Greece

NEW YORK – The East Mediterranean Business Culture Alliance (EMBCA) presented the Voices of the Lost Children of Greece: Oral Histories of Cold War International Adoptions panel discussion webinar on March 12. The event was introduced and moderated by Lou Katsos, EMBCA’s President and Founder. The distinguished panel included author and Professor Gonda Van Steen, the Koraes Chair in the Centre for Hellenic Studies and the Department of Classics at King’s College; author and Professor Mary Cardaras, Chair of the Department of Communication at California State University, East Bay; former Chief Assistant for the University of Connecticut Robyn Bedell; financial consultant Robert Lipsky; educator Maria Heckinger; and co-host of the Persisting Podcast Alexa Maros.

The discussion was a follow up to ‘Unfinished Business: Postwar Greek Adoption History and Current Adoptee Activism’ and ‘Hellenic Orphans Taken Abroad from 1821 through the 1960’s,’ both held in 2021 and available on EMBCA’s YouTube channel. The topic of Hellenic orphans includes stolen babies brought over to America and other nations during the Cold War period in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The panelists shared their oral histories which are included in the book Voices of the Lost Children of Greece, edited by Prof. Cardaras, who is herself a Greek adoptee.

Prof. Van Steen discussed Adoption, Memory, and Cold War Greece: Kid pro quo? (University of Michigan Press, 2019), her groundbreaking book on the topic that takes the reader into the uncharted terrain of Hellenic adoption stories that become paradigmatic of Cold War politics and history. It is the founding classic on the subject which exposed what was an underreported and mostly unwritten chapter in the history of Modern Greece. Greek children were the first-wave of post-war international adoptions to the United States and the largest children’s migration with over 4,000 children removed from their birthplace in Greece between 1948-1970.

EMBCA presented the Voices of the Lost Children of Greece: Oral Histories of Cold War International Adoptions panel discussion webinar on March 12. Photo: TNH Staff

Prof. Van Steen outlined the postwar, Cold War Greek adoption history, and has assessed the number of Greek children exported to the USA, at over 6,000 Greek babies with an additional 600 Greek babies exported to the Dutch families in the Netherlands. Her presentation was entitled “The Postwar Greek Adoption History: Why an Unfinished Business?” and she outlined the heartbreaking histories of Hellenic adoptions in the wake of traumas and despair and the consequences faced by thousands of Hellenic-born children affected. Van Steen is a tireless champion and internationally significant advocate in the fight to leave no stone unturned until the Hellenic post-adoption history becomes finished business.

She remarked that March 11 is Hellenic Genealogy Day, which can be challenging for Hellenes, and doubly so, if not impossible for Greek adoptees without birth records. She recognized Katsos as a leader in Hellenic genealogy, a vanguard of the Greek Birthright Movement for Greek citizenship to be restored for Greek adoptees, with civil rights, human rights, and citizenship to be recognized by the Greek State. The Greek Birthright Movement believes the Greek Government should openly share the adoptees records which belong to the adoptees, and are part of their histories, so they can discover their true identities. Prof. Von Steen spoke about an existential need and universal right to know your identity, who you are and where you came from.

Nikos Konstandaras, a columnist for the newspaper Kathimerini, the leading Hellenic daily, and a contributing op-ed writer for the New York Times International Edition, also joined the discussion having covered the issue of the Hellenic adoptees.

Prof. Mary Cardaras was born in Athens, Greece in 1955, and was relinquished by an unwed, teenage mother who was banished from her home, her family and her village. From maternity hospital to orphanage to foster care to a ship across the Atlantic with her new adoptive grandparents to New York, then a plane to Chicago and a car to Gary, Indiana, Mary arrived to a new home, new Greek-American parents, a new family. She became a journalist, documentary film producer and academic earning a PhD in Public and International Affairs. Today, she is the chair of Political Science at California State University East Bay and is the Director of The Demos Center at the American College of Greece in Athens. She is an advocate and activist for Greek adoptees who are searching for kin, want open access to their adoption records, and their Greek citizenship. As an adoptee, Cardaras compiled an anthology of Hellenic adoptee stories, Voices of the Lost Children of Greece, also the title of EMBCA’s panel discussion. Some of the essayists from the book also participated in the panel. Cardaras along with Van Steen and others have been champions of advocating for Hellenic citizenship that was stripped from them as children and infants, and also for making it easier to obtain birth and adoption records.

Behind the Third Door author Maria Heckinger, Robyn Bedell, Alexa Maros, and Robert Lipsky also shared their remarkable adoption stories.

The discussion is available on YouTube: https://bit.ly/3ZWYvVZ.


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