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Family by Fate: The Remarkable Reunion of a Greek Adoptee and Her Sister (Vid)

FRANKLIN, TN – If you had told Greek adoptee Teresa Scharf three years ago that she would find a half-sister and a new identity, she would have said you were crazy. Three years later, crazy doesn’t begin to describe the feeling of finding the half-sister she never knew and the identity of her biological father.

“I can’t tell you what joy, peace and closure this journey has brought me,” says Teresa with a beautiful smile. “I can’t believe I waited so long to do a DNA test.”

Three years ago, Teresa reached out to The Eftychia Project, a registered nonprofit and the only official adoptee-led organization that assists and supports, free of charge, Greek adoptees searching for their roots and Greek biological families searching for their children lost to adoption. To date, the organization has facilitated the reconnections of 29 Greek adoptees and families.

While the organization was actively searching for her biological mother, Teresa took their advice and requested her alien file from the U.S. government and her records from the orphanage. She was skeptical about DNA, unsure about the process and how safe her personal information would be. But the search stalled when presumed relatives didn’t respond to overtures and the orphanage documents failed to materialize. So, she reluctantly submitted her DNA sample to one of the three major DNA platforms.

That summer of 2022, Teresa was astonished when she had a DNA match with a first cousin – not in Greece, but in the United States! She sent a message to him via the DNA platform, but he never responded. Then, after a bit of detective work, the vice president of The Eftychia Project discovered the cousin was the owner of a travel agency in Chicago, Illinois. A friend of another board member just happened to know his children and promised to inform them.

Months went by with no response. Finally, on a late-night phone call from The Eftychia Project in Greece, the cousin at last knew of Teresa’s existence and was delighted. He didn’t, he said, visit the DNA site often and his children had never told him of the match.

Teresa Scharf, then and now. Photo: The Eftychia Project

Certain the match was on Teresa’s father’s side, the cousin informed other first cousins in Greece. And it went without saying that one of their fathers was also Teresa’s father. So, when Teresa attended the Second Annual Greek Adoptee Reunion hosted by The Eftychia Project in Greece this past October, she remained afterward to visit the ancestral village to meet other family members.

Upon arrival to the village, Teresa made a quick phone call to the founder and president of The Eftychia Project, Linda Carol Trotter, herself a Greek adoptee who found her biological family in Greece after a separation of 59 years.

“I told Linda Carol that the cousins were willing to do DNA to help me figure out who my father was. And she wasted no time in driving to the village from her home in Nafpaktos to collect the DNA samples.”

The Eftychia Project, in partnership with MyHeritage, provides free DNA kits to Greek adoptees and Greek families who are searching for each other.

“We collected the samples and when the results were in, all four were first cousins,” relates Linda Carol. “And we had two cousins left to test – one who was willing and one who wasn’t.”

The cousin who was willing was Angie, and in December she stopped by Linda Carol’s home in Nafpaktos to do a MyHeritage DNA test.

Teresa Scharf, at right, and her newly-found sister, Angie, take a selfing at Athens Airport. Photo: The Eftychia Project

“I really hope Teresa is my sister,” said Angie. “I’m an only child and I’ve always wanted a sibling. I always felt that one day, someone would knock at my door and tell me that they’re my sibling. Because my father, let’s say, had adventures.”

Angie and Linda Carol rang up Teresa on a video call – it was the first meeting between Angie and Teresa, and both were happy to see each other, even if only via video. Four weeks later, the results were in, and Teresa was admittedly nervous.

“Linda Carol called me and asked if I was sitting down. I said I was, she said the DNA results were back, and then she exclaimed, ‘Angie is your sister!’ I couldn’t believe it! I, too, had always been an only child and, at last, I had a sibling, and I knew to whom I belonged! It was amazing!”

Teresa wasted no time in returning to Greece to meet her sister for the first time. And on March 17, Teresa stepped off a plane at the Athens airport and into Angie’s waiting arms. The sisters spent ten wonderful days getting to know each other. And although he had passed away some years earlier, Teresa learned about the biological father she never knew.

“Before Angie did the DNA test, the other cousins had suspected their Uncle Takis was my father,” Teresa explained. “Because they all said I looked like him. But now we have the DNA proof.”

And while they have different lifestyles, and have lived completely different lives, Teresa says, at their core, she and Angie are amazingly alike in so many ways.

“We spent days of talking well into the wee hours of the morning, trying to cram 60 years of not being together into 10 days. And we discovered we think alike, we have the same views on many things, even though we grew up in two completely different cultures.”

Angie agrees. “We have many things in common. I love Teresa. And now that she has gone back to America, I cannot allow myself to miss her, or I will not get anything done. But we talked about me visiting her in America and that will happen!”

But maybe not before Teresa returns to Greece yet again.

“As soon as I left, I wanted to go back. I found my sister. I found a new identity. I found a big Greek family. And my life will never be the same again, in the best possible way. I know who I am and where I belong. And that is a gift beyond measure.”

“And, oh, yeah,” she added with a grin. “Do the DNA!”

For more information about The Eftychia Project or to request assistance, visit the website: https://www.theeftychiaproject.org or email: [email protected].


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