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General News

Greek Adoptees Poised to Meet in Greece for Second Annual Reunion

September 13, 2023

FRANKLIN, TN – Building upon the amazing success of the First Annual Greek Adoptee Reunion in Nashville, TN last August, Greek-born adoptees are poised to converge on their homeland of Greece October 14-19 for the historic Second Annual Greek Adoptee/Greek Family Reunion.

Greek adoptees and families from across the globe will attend this first-of-its-kind international event, hosted by the Eftychia Project, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance and support, free of charge, to Greek adoptees searching for their roots and Greek families searching for their children lost to adoption. The organization was founded in 2019 by Linda Carol Trotter, a Greek-born adoptee and activist for Greek adoptee birth and identity rights.

“We are so excited for this event,” said Eftychia Project President Linda Carol Trotter. “Our first Reunion last year was a resounding success, and we couldn’t think of a better follow-up than to meet for the second one in our homeland of Greece. There are no words to describe how meaningful that will be for all of us, particularly those who have never returned to Greece since being adopted decades ago. And we will have the opportunity to meet with Greek families who may be searching for one of us. But above all, we have the opportunity to explore our homeland together, and to love and support each other while doing so.”

The featured speakers for the Second Annual Greek Adoptee Reunion – clockwise from top left: Gregory Kontos, Despina Oikonomou, Andreas Bousios, Christos Vasilopoulos, Kostas Hardavellas, and Olympia Selekou. Photo: The Eftychia Project

Thousands of Greek children were sent from Greece for adoption abroad, mainly to the United States, through often questionable means, in Cold War decades of the 1950’s and the 1960’s. While some adoptees were fortunate to have good parents, the lack of oversight by either the Greek or American governments often resulted in others being placed with unsuitable or abusive parents. Now mature adults, “The ‘Orphans’ from Greece”, as the award-winning documentary from ViceTV (https://shorturl.at/bgxKX) describes them, are finding their voices and demanding their birth and identity rights in ever-growing numbers. And they will definitely make their voices heard when they gather in the homeland in October.

The Reunion offers two options: a six-day Group Trip that includes the 2-day Reunion/Conference, held in the conference center of the Holy Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Savior in historic Nafpaktos, or the 2-day Reunion/Conference portion only. The Group Trip, which begins and ends in Athens, starts with the Opening Ceremony and Welcome Reception at the iconic Melina Cultural Center/“Odoiporiko” in Gazi, Athens, and includes visits to the Athens Municipal Orphanage, Mitera Babies Center and the Patras Municipal Orphanage. Also included are visits to the Acropolis, Acropolis Museum, Plaka, Corinth Canal, Ancient Corinth, Ancient Delphi, and Arahova. The 2-day Reunion/Conference will include dynamic speakers and adoptee-led panel discussions about search and reunion and advocacy/activism for Greek adoptee birth and identity rights; Greek coffee hours with adoptee/family story sessions; a welcome cocktail party with an adoptee/author event, fun photo booth, and Greek Adoptee Wall of Fame Museum; a walking tour of Nafpaktos; and live help for those searching for their roots. The finale of the Reunion will be a Greek Taverna Night, complete with Greek food, live music, dancing, and Greek-themed door prizes.

The Eftychia Project Board of Directors, clockwise from top left: President Linda Carol Trotter, Vice President Panagiota Vrisiotis, Secretary Dimitrios Christo, and Treasurer Merrill Jenkins. Photo: The Eftychia Project

The featured speakers for the Reunion are Gregory Kontos, genealogist and founder of Greek Ancestry; Despina Oikonomou, Director of the International Social Service – Hellenic Branch; renowned Greek journalists Andreas Bousios, Christos Vasilopoulos, and Kostas Hardavellas; and highly respected historian and sociologist Olympia Selekou. Kontos will speak about DNA testing, genealogy and familial relationships, and discuss how to make use of these powerful tools in the search for family. Oikonomou will give insight into the history of the International Social Service (ISS), its role in the Cold War Greek adoptions, and demographics and statistics gleaned from the ISS’ recent digitization of several thousand adoption records. Greek journalists Bousios, Vasilopoulos, and Hardavellas will present a panel discussion of Greek adoption scandals, including the notorious Agios Stylianos scandal. Selekou will present an in-depth look at the social, political and economic climate of Cold War Greece, with a particular focus on village life and the treatment of women, dictated by the social mores of the time.

“This is a golden opportunity for Greek-born adoptees and Greek families searching for their children lost to adoption, from America, Europe and around the globe, to gather with us here in Greece where it all began,” said Toula Vrisiotis, Eftychia Project Vice President. “Meeting Greek families can be life-changing for these Greek adoptees. It gives them the chance to know Greek families in Greece who are searching for their lost children, to know the other side of their adoption story.”

The two-day Reunion/Conference portion will be held in beautiful Nafpaktos. Photo: Linda Carol Trotter

Vrisiotis knows first-hand about Greek families searching for their lost members. She originally came in contact with the Eftychia Project in her search for two family members, who she believes were stolen in an illegal adoption scheme. And, unfortunately, variations of this same, sad story played out all over Greece.

Greek families like Vrisiotis’ have been coming to the Eftychia Project for help almost since its inception, hoping their stories might match that of an adoptee. That inspired the Eftychia Project’s DNA Kit Distribution Program, where DNA kits are provided for free to Greek families in Greece and to Greek adoptees. MyHeritage (https://www.myheritage.com/dna), which boasts the largest DNA database in Europe, reached out to the Eftychia Project in 2021 and quickly established a partnership, generously providing free DNA kits and other support to further the work of the Eftychia Project.

The Group Trip begins and ends in Athens. Photo: The Eftychia Project/ Linda Carol Trotter

“The Reunion will definitely make a difference in the lives of Greek adoptees and Greek biological families,” said Dimitrios Christo, a Greek-born adoptee and Eftychia Project Secretary. “It will help us to build a strong global community of adoptee and family voices. And for those who weren’t adopted by Greeks, it will also give them a chance to connect with their lost culture and heritage, up close and personal.”

Merrill Jenkins, the Treasurer of the organization and also a Greek-born adoptee who was reunited with his biological family through the Eftychia Project, agrees: “The Reunion will be fun, while also giving adoptees and families the tools and resources they need to aid them in their searches. But we are most looking forward to exploring our homeland together, sharing our lived experiences as adoptees, and finding community in being adopted and being Greek. And, ultimately, that is what it is all about.”

The Eftychia Project logo. Photo: The Eftychia Project

All Greek adoptees and Greek biological families who would like to attend the Reunion, can visit the Eftychia Project website, www.theeftychiaproject.org , or the Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TheEftychiaProject , for complete details. If you need more information, or are a Greek-born adoptee searching for your roots or a Greek family searching for a child lost to adoption and would like to request our free assistance, email: [email protected]. Greek-born adoptees and Greek biological families are also invited to join Forgotten Children of Greece, a private Facebook group hosted by the Eftychia Project, which provides a safe space for adoptees and families to connect and build community, as well as helpful tools and resources.

The Second Annual Greek Adoptee Reunion takes place in Greece October 14-19. Photo: The Eftychia Project

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