Photo collage of Greek adoptees. Photo: Linda Carol Trotter
FRANKLIN, TN – History will be in the making as Greek-born adoptees converge upon Nashville, TN for the First Annual Greek Adoptee Reunion, August 4-6. Greek adoptees/families from across the U.S., as well as Greece, will attend this first-of-its-kind 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,” says Linda Carol, the President of the Eftychia Project. “It was originally scheduled for 2020, but it was postponed for two years because of COVID. Now we Greek adoptees finally have the opportunity to meet in person, to share our stories and our lived experiences as adoptees, and to connect with and support each other.”
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, these “Lost Children of Cold War Greece,” as the eponymous documentary available on YouTube describes them: https://bit.ly/3bVR39x, are finding their voices and demanding their birth and identity rights in ever-growing numbers. The historic Reunion in Nashville will mark the first time this many Greek adoptees have been together in one place since they were children together in their respective orphanages.
The featured speakers for the Reunion are Carol Kostakos Petranek and Sam Williams, the Orthodox Genealogist. Carol, the Assistant Director of the Washington, DC Family History Center and an active member of the Greek genealogy community, will share with adoptees the Greek records that are available in Greece and how to access them, as well as the Greek records available online.
Williams is a professional genealogist with a focus on Central Virginia, African American and Greek American research, and will break down the mysteries of DNA testing, genealogy and familial relationships, and how Greek adoptees and Greek families can use DNA to trace those elusive family connections.
In addition to speakers and adoptee-led panel discussions, adoptees will be treated to activities designed especially for them, including: Greek coffee hours; adoptee story sessions; a cocktail party with an adoptee/author event, fun photo booth, Greek Adoptee Wall of Fame Museum, and live help for those searching for their roots; and, a trip to the world’s only full-size replica of the Parthenon in Nashville’s Centennial Park. The finale of the Reunion will be a Greek Taverna Night, complete with Greek food, music, dancing, and Greek-themed door prizes.
“This is a unique opportunity for us to build a community of Greek adoptees where everyone is loved and supported unconditionally,” says Toula Vrisiotis, Vice President of the Eftychia Project. “It also gives us the chance to impress upon these adoptees that Greek families in Greece are searching for their lost children. They need to know there’s another side to their story.”
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.
“We believe our two boys were stolen and sold for adoption by the doctor who declared they died,” Vrisiotis relates. “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 last year and quickly established a partnership, generously providing free DNA kits and other support to further the work of the Eftychia Project.
“The Reunion will definitely make adoptees aware of the power of DNA,” says Dimitrios Christo, a Greek-born adoptee and the Secretary of the Eftychia Project. “And it will give them the tools they need to decipher and make use of their DNA results, which can be confusing.”
Merrill Jenkins, the Treasurer of the organization and also a Greek-born adoptee, agrees: “The Reunion will give adoptees the tools and resources they need to aid them in their searches. But we are most looking forward to just being together, being able to speak freely about our experiences without judgement, and sharing the bonds of being adopted and being Greek. And, ultimately, that is what it is all about.”
Greek adoptees, or Greek families searching for their lost loved ones, who would like to attend the Reunion, can visit the First Annual Greek Adoptee Reunion site for details, including registration and hotel accommodations: https://bit.ly/3IErm9R. Tickets are $75 and $50.
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