Adoptees pose in front of the Parthenon replica in Nashville, TN, during the First Annual Greek Adoptee Reunion, hosted by The Eftychia Project. Photo: Simone Nichols Pace
NASHVILLE, TN – Smiles abounded and tears flowed as Greek-born adoptees from across the nation gathered August 4-6 in Nashville for the historic First Annual Greek Adoptee Reunion, hosted by The Eftychia Project. Adoptees, some accompanied by their spouses and adult children, journeyed from as far away as Alaska, Utah, Texas, and New Hampshire for a weekend of bonding and building community. It was the first time so many Greek adoptees were together in the same place at the same time since they were children in their respective orphanages. While some had met via phone calls and video chats, it was the first opportunity for many to meet in person.
“This is just great!” exclaimed Nick Webb, of Orem, UT, at the Thursday night Meet and Greet. “These adoptees are real. I can finally reach out and actually touch them and know I’m not alone.”
Webb’s sentiments were echoed by Andrew Klett, of Leander, TX, who is just beginning the search for his biological family. “Even if I don’t find my biological family, I feel like I have already found a wonderful new family of brothers and sisters in the adoptees here,” Klett said as he told his adoption story during one of the Reunion’s adoptee story sessions.
While some adoptees have already found biological family, others are just beginning their searches. Reunion speakers Sam Williams and Carol Kostakos Petranek led informative sessions designed to give adoptees the tools and resources to uncover their Greek roots. Williams, known as the Orthodox Genealogist, unraveled some of the mysteries of DNA and familial relationships, while Petranek, the Assistant Director of the Washington, DC Family History Center, explored Greek records that are available in Greece and online. And that wasn’t all – throughout the Reunion, they both sat down individually with adoptees who had specific questions or needed help with their searches.
Adoptee Peter Manos and his wife, Mary, who are from Massachusetts, were astounded by the presentations. “We learned so much, it was unbelievable!” Peter said. “Sam and Carol are a wealth of knowledge.”
Adoptees also brought their adoption documents and received on-the-spot help from The Eftychia Project Board of Directors: Linda Carol Trotter, Toula Vrisiotis, Merrill Jenkins, and Dimitrios Christo. They were assisted with everything from finding their alien registration numbers and requesting their alien files to receiving free DNA kits and facilitating contact with previous DNA matches.
Learning about available tools, tips and resources and receiving live help wasn’t the only thing on the agenda. Adoptees were treated to Greek coffee and cocktail hours sprinkled with adoptee stories, a trip to the Parthenon in Nashville’s Centennial Park, and a Greek Taverna Night finale that included Greek music, dancing and door prizes.
Reunion attendees, many of whom have never seen the original Parthenon, arrived at the world’s only full-size replica, waving their small Greek flags and eager to see what the Parthenon might have once looked like in its original splendor.
“This is so cool!” said Teresa Scharf of Centerburg, Ohio. “And it is even more meaningful to be able to come here and share it with my brother and sister adoptees.”
Perhaps one of the most poignant and popular activities was the Greek Adoptee Wall of Fame Museum. Adoptees were asked to bring copies of photos, news clippings and documents to place on posters that would give attendees a glimpse inside each other’s adoptions. The “exhibit” remained on easels and tabletops throughout the Reunion.
But, for all of the attendees, the most important aspect of the Reunion was the genuine atmosphere of love and support that permeated the entire weekend.
“The love and support were palpable, no matter where we were together,” remarked Denise Madlin of Orlando, Florida. “No cliques, no drama. We all came together as family, and we felt as if we had known each other all our lives. And we came away with memories that will last a lifetime.”
Preparations for the Second Annual Greek Adoptee Reunion are already underway. In October 2023, the adoptees will spend a week together in their homeland of Greece. For some, it will be the first time they set foot on Greek soil since they were adopted as children.
“We are so excited to be able to go to Greece together next year, to see the orphanages we came from, to soak up our culture and our heritage,” says Linda Carol Trotter, the president of The Eftychia Project, and a Greek-born adoptee herself. “What better way to see the land of our birth than with those who understand our pain and our longing to just go home?”
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