Linda Carol Trotter (born Eftychia Noula), is the president of The Eftychia Project, a nonprofit group that provides assistance and support — free of charge — to Greek adoptees who are searching for their roots.
Growing up as a typical American child in San Antonio, Texas, she had been born in the village of Stranoma in Nafpaktia, and had been given up for adoption because she had been born out of wedlock and her mother had been “a bit of an outcast” since giving birth to her.
A lady in the village “who had a reputation for getting rid of unwanted babies” took her mother away to Athens after becoming Eftychia’s godmother, Trotter says.
Pretending to have her mother’s interests in mind, the woman told her to get a job to support herself, and give the child to the Athens Nursery while she got herself back on her feet. After doing so, she could then go back to the Nursery and reclaim her daughter.
But it didn’t happen that way.
Eftychia was left at the orphanage — and her mother never laid eyes on her again until she was 79 years old, at their emotional reunion in Stranoma.
xLinda Carol Trotter’s naturalization ceremony. Photo courtesy Linda Carol Trotter
Very little known about America’s Greek adoptees as a group
Although the stories of the thousands of children who were spirited away from Greece by Communist partisans and taken to live in Communist countries at that time, the story of the Greek children sent to the Americas is relatively unknown.
And there were, unfortunately, nefarious reasons for this, which do not reflect well on the Greece of that time.
It is uncomfortable to speak about moral strictures of society at that time which made it nearly impossible to rear a child who was born out of wedlock, especially if the mother lived in a small village.
But most disturbingly, there were directors of orphanages who took money for sending children to the US, and middlemen, especially lawyers, who filled their pockets as well, taking advantage of some of these situations.
In 2017, Trotter received some of the best news of her life when it was disclosed to her that her mother, Charikleia Noula, was indeed “alive and kicking” at the age of 79. When it was announced that her long-lost daughter had been found, Trotter says, her mother was told “you have just won the lottery.”
They spoke on the telephone, using interpreters, directly afterward, and finally met together in the village a short time later. Now, everybody in Stranoma knows Trotter’s amazing story and her many relatives rejoice whenever she comes to visit.
Some have even said she should run for Mayor of the village, since she is so popular there.
Story of Eftychia typical of Greek adoptees abroad
Trotter’s story is in many ways quite typical of many of the children who came to American shores soon after birth. After not being able to have children of their own, her parents heard that a Greek Orthodox priest in San Antonio could help them adopt a child from Greece.
The priest ended up acting as a middleman, helping as many as seventy other couples in the San Antonio area alone to adopt Greek infants. “He would interview the parents and give letters of recommendation,” Trotter states, while working through a lawyer in Athens to take care of the legal issues involved.
However, what the attorney told her parents, she later found out, “was a complete lie. He told them that I had been a premature baby, that I had weighed under five pounds at birth, that I had most likely gone immediately from the hospital to the orphanage and that my mother had likely died in childbirth.”
Claim of unknown parentage was a common ruse
Linda Carol was officially listed as “Eftychia, a child of unknown parents.”
This claim that a child’s parents were unknown was used often, in order to make the legal process to get the children out of the country easier — and for the middlemen to pocket the money that they earned from each adoption.
Some children arrived in America only three months after the adoption process was begun.
For Trotter, her journey was made easier by the fact that her particular orphanage had taken good records and had her original information in a dossier that was kept for each child, with an admission number. Which in her case was “45064… I will never forget it now,” she says.
Lawyers decided which parents would receive children
It was the lawyer alone, Trotter states, who decided which child would be placed with each family, and that basically had to do with whatever child was available at the time.
But in order to make the story seem more believable, the lawyers would ask the families who wanted a girl to send a photo of the mother so that they could “match up” the daughter to a female Greek infant who was waiting for a family.
However, this ploy fooled Trotter’s mother, as she recalls that she had been told by her mother many times while growing up, “‘I’m sure they went from bed to bed and they saw you and we matched!’ She was so excited about it that she just thought that was just the coolest thing ever,” Trotter relates.
And it did work out for Trotter, who went on to have a wonderful childhood, with loving parents.
Arrived in America “very thin and malnourished”
Never told how much her parents had paid for her adoption and all the necessary living expenses for her while she was still in Greece, Trotter says she believes her father didn’t want her to feel she had to “live up to” a certain amount of money that they had paid for her.
However, after ostensibly paying all her expenses for food and care while they waited for her, when she arrived she was “very thin and malnourished. I was very somber and didn’t smile. I couldn’t sit up by myself. I didn’t know what a spoon was for,” Trotter says.
“Whatever money had been sent, it wasn’t going for my care, evidently.”
There was no one, official lists made of the names of all the Greek children who were taken abroad to be adopted in those years. They simply were not recorded as an entity. So it takes perseverance — nowadays helped by DNA research — to make the connections back to birth families in Greece.
As one of over 3,200 Greek children adopted by Americans in the scandal-ridden decades of the 1950’s & 1960’s, Trotter has made it her life mission to also help Greek families who are searching for children that have been lost through adoption.
“After finding my Greek biological mother and extended family in June 2017, it was in my heart to help other Greek adoptees find that elusive biological family connection and experience the same sense of closure,” Trotter explains.
“And so, The Eftychia Project was born.”
She has since visited Greece 26 times, reclaimed her Greek citizenship and lives in Nafpaktos — the region where she had been born — about six months out of the year in a lovely home she shares with her husband and two children.
“The Lost Children of Cold War Greece”
Her story, along with the stories of other Greek adoptees, was told in a moving television documentary called “360 Degrees — The Lost Children of Cold War Greece.”
The entire board of directors of the Eftychia Project currently consists of Greek adoptees, some of whom have found family — and some who have not.
Since its inception in May 2019, the group helmed by Trotter has reconnected ten Greek adoptees with their biological families “and are on the verge of several more,” she says with pride.
“We have also begun an initiative to provide DNA kits from any of the three major DNA companies, free of charge, to Greek families/adoptees in Greece to increase the number of Greeks in Greece in the DNA pool,” she adds.
Adoptees need DNA help from Greek citizens
“In doing so, it is hoped some adoptees will match with these families, since for some, who have limited or nodocuments, DNA is their only hope. The DNA program has already borne fruit for one Greek adoptee, who found her family after a separation of seven decades,” the director explains.
“Greeks as a group don’t do DNA,” Linda Carol says, “as many of them will assure you they know who their family is and many cannot afford the kits.
“In an ideal world, the Greek state would have a central DNA database for Greek adoptees and Greek families where they could submit their DNA samples and be matched – this is already in place in several EU countries,” she adds.
Since that is unlikely to happen any time soon, she notes, “The Eftychia Project decided to do what it could to encourage Greeks to do DNA.” It started, she explains to Greek Reporter, when Greek families began to approach them looking for their family members that they had “lost” to adoption.
“It occurred to us that these Greek families might likely match a Greek adoptee searching for their roots,” she says. “But in many cases, the only way to determine that is through DNA, so the Eftychia Project initially purchased 12 DNA kits that I took to Greece last July/August.
“I personally traveled around Greece distributing the kits and assisting with the collection of the samples. One of those first twelve reunited a Greek adoptee (who had remained in Greece) with her biological family after being separated by seven decades and living only 80 km (50 miles) apart.
“After that,” Trotter relates, “the effort snowballed, with many more Greek families and adoptees coming forward asking for a DNA kit. Many kind people (many of whom are Greek adoptees themselves) have generously donated kits to us.
“We accept kit donations from any of the three major companies (23andMe, Ancestry and My Heritage). Each trip since then, we have distributed DNA kits. We are currently awaiting results from the 13 kits we distributed on my most recent trip to Greece during February and March.”
“Fierce advocates of Greek citizenship”
In addition to their efforts to reunite Greek adoptees and their biological families, she says, “we also are fierce advocates of Greek citizenship for all of us Greek adoptees who were born in Greece, and the Eftychia Project is in the process of launching a Greek citizenship initiative on behalf of all Greek adoptees.”
As if that isn’t ambitious enough, “We also provide education for adoptees and the general public regarding Greek history, culture and language,” Trotter adds.
This August, the Eftychia Project will host a virtual “Greek Adoptee Reunionpalooza” for Greek adoptees the world over.
First such event in the world
The first event of its kind in the world, the event “will feature several speakers, adoptees’ stories, a virtual tour of Greek orphanages and Greece, and a preview of our in-person First Annual Greek Adoptee Reunion, which will be held in Nashville, Tennessee in August of 2022,” Trotter notes.
She has made it her life’s mission to help those like herself who have been completely cut off from their roots — some of whom, unlike herself, did not find a safe and loving haven after being taken abroad.
“The puzzle is now completed”
But for Trotter, her dream really did come true. As one of her Greek cousins says in the documentary, “The puzzle is now completed.”
Now, all that remains to be done is for her organization to help other Greek children find the missing pieces of their own puzzles.