After a hugely successful First Annual Greek Adoptee Reunion in the USA in August 2022, Greek-born adoptees converged on their homeland of Greece for their Second Annual Greek Adoptee Reunion on October 14-19, 2023.
The Reunion began and ended in Athens, with stops in Corinth, Patra, Nafpaktos and Delphi in between. And for several adoptees, it was the first time to set foot on Greek soil since being adopted some six decades ago.
The event, the first of its kind in Greece specifically for Greek adoptees and Greek biological families, was hosted by The Eftychia Project, a U.S.-based nonprofit that assists and supports Greek-born adoptees searching for their roots and Greek biological families searching for their children lost to adoption.
“This is the first time this many Greek adoptees have been in Greece together at one time since we were children here before being adopted,” said Dimitri Christo, secretary of the Eftychia Project. “The Reunion was truly a historic and momentous occasion.”
The emotion-filled event began in Athens on Saturday evening, October 14, with a Welcome Ceremony and Reception at the Melina Mercouri Cultural Center.
The adoptees were welcomed with speeches by MPs from several parties in the Greek Parliament. The ceremony concluded with Linda Carol Trotter, the president of the Eftychia Project, accompanying herself on piano while singing “Kapote Tha ‘rthoun” (Someday They Will Come) by beloved composer Mikis Theodorakis and Sotiris Papadopoulos.
While in Athens, the adoptees visited the Mitera Babies Center, where they were greeted by the staff and the president of the board, as well as Ms. Despina Oikonomou, the director of the International Social Service – Hellenic Branch.
They were treated to breakfast and a detailed history of Mitera and its mission to care for mothers and their babies and were given the opportunity to speak about their adoption experience and to ask any questions they wished.
The visit concluded with a tour of the facilities, which was especially emotional for the six adoptees who had been housed at Mitera prior to their adoptions. The adoptees also toured the Acropolis Museum and the Acropolis and visited the Vrefokomeio Athinon (Athens Municipal Nursery), where four of the adoptees discovered they had all been there together for some months during 1958.
The adoptees left Athens for Nafpaktos on October 16 by way of the Corinth Canal, Ancient Corinth and Patra. Seven of the adoptees had been adopted from the Patras orphanage, and while the original building in which they were housed no longer exists, they visited the current daycare center that was built on the same property.
After a stop at Agios Andreas, the largest church in Greece, the group crossed the magnificent Rio-Antirrio Bridge for their 2-day conference in Nafpaktos at the Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Savior, where they were joined by other adoptees and Greek families.
The 2-day conference featured speakers Gregory Kontos of Greek Ancestry, Director Despina Oikonomou of ISS – Greece, historian/sociologist Olympia Selekou and acclaimed journalists Andreas Bousios, Christos Vassilopoulos and Kostas Hardevellas.
Star TV’s popular daytime program “Alithies me tin Zina” featured the Reunion and adoptee stories on national television. The highlight of the conference was the grand finale Greek Taverna Night at local taverna Sousouro, complete with Greek food, music, dancing and Greek-themed door prizes.
The adoptees headed back to Athens with a stop at Ancient Delphi, where perhaps the most famous Greek adoptee of all, Oedipus, had sought the oracle to learn of his destiny. But nothing could top the exhilaration of visiting their homeland in the company of fellow adoptees and meeting biological family for the first time.
“The trip of a lifetime” for Greek adoptees
“This was the trip of a lifetime,” said adoptee Nick Webb, of Utah. “Some distant DNA cousins even met us for the conference in Nafpaktos and it was wonderful to meet them in person for the first time. But even if I never find any closer relatives, I have a big Greek family in all the adoptees I have met through these Reunions hosted by the Eftychia Project.”
Adoptee Jill Pidgeon of Peabody, Massachusetts, was also ecstatic over meeting biological relatives for the first time. “I want to thank the Eftychia Project for all they have done on my behalf to connect me with biological relatives. It has been an amazing trip!”
Adoptee Steven Graeter of Old Hickory, Tennessee, whose story was featured in multiple publications during the Reunion, agrees. “The Eftychia Project was instrumental in connecting me with both my biological mother’s family in Spetses and with my biological father and my two sisters in Volos. Words cannot express the happiness I’ve experienced in discovering my Greek identity and family.”
The same was echoed by Ted Rores of Albany, NY, whose biological family is from a small village in the Peloponnese. “I can’t thank the Eftychia Project enough for helping me connect with my roots. I was able to meet family in my village and even though my biological mother is no longer alive, my cousin gave me my mother’s coat and hat. What a precious gift! The Reunion was an amazing experience.”
Aja James, an adoptee from Nevada, met a cousin from her biological father’s side of the family for the first time. “How wonderful it was for my cousin to come from Patras several times to see me in Nafpaktos, and what an amazing Reunion. Kudos to the Eftychia Project for arranging this once-in-a-lifetime experience!”
Several more adoptees remained in Greece beyond the Reunion to visit with biological family, including Denise Madlin of Florida, Teresa Scharf of Ohio and Yianna Maria Lappa of Alaska. Others met with family prior to the Reunion, including Penny Chandler of North Carolina, David Leybourn of Michigan and George Karagiannis of Maryland.
“I cannot thank my board of directors, Panagiota Vrisiotis, Merrill Jenkins and Dimitri Christo, enough for all of their hard work in making this Reunion a resounding success!” exclaimed Linda Carol Trotter, the president of the Eftychia Project.
“It is difficult enough planning a Reunion in the USA, let alone in another country. And we are deeply indebted to MyHeritage for their collaboration with us, as the DNA kits they’ve provided us with confirmed the familial relationships for many of these adoptees.”
The Third Annual Greek Adoptee Reunion will rotate back to the USA in June 2024. Details will be coming soon. For more information, visit the website at www.theeftychiaproject.org, the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheEftychiaProject or send an email to email@example.com.