A Greek adoptee in the US eventually discovered the identity of his biological father after 63 years thanks to the Eftychia Project.
The Project is 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.
Thousands of Greek children were sent from Greece for adoption abroad, mainly to the United States, through often questionable means during the Cold War decades of the 1950s and 1960s.
The story of the Greek adoptee retracing the past
Steven Graeter from Tennessee had saved the black-and-white photo of himself in his stepmother’s arms on the balcony of the “Mitera” baby center in Athens in May 1960 on his mobile phone. He was just four months old and preparing for a trip that would end in the United States.
Now at the age of 63, he recently visited the same balcony. “I wanted to walk there, I wanted to take the same route, the same steps, I wanted to know what my stepparents saw and what they felt,” Graeter tells Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA).
The Greek adoptee had in the meantime discovered the identity of his biological father with the contribution of The Eftychia Project.
In 1963, his new American family adopted another child, sister Lisbeth, from the Mitera Center in Athens.
After spending some years in the Netherlands, the family including Stephen, now age 8 and Lisbeth, 5, moved to Boston.
“I found out very early from my adoptive parents that I was adopted,” he tells AMNA. “I think I was 4 or 5 years old when my parents told me that I was adopted, that I was special to them and how they love me very much.”
He returned to Greece with his family in 1977 and visited the Mitera Center to get some information about his biological family, but these efforts were fruitless.
Greek adoptee found who his mother was
In the early 2000s while his adoptive parents were still alive, he announced to them that, having now reached the age of 40, he wanted to look for his biological family.
“I wanted to know my story and feel like I belonged somewhere,” he noted. “My adoptive parents were very supportive, encouraging me when I was looking and asking if I had any news. They were interested.”
Several years passed as Graeter gathered information in an effort to unravel the thread of the unknown life of his biological family.
He discovered the name of his mother’s family, and his inquiries led to the Australian immigration authorities as he had information that his biological mother in the 1960s was to immigrate to Australia.
Every piece of information and detail she gathered she gave to the President of The Eftychia Project, Linda Carol Trotter (or Eftychia Noula), who completed the investigation.
Eftychia Noula and Toula Vrysioti went to the place where Grater’s biological mother’s family was and found his first cousin. In October 2022, his DNA was identified with that of his cousin. “That’s how I found out I had 9 first cousins, aunts and uncles,” he explains. “But my mother was not alive.”
Search for biological father a success
Another search was done for his biological father, and Graeter managed to find a second cousin on his father’s side. A DNA test identified their kinship.
On August 4, 2023, Graeter met his biological father after sixty-three years, and as AMNA reports, the similarity between them left no room for doubting their blood relationship.
“You know the word ‘surreal,’ something that’s real but doesn’t seem to be?” Grater asked. “That’s how I felt when I first met my biological father in person.”
When he learned that his father was alive, he went to the area where he lived and spent four days with him and his half-sisters.
“The first day I was there and had my first Greek meal with my Greek family it was wonderful,” he recalled. “I love them so much, I feel connected to them. When we met for the first time we cried, and we hugged. When my father met me, he hugged me and kissed me.”
“My whole life both me and my sister had wonderful foster parents but I always felt like I belonged somewhere else,” he notes while emphasizing that the DNA test confirmed a little later that it was his biological father. “When I visited my dad and my blood sisters, that’s when I felt like I belonged. I found my family.”
“Feeling blessed. When I video-called my dad for the first time, my sister asked me if I had anything to say to my dad and without thinking I said I love you, because that’s what I felt at the time was the right thing to say,” he revealed.
“And I told him and we started to cry,” Graeter told AMNA. “I felt it in my soul and in my heart. I have traveled to many countries in my life. When I return to Greece and hear Greek, it’s like poetry for me.”
Greek adoptees meet in Greece
Greek-born adoptees converged on their homeland of Greece this October 14th to October 19th for the historic Second Annual Greek Adoptee/Greek Family Reunion.
Building upon the amazing success of the First Annual Greek Adoptee Reunion in Nashville, Tennessee last August, Greek adoptees and families from across the globe attended this first-of-its-kind international event, hosted by the Eftychia Project.