According to the book, Adoption, Memory and Cold War Greece by Professor Gonda Van Steen from 1949 to 1962, approximately 3,200 infants, toddlers and even teenagers left Greece. In many instances those adoptions took place under suspect circumstances with forged paperwork and other shady practices. During the post-war the country faced desperate economic and social challenges putting it on a level with some developing nations today. It was not unheard of for orphanages, especially in the Kalamata and Patra vicinity, of “arranging” for the adoption of children who had “died in childbirth” to wealthy American families. In some cases the delivering hospital staff was paid in thick envelopes to pronounce infants “dead” to their biological parents so that they could be siphoned into orphanages that would arrange for American adoptions as they had a list of ready families who had paid their fees. Eventually these illegal adoptions were stopped, but not before thousands of children left their biological families in Greece, settling in the US.
The Greek adoptions were fueled by the baby boom that occurred in the US after the Second World War. Having children was almost a social requirement of the time. Many childless couples – often where the men had served in Greece or elsewhere during the war – saw a solution in adoption. Other times, Jewish survivors who had lost their children in the Holocaust chose to adopt Greek children who shared similar physical features. Occasionally, Greek Americans also adopted children from Greece.
One such adoptee is Linda Carol Trotter. She grew up in San Antonio, Texas, the only child of a devoted couple of Baptists who doted on her and “spoiled her rotten.” She had always known she was adopted. In fact, her town had 90 such adoptees from Greece as the priest of the Greek Orthodox church of Saint Sophia in San Antonio had been instrumental in arranging many other adoptions. She had grown up with these Greek adoptees in a sort of extended family of sorts, enjoying fish fries, trips to the zoo, and other social functions. They even had their own club: POGO, Parents’ Organization of Greek Orphans.
Unlike other adopted kids, Linda Carol never felt the yearning to find her biological parents. “I was never one of those who felt something was missing because my parents treated me the same as any biological child,” Linda Carol explains. The urge to learn only happened after the death of her father in 2015 and then her mother in February 2017. “It was a week after I buried my mother that I got the overwhelming urge to find my Greek family.” As an only child, she decided it would be worth the effort to find her relatives, if only to fill the void left by death. Although she had always had an affinity for all things Greek, she did not identify as Greek. Her Greek identity seemed to belong to a land and a time far far away from her present reality. Perhaps, she reasoned, someone in Greece might need closure as well.
THE STORY OF THE SEARCH
That’s when her story of her Greek roots started. A Google search for “Greek adoptions 1950s” resulted in the son of the Greek priest in San Antonio who then connected her with Professor Gonda Van Steen. Van Steen had been researching for a book about Cold War Greek adoptions and had become the unofficial point of contact for many other adoptees. It was her research that brought to light the plight of these adoptees that has been published in her recent book.
The story of Linda’s birth as had been told by the lawyer that arranged for her adoption did not match up with the facts she was putting together in her own research. She was told she was born premature weighing only 4 and a half pounds, that her mother had died during delivery; that she had been transported straight from the hospital to the orphanage where she was adopted a few months later. By trade, Linda happened to be a labor and delivery nurse. She knew that under the medical conditions in Greece in 1958 with the infant mortality rate hovering around 40%, there could be little chance of her surviving as a premature infant without an incubator. Something did not add up.
So she took up the search. A Google search led her to the son of the Greek priest who facilitated her adoption. He in turn connected her to Gonda Van Steen. Van Steen helped her retrieve her orphanage records by filing out the request in Greek and contacted the president of the village of Stranoma, outside the mountains of Nafpaktos. The president of the village knew about Linda. As it turned out, the entire village knew about her existence as the facts around her birth had been no secret. He incidentally turned out to be her cousin.
Thanks to a neighbor who served as a translator, Linda was able to have a phone conversation with her biological mother, Hariklia, after nearly 60 years since her birth. As it turned out, Hariklia had married after giving birth to Linda Carol yet had not had other children. It was truly an incredible reunion of both sides who needed closure and reconciliation.
THE STORY GOES VIRAL
The story of this incredible mother-child reunion would be remarkable on its own. But it took off and reverberated in the media after Linda Carol’s daughter, a publicist, happened to share a table with a reporter from The Tennesseean who had a beat to write inspirational stories. She told him about her mother’s journey of reconnection and he published it as part of a detailed two-page spread. This story was in turn picked up and translated by the Greek press. Alpha TV made a video about the story. It went viral in Greece. Linda counted up to 50 media channels that had picked up the story, including the AP, around February of last year.
FOUNDING THE EFTYCHIA PROJECT
Due to the publicity Linda Carol had acquired, she started a Facebook page explaining her success at locating her Greek family. The Facebook links resulted in a network of adoptees who were also hoping to track down their roots. “I had in my heart and head to help others in their search to find their families,” she states, “and I was getting all this publicity. I couldn’t waste it.” She contacted two other friends to serve on the board for what was to become the Eftychia Project. It became an official not-for-profit April 2019. Eftychia is Linda’s Greek name she discovered from her birth certificate. Incidentally, it means “happiness” which was fitting for the mission of the organization that tries to connect adoptees with their Greek families of origin. Even though it has yet to turn one year old, the Eftychia Project has reconnected six adoptees with their families and is working on reuniting more.
CONNECTING WITH HER GREEK SIDE
Linda Carter/Eftychia has since been hooked on her Greekness. She has visited Greece 17 times since she was reunited to her mother. She has discovered that she is a part of a “big fat Greek family over there.” Her goal was to really know her family and not just have a superficial relationship with them. “Greece is my happy place, the place I feel at peace in the world and with everyone in it,” she states. “I feel so very Greek.” She has rented an apartment, bought a car and is planning on retiring there.
Even though she was raised Baptist, since discovering her Greekness, she and her husband have converted to Orthodoxy with the help of the 16 monks from the monastery of Metamorphoseos (Transfiguration) in the mountains of Nafpaktos. Her husband’s Orthodox name? Eftychios.
“It has been an amazing journey,” Linda Carter/Eftychia remarks. Indeed, some stories end with happiness or “eftychia” for all those involved.
TIPS FOR TRACKING DOWN FAMILY ROOTS
Linda Carol/Eftychia states there is no magic formula for tracking down families of origin. It is a combination of connecting with the right people under the proper circumstances and a bit of luck. Her search ended rather quickly thanks to the combination of fortunate encounters.
-Beware of so-called “adoption brokers,” Linda Carol/Eftychia cautions. Some individuals might take advantage of adoptees looking to find their families of origin by charging exorbitant sums up front. They claim to have connections with the orphanages or some insider connection, but there is nothing they can do that you cannot do for yourself. “There is nothing so repulsive as preying on your own kind,” she says.
-Start with a simple Google search of key terms. But it helps if you could conduct the search in Greek as that would produce more results than just in English. Use Greek when communicating with government agencies in Greece as they can respond faster in Greek than in English.
-The personal touch works better in Greece. It is best to go in person and do your own research on the ground. This approach can yield more results than a phone call or a letter. As with all things in Greece, “It’s all about who you know,” Linda Carol emphasizes.
-Start your quest with your official birth certificate. Ask this from the local town hall or registry. If your birth certificate cannot be retrieved, Linda Carol/Eftychia suggests you ask for your immigration file from the State Department. This takes anywhere from 3-6 months. In many cases this document produces as much valuable information as the birth certificate. In Eftychia’s case, her Greek birth certificate, something her parents did not even have.
-Besides the local registry office where it would be wise to be gracious to the officials at the counter, the local kafenio is the best place to conduct your research. The old men sitting around sipping coffees are a well of information and have historical memory that goes back several decades. If they do not know, chances are they will send you to those who do. She recounts that her organization was able to track down the families of three adoptees by using this method.
LINKS ABOUT LINDA CAROL TRΟΤΤΕR, THE EFTYCHIA PROJECT, AND GREEK ADOPTIONS
Documentary that aired nation-wide on Alpha TV in Greece April 18, 2019:
Features interviews with Linda Carol Trotter and two other Greek adoptees, with Linda Carol’s story featured
throughout the film.
Professor Gonda Van Steen’s book about Cold War Greek adoptions: Adoption, Memory and Cold War Greece
The article in the Tennessean in February 2019 started all of the publicity around Linda Carol’s story, a result
of a chance meeting between Linda Carol’s daughter and a reporter. Intrigued by the story, he interviewed
Linda Carol and the story was subsequently published. The story spread across the US and then went viral in
Greece, appearing on over 50 Greek news websites. It was later printed in multiple Greek papers.
Linda Carter Trotter, a life-long writer and songwriter, is awaiting possible publication of the long version of her story in a memoir entitled, My Name is Eftychia.
The Eftychia Project Announces & ,
SAVE THE DATE!!! AUGUST 14-16, 2020 in “The Athens of the South”, Nashville, Tennessee, the home of the world’s only full-scale replica of the Parthenon.