Voices of the Lost Children of Greece, 1948-1968


The presentation will introduce the audience to the history of the postwar Greek adoption movement. Starting in 1948, this Greek adoption movement sent some 4,000 children overseas, to be adopted permanently in the USA, the Netherlands, Sweden, and other countries. This history is not only largely unknown, but it is also marred by unanswered questions and unresolved issues. Koraes Professor Gonda Van Steen will briefly introduce this postwar Greek adoption history that lasted for some twenty years, based on her recent book Adoption, Memory, and Cold War Greece. Then Mary Cardaras, Associate Professor at California State University, East Bay, a Greek-born adoptee herself, will read from the collection of personal testimonies that she has been compiling. This forthcoming anthology emphasizes the personal experiences of the Greek adoptees, their social and familial backgrounds, their emotional journeys, their longing for reconnection with Greece, and their desire for recognition from a country that has all but forgotten about their existence. She will also discuss the journey of one particular Greek adoption that led her to discover the stories of all the others in the collection and to embark on a path of adoptee activism.

About the Speakers:

Gonda Van Steen is the Koraes Chair of Modern Greek and Byzantine History, Language and Literature at King’s College London. Her 2019 book, Adoption, Memory, and Cold War Greece: Kid pro quo? (U Michigan Press; in Greek from Potamos Publishers Oct. 2021), delivers the first critical historical study of the mass adoptions from Greece to the USA and to the Netherlands in the 1950-60s, affecting some 4,000 Greek-born children. Her book has opened up a conversation about the Cold War adoptions from Greece and paths of recognition and redress, in which many adopted adults from Greece have joined her.

Mary Cardaras, adopted out from Greece to the USA in the 1950s, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Communication, Political Communication, Journalism and Documentary Film California State University, East Bay. As an adoptee, scholar, and journalist Mary Cardaras is currently compiling an anthology of Greek adoptee stories. This is a pioneering initiative, given that no previous Greek collection exists in English. Mary has thirteen essayists on board for the collection with the title Voices of the Lost Children of Greece: Oral Histories of International Adoption, 1948-1968. Their stories, including her own, strike home the experience of international adoption, whose impact is lifelong, but is not properly measured, let alone acknowledged. She has also written a novella, Ripped at the Root, about one particular Greek adoption that was published this fall.