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An Instant Big Fat Greek Family
Episode 8216th January 2024 • Family Twist • Corey and Kendall Stulce
00:00:00 00:33:34

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This episode of the Family Twist podcast offers a compelling look into the life of Linda Carol Trotter (her Greek name is Eftychia), an adoptee with a deeply engaging story. Linda Carol's experiences, from understanding her adoption to embracing her Greek heritage, take us through a journey that highlights the profound impact of cultural roots and the enduring connections of family. This episode not only illuminates Linda Carol's journey but also sheds light on the broader experiences of Greek adoptees, revealing the unexpected twists and turns that life can take.

An Instant Big Fat Greek Family

Episode Highlights:

  • Linda Carol Trotter's lifelong knowledge of her adoption and her Greek origins.
  • The misconceptions surrounding her adoption, including her birth mother's fate and her own origins.
  • Linda's contentment with her adoptive family and her initial lack of interest in exploring her Greek roots.
  • The revelation that Linda Carol's birth mother was alive, igniting her quest to connect with her Greek heritage.
  • Linda's emotional reunion with her biological mother in Greece and the discovery of her extended family.
  • The transformation of Linda Carol's story into activism, including the establishment of the Eftychia Project to assist other Greek adoptees.
  • Linda Carol's advocacy efforts, including speaking at the United Nations and fighting for Greek adoptee rights.
  • The first annual Greek Adoptee Reunion in Nashville, Tennessee, and subsequent reunions in Greece.
  • Linda Carol's ongoing efforts to learn the Greek language and integrate into Greek culture.

This episode of the Family Twist podcast poignantly captures the essence of adoption's complex emotional landscape. Linda Carol Trotter's story is a testament to the enduring strength of familial bonds, regardless of distance and time. Her journey from discovering her roots to becoming an advocate for Greek adoptees illustrates the profound impact of uncovering one’s identity. The episode serves as a beacon of hope and understanding for adoptees worldwide, highlighting the importance of embracing one's past to shape a more meaningful future.

Guest links:

The Eftychia Project

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Transcripts

Kendall and Corey: [:

Hello, and a heartfelt welcome to all our listeners as we embark on season four of the Family Twist podcast. I'm Kendall Austin Stultz, and my life story is a tapestry of unexpected turns from being adopted as an infant to losing my adoptive parents by the time I was 17, and then in a twist of fate, finding my birth family through the magic of DNA testing in 2017.

And I'm Corey Stolz, Kendall's partner on this life adventure. When we uncovered his paternal birth family's roots on the East Coast, I knew our next chapter was calling us there to mend the missing pieces of Kendall's heart with the love of newfound relatives. Our podcast began as a single thread, a narrative of my own, but it is woven into a vibrant quilt of stories, celebrating the complexities of DNA surprises, adoption, donor conception, NPEs, not parent expected, surrogacy, and the myriad ways families come together.

dall and Corey: Thanks again [:

Welcome to the show, Linda Carol.

Linda Carol: Thank you. I appreciate you guys asking me to be a part of this and I'm very excited to be here with you.

Kendall and Corey: When did you learn of your adoption

Linda Carol: I can't think of a time that I didn't know I was adopted. My parents were always very open. They didn't know much about my origins and my circumstances, but whatever they knew, they told me. So, probably from the time I could talk, I've known I was adopted. They told me you're Greek.

I was adopted from the municipal orphanage, which is run by the municipality of Athens. your Greek name, was Efthahia, which they couldn't pronounce correctly. It came out weird, like Ophthysia or something like that, because I didn't grow up around any Greek people.

They didn't really [:

Kendall and Corey: Did you have any interest, as you got to your teen years or your twenties of researching where you came from? And did you have any desire to visit Greece?

Linda Carol: Actually, no. I had wonderful adoptive parents and I'm sad to say that's not the case for many Greek adoptees. Of those some four thousand of us that were adopted, many parents were abusive. There was a lack of oversight by both the Greek and the American governments. This is why some people wound up with not really good parents. I was fortunate that I wound up with great parents and I had a wonderful life with them. I didn't have any real desire to go to Greece.

Didn't have any [:

I really didn't know the circumstances or what I was supposed to be doing as far as looking. I did go to Greek festivals. I loved, and I love Greek food, but who doesn't, right? I went to Greek festivals. I would ask for books about mythology, about Greek history, about various other things, and my parents would always get me whatever I wanted.

They'd go to the Greek festivals with me, but I just didn't have any real desire to do that until they both passed away. And then that's what really spurred me on to decide, well, I would like to actually find out something.

Maybe there's nobody to look for, but maybe there's other relatives, you know? I was 59 years old when I decided finally it was important. It's not important until it is important. And it was important.

id not die during childbirth.[:

Linda Carol: No, she didn't. Neither was I a foundling who was left on a doorstep, and I actually kind of went through probably about four iterations of my story till I actually found out the actual truth. The first one was your mother died in childbirth, and you were a premature baby, and you weighed four and a half pounds, and whatever, we had that story.

I got my orphanage papers. I got quite a few documents from them. Actually, I was extremely lucky because some people don't have very many. It said this lady had taken me to the Athens police and said I had been left on her doorstep by my mother and that she was afraid my mother would abandon me again if I was given back to her.

So, would the police please take this child to the orphanage? that turned out to not be a true story either. The lady in question was actually my own godmother. I later found out my great grandfather had bribed her to get rid of me because I was an embarrassment to the family. Because in the 50s in Greece it was a big no no that you have a baby out of wedlock.

He bribed her to [:

Finally, this real story came together. I was, somebody's actual daughter Having those papers that give you contradictory things is difficult because I have one paper from the orphanage. It says I'm of unknown parents. Later I get my, alien file from the U.

S. government and the Greek adoption decree is in there that says I'm the illegitimate daughter of Hadikli and Nula. How is that possible? You're one or the other; you can't be both. The more it changed, the more I was like,what's the real story.

After six years now of knowing my family, I've finally got the real story.

Kendall and Corey: What was it like for you the moment that you found out your birth mother is still alive?

and spoke Greek, sent me an [:

We still were operating on the premise she was not alive. I got the email. I was on the way to dinner with my husband. I hadn't checked the email all day because we've been busy, and I opened the phone and there was an email, and it said, fasten your seatbelt.

I opened it and it said, take a seat. I just spoke on the phone with your cousin, Constantinos, the president of the village. The first thing I did, I started to cry because I was like, oh, my gosh, I've got a cousin. And he assures me that your mother is alive and well, at the age of 79. I burst into tears. I'm bawling, like a baby. And my husband's like, what's the matter? I said, my mother's still alive and I cried. I read on and she said, you were her only child and she has never forgotten you. You can't imagine all the emotions that were going through my head at that point.

ead. Then you don't know you [:

It was just amazing.

Kendall and Corey: How quickly did you book that trip to Greece?

Linda Carol: Pretty quick, because I don't mess around when I put my mind to do something. When I do something, I do it all the way. I

hat October. This was June of:

We were going to go to Paris. We're going to go to Rome. Then we were going to go to Athens to see the orphanage where I was kept. And we were going to renew our wedding vows in some nice spot in Athens. That was before I even started looking for family. And then I find them. Well, we have to change our plans, obviously, because now we're going to have to go see my relatives, but I [00:08:00] wanted to talk to them on the phone.

The very next day, the village president's wife decided we're going to do this right away. She sets up a phone call. The next week, I talked to my biological mother.

I talked to her on the phone with a translator. The village priest and his wife actually spoke English because they lived in New York for 10 years, and they had returned to the village. They were friends with the family. Several family members came to their house along with my biological mother, and they translated. The phone call was extremely emotional.

She said to me to Greek, over and over again, when are you coming? When are you coming? By the end of the phone call, I'm in tears. My husband's in tears. I said, oh, my gosh, Bobby, you know, part of me just wants to get on that plane right now and go. And he says, well, I'm glad you said that because, you know, we're not millionaires

and we're not made of money, so we can't say money is no object. But this is your mother, so money is no object. Buy the tickets, take Heather, our daughter, with you, because I can't go right now because of work. I don't want you to go alone. Go and see her,

because you will [:

A week after that we were on the plane to Greece.

Kendall and Corey: That's amazing.

Linda Carol: And it

Kendall and Corey: Who was there at the airport to greet you?

Linda Carol: I wanted to get somewhere where I could take a shower and change my clothes and look decent. Leading up to going to Greece, 1st cousin of mine, was, corresponding with me on on Facebook and kept asking me, I need your itinerary because I want to make sure you guys arrive safely.

He asked me several times and my husband said, that guy's going to meet you at the airport. I said, Oh, surely not. You know, the village is 155 miles from there. They're not going to come to the airport. A couple of days before we left, he said, because we want to be with you as more that we can,

eir grandson, George came as [:

The reason they brought George, I found out later, I thought my cousin could, speak English fairly decently because we were texting on Facebook. Evidently, he'd been using Google Translate a lot because when I would ask him stuff and I got to the airport, he'd go, uh, just a minute and he'd put something in the phone.

George came because George, at 15, was quite proficient in English. He had been taking private lessons and he did quite well. All of them were at the airport. I was so nervous when the plane landed, I got all hot and sweaty and shaky, and I'm thinking, I don't want to be sick, but I feel like I'm going to be sick because you don't know what's going to meet you.

I knew somebody was coming to the airport. I thought it was just my mother and my cousin, but it was those other people too. You don't know what to expect. Is it going to be strange? Is it going to be weird? Is it going to feel like family? Are they going to feel like strangers? What's it going to be like?

put on a clean shirt, spritz [:

I have to say it was not weird. It was not strange. They felt like family 'cause they are my family. It was just an amazing experience. I was so happy. It's difficult to describe.

Vasilis walked up and I recognized him from Facebook. He gave me a big hug and then he turned me around and led me over to where my biological mother, my aunt, my uncle, and George were standing and he said, and here's your mother.

This petite woman had this enormous bouquet of flowers and she shoves them up at me and And then I took thm and then we both hugged and we just cried. she, called me agapi mou, which is my love t was an amazing thing.

I never felt weird or awkward. They've always felt like family.

Kendall and Corey: Beautiful. Sorry. I'm getting a little choked up over here. What was the rest of that first visit like?

st, but no, we [:

it's a beautiful drive. my daughter and I are the whole way like, wow, because we rented a car and we followed them. it was just amazing. then we drove over the big Rio Anterio bridge, which is the only physical connection between the Peloponnese and the mainland of Greece. there's ferries that go back and forth at several places, but that's the only.

place you can go across something physical, we went up to the village, so it took us. two and a half hours to drive from Athens, and it's another hour and a half to the village.

we just got off 24 hours of being on planes, and we're driving, and I'm thinking, man, sometime I have to sleep, but we drove to the village, and when we get there, This massive humanity spills out of her little house, onto the front terrace, and they already have this big table set up outside on the front porch.

all this food and we just had one big fat

Kendall and Corey: Wow.

r relatives and I can't even [:

it was just crazy. I instantly had a big fat Greek family and, It was a little bit overwhelming at first because Greeks have one volume. It's called loud. And so they're loud and they're boisterous and they're happy and they eat a lot. everything revolves around food pretty much.

So we had a big, huge dinner and, it was an amazing thing. my mother's oldest sister, and her husband were there and they told me, and this was one of the sweetest things anybody told me. my aunt Theodora, said, Estikia, we have five children, which are five of my first cousins, but now that you're here, now

Kendall and Corey: Oh.

Linda Carol: six, and so it was just a beautiful thing

ther's oldest sister and she [:

Kendall and Corey: Wow. Oh boy. Wow. This is... Fantastic. you said something earlier about, if you do something, you're going all the way. So talk a little bit about your activism now on and trying to help others.

Linda Carol: I never thought I'd be really an activist, but I guess I am now, when I started coming to Greece, I couldn't stay away for very long. I got almost in the habit of coming every other month. I was here for a month at a time.

about 9 months into this thing. Renting an apartment, buying a car, because my husband said I was killing him with the hotel bills and the rental car. So we did that. and then eventually bought a house of our own. it's nice to have our own spot, I was thinking so many other adoptees and how many of us there were and I begin to.

em. some of them had seen an [:

Started Maybe I can run down an address for somebody. Maybe I can get some papers for somebody. Maybe there's something I can do, that can help people. that's kind of how it started. And then it just morphed into this huge thing.

I actually started the Ftia project as a 5 0 1 c three nonprofit organization. we help Greek adoptees who are searching for their roots and Greek families who are looking for their children lost to adoption. free of charge. We don't charge anything.

Our organization accepts donations, but we don't ask for donations or money from adoptees or families that have asked for our help. a lot of times I would end up with powers of attorney from various adoptees to get papers

Cause some people had no papers. Some parents didn't share papers. Some parents destroyed papers.

alled after that. we started [:

we're actually pretty close to 3 or 4 more right now. it was something that I felt like needed to be done.

We give away free DNA kits to adoptees and Greek adoptees and Greek families who are looking. at first we bought them ourselves, or we asked people, we took them from any company we could get them from,

And then MyHeritage reached out to us and, said, Hey, we saw an article in the Greek reporter about how you drive all around Greece and deliver these DNA kits to families. We'd like to help you. they have provided free DNA kits to us that we can then pass on to others. And they also provide us other support.

they help us with our subscriptions to the MyHeritage site, and they help us with research and various other activities.

e mine you know, we're Greek [:

Greece has what they call the law of blood, what they call aphelionia. if you're born to a Greek parent in Greece, you're a Greek citizen. That's just the way it is. But everybody was having difficulty trying to get their citizenship. So then we became advocates for that. We actually have advocated for the last three years with the Greek government on behalf of Greek adoptees for transparency.

About our adoptions, which they have yet to really recognize that we exist or to say anything about any kind of complicity they had in this, we want our records open so we can get them. They are using a lot of excuses not to give us our records. So we're having difficulty with that. And then we want our citizenship restored.

But they don't have any clue [:

And they also included me on the family registration, because in Greece, families have a registration called the Medida. I was able to reclaim that citizenship. However, I had to go to court and spend thousands of dollars and a lot of time to actually have my name changed from F the Hia to what it is now to Linda Carol Trotter because, I don't have the same name and neither does anybody else.

we shouldn't have to do that. they should do that without all of this. We shouldn't have to go to court. We have all the papers that prove all of our name changes that we were adopted from Greece, most of us have the birth certificates who we were born to, or we can get them in a lot of cases.

e, we've been talking to the [:

But it's been about 3 years and they haven't done anything. but I was invited to speak before the United Nations in September in Geneva. it was on the 1st anniversary of the joint statement on illegal intercountry adoption It's the 1st time a Greek adoptees spoken before 1 of the committees for the UN and, I have to thank Lynelle long.

I don't know if you guys are familiar with her, but she is the founder of intercountry adoptee voices. It's international adoptee organization and, They had given her organization two five minute slots slots to speak and she generously gave me one to speak on behalf of Greek adoptees.

had representation at the at [:

might be heading to Geneva again, which I don't mind. I like Geneva. It was nice.

Kendall and Corey: Wow. So, what has your mother been able to tell you about your biological father?

Linda Carol: that's a story that's just a little bit, convoluted. I'll just suffice it to say that the person that I thought was my father is not my father because I did a DNA test with his brother and we don't match. I think in a lot of cases I'm not unusual as a Greek adoptee.

lly hung up on finding their [:

we have some kind of really tight. ephemeral connection to, biological mothers. And for fathers, I don't think it's quite as much, at least not for me. I really feel like a lot of our fathers, especially in Greece, probably don't know we even exist.

I did find some second cousins with DNA that I know are on my father's side because they're not related to anybody on my mother's side and they're very nice. And they've been trying to help me narrow it down. But so far, we haven't come up with anything, but more second cousins or third cousins.

if it never happens, it's okay. I don't have a burning desire to find that out. If I never find out it won't matter to me so much.

how the reunion got started? [:

Linda Carol: thought it would be fun if we all got together Greek adoptees in general. in 2022, we had the first annual Greek Adoptee Reunion in Nashville, Tennessee, I live in Franklin just outside of Nashville, but there's a couple of reasons for that.

Nashville is called the Athens of the South and we have a Parthenon. We have the world's only full size replica of the Parthenon there in Centennial Park. We wanted something with a Greek connection. How much more Greek can you get than the Parthenon? And we're the Athens of the South. So we decided to have it there.

We had it last August and we had about 50 adoptees from all over the United States.

We had a great time we decided that we would really like to have our 2nd reunion in Greece, because all of us are getting older. And who knows how long I'll be healthy enough to walk around in Greece and travel around the country and do things.

days.[:

for Greek, she's like, the most iconic actress ever from Greece. they have a museum. called karyozis, which is a little shadow puppet character that was very, prevalent in Greece, especially back in the 50s, 60s, 70s. it's something Greek children grew up with, which most of us didn't if we weren't raised by Greeks.

We actually visited the two major orphanages in Athens. We went to Metaira, which was the orphanage started by the Queen of Greece back in those days in the 50s. And then we went to the Athens Municipal Orphanage that I came from.

Very emotional for a lot of these people because They had never been to that orphanage since they were adopted, and a lot of them had never been back to Greece since they had been adopted.

t of work and covering these [:

even if they started for the right reasons, corruption in any kind of intercountry adoption. Generally follows when they find out they can actually make money off of it. You get these players that are doing things that they shouldn't be doing, and they're making a lot of money off of it. So a lot of these adoptions from Greece that we've heard figures of like 10, 000 each for these adoptions, and they probably should have cost somewhere around.

2, 000 that would include everything, including your transportation to get home to America from Greece. Several people met biological family for the 1st time, which was amazing for them and others saw their family again. 1 of our adoptees. Thank goodness.

ily in the town of Bolos his [:

They connected and he was coming in October to the reunion and was basically going to wait to come then. And I said, don't wait. I said, he's 84 years old. Anything could happen. The same thing my husband told me, you'll never forgive yourself if something happens between now and October. And so he came and spent a week with his father, in August and he spent another week with them in October.

eal to try to go to see that [:

Especially these older ones, because we're kind of running out of time, most of us Greek adoptees are in our sixties and seventies, our parents are in their eighties and nineties. Finding them alive is getting harder and harder.

Kendall and Corey: For sure. Wow. That's incredible. Wow. How fluent are you in Greek now?

Linda Carol: Um, Milao Ligo, Elenica. which means I speak a little Greek and I'm still learning. I'm trying to learn. I do. Okay. It's really funny. I'm very self conscious around people that I know well. my family is really bad. Greek families they're kind of overbearing like in my big fat Greek wedding, they're kind of overbearing and they tell you what to do and all of that.

So when I speak Greek to them, they correct me all the time,

Kendall and Corey: Oh no.

going to say. And I'm like, [:

No, I don't leave me alone. I actually do really well with. strangers, and I speak Greek much better when I have to. a lot of times I do travel to villages to get DNA where nobody speaks English and I do okay. I actually read, write, and understand it much better than I speak it.

anybody that speaks another language can tell you, you have to think. sometimes you can't think fast enough to do all that because, basically you hear it in Greek, then you think in English, and then you got to translate that to Greek and say it back.

there's sort of a delay there, I still take lessons every week with, a Greek teacher who lives on the island of Paros, we do, zoom lessons, and I was, I was fortunate enough to be able to go to Paros for a week this summer and every morning we did Greek for like 3 hours and then my little dog and I spent the afternoon sightseeing.

it was really fun.

thank you for that. we'll do [:

Linda Carol: I'm really excited about being able to tell more people and bring more awareness to this because the big thing is spreading the awareness because I always always clarify when people ask me to tell my story that my story's just representative of 4, 000 people I like to say that all of our stories are different, but yet they're all the same because we came from the same background in the same circumstances.

when I went to the UN and listen to these other adoptees, talk about their testimonies about what happened in their countries. We all have the same problems in inter country adoption. We've all had the same corruption, the same, falsified documents, the same schemes.

you guys are doing really good work as far as your podcast to, get more information out there about adoption.

adoption for me was the best [:

Because it's about the only thing you can do in these villages, I wouldn't have the opportunities I had, and I wouldn't have had the family home life and all that I had. In America, so I'm not sorry that I ended up in America. I'm just totally blessed that I was able to come back to Greece and reconnect with my family and be in a position like I am to help others who are in the same boat as I

with my biological family at [:

Linda Carol: my cousins all told me when I first came. That you were so lucky to go to America. And at first I was thinking, America is a land of opportunity and all that kind of stuff, but it was more about the circumstances that I would have been raised in here because Greece was such a poor country, they had just come off of World War II and the Greek civil war back to back.

And they were basically awash in poverty. I'm very lucky that I ended up. In America, and with the parents that I did, I agree. Sometimes, you know, we are lucky to be adopted and other times it didn't work out so well.

Kendall and Corey: And you even alluded to the fact that, many adoptees were taken by people who didn't treat them well, I can't relate to that. I feel, so fortunate that I had the parents that I had. they were just great people. we can't leave out.

The other side of the equation where things aren't always so positive for people,

ecially in the case of Greek [:

I was lucky. I was with good people, but nobody checked on these other people that were abused they've suffered lifelong trauma because of it. I guess I lived in a bubble. For a long time thinking, oh, you wouldn't go to all that trouble and all that expense to adopt a child and then mistreat it.

Would you evidently? Yes, you know, they did. it was hard to fathom after being as loved. I was unconditionally loved by my parents and protected and given a great education and all the advantages you could possibly want. yet here's people that would take a child and abuse it after they went to so great lengths to have that child come into their family.

So, my heart really aches for those people.

de on our side of it. It's a [:

Linda Carol: Well, sometimes it's a little more family than you think you can handle, but it's been good. And I made new relatives all the time. Oh, this is your 2nd cousin from so and so. And I'm like, oh, cool. You know, another 1.

I'm excited for what you guys are doing and, bringing attention to adoption and DNA craziness

so kudos to you guys too, for what you're doing

Kendall and Corey: Thank you. We appreciate that. Excellent. Well, go have more fun in Greece while you're there.

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