Black-market babies search Greek records for birthright

Date: 1996-09-01

Houston Chronicle
Black-market babies search Greek records for birthright
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece - Forty-one years ago a frightened Greek child of 5, stolen from her mother, landed in America to begin a new life.

Raised in an orphanage and by foster parents and told her mother had died in childbirth, young Amalia Balch and dozens of other children that October were herded aboard an airplane in Greece.

When the plane landed in New York City, adults streamed on board to claim the children they knew only by photographs, the kids they had adopted by proxy.

""I remember being very sick, and a plane full of children . . . and being very scared," she said.

Today, at age 45, Amalia Balch still doesn't know if she was a black-market baby, if her adoptive parents paid money for her. She hasn't pressed the point, but she suspects they did.

Over the past 10 years and five trips to the country of her birth, she has learned some truths about her roots. First she learned that she was stolen from her unmarried mother at birth.

And recently she was reunited for the first time with dozens of her blood relatives in her mother's home village.

Balch is one of thousands of people who now suspect that as infants they were sold in the baby black market that allegedly flourished in Greece for more than a decade after the 1946-49 civil war.

Almost half a century later, there's no reliable way to determine how many children were taken from poor parents and sold, both in Greece and abroad, in Canada, Australia, Sweden and South Africa, as well as the United States.

In 1959, a New York magistrate, Stephen S. Scopas, was indicted but later acquitted on charges of selling 30 Greek children to American couples.

Maxine Deller of Long Island, N.Y., says her adoptive parents, George and Jean Deller, paid $1,000 to Scopas when she was adopted in 1955. She said she learned this in a letter from Scopas left in her possession after her adoptive parents died.

Deller, who has not located her birth mother, and two other adoptees are leaving for Greece on Sept. 8. The other two are going for a reunion with blood relatives found through an association of Greek-Americans.

An angry Deller is going, she says, to ""knock down some doors" in an effort to find her birth mother.

Greek authorities in Patras, where she was born, ""are putting up a big resistance to opening the files."

""I want this exposed," she says. ""I want this exposed big time."

Balch also suspects the lawyer her parents used ""had a direct connection to the Scopas case."

Now people such as Balch and Deller are banding together, forming organizations and even searching the Internet to get at their roots.

""They say more than 2,000 children went to the United States," says Eleni Liarakou, chairman of the Association for the Investigation and Uncovering of Evidence of Adopted Children.

But Liarakou acknowledges that figure may be hearsay, as is so much other information about the scandal.

Neither the U.S. Embassy in Athens nor the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), the pre-eminent Greek-American organization involved in war relief at the time, have records from those years. The Greek Red Cross knows only how many have asked for help in tracing their Greek families - so far, some 500 adoptees who were sent to foreign countries.

Balch, who lives in Phoenix, Ariz., with her husband and 22-year-old son, is one of them.

She learned only recently that her mother had died a year after her birth, believing Amalia had been stillborn.

Someone had lied to her mother and her family and taken the baby to a foster home in the nearby port city of Patras. Five years later, the girl was sent to America. Amalia's new parents in Los Angeles were told the mother had died giving birth.

Balch began piecing her story together in 1985. She'd stopped off in Greece for a day after helping lead an evangelical tour of the Middle East as secretary to a minister. She went to visit the Patras maternity clinic and orphanage where she'd started life.

There, however, an employee informed her that the register contained neither a death certificate for her mother nor an adoption release for her.

This year, on her fifth visit, Balch found her closest living relatives -first cousins - and learned her mother's fate. She still does not know who her father was.

Her mother's village of Neapolis, near Patras, held a big celebration for her at which she counted about 100 relatives.

""Finally you feel as if you've connected. You were disconnected and you came together," she said in Athens.

In the past year, Greek news media have presented many stories of families uniting with children believed to have died at birth but who'd been brought up in other parts of Greece.

Each day, 20 or 30 people register with Liarakou's association. More than 6,000 people have signed on since the group was formed in March.

They clutch tattered documents, and the hope of finding children they had considered dead or the parents they thought had abandoned them.

Typically, the parents were told by doctors or nurses that their baby had died, but they were given no body or death certificate. Decades ago, such authority was not questioned.

The alleged racket and its global reach was revealed a year ago by a lawyer in the northern Greek city of Salonica. She discovered she'd been sold to a family in Greece while in the city's state-run orphanage. Going through its records she found the falsifications and managed to trace her biological family.

Since then, about 200 people have found their birth families. Of them, about 150 were adopted illegally, Liarakou's association says. The revelations and joyful reunions have spurred others to start looking.

Success seems to depend on luck and the correlation of evidence from both sides - child and parents.

""First we ask for the child's birth certificate and death certificate," says Liarakou, a travel agent by profession. ""Then we go to the clinic and ask for the whole medical history that they have for each case. Then we wait and see who might turn up looking from the other side."

Liarakou is looking for a sister who was said to have died three days after birth in 1960, although no death certificate was issued.

In the 1959 case in New York, Scopas, a prominent Greek-American, was forced to resign as a magistrate over allegations that he was dealing in black-market babies.

""Back in 1956, word got around that Scopas was in the baby-selling business. One couple told another and there was a regular procession to his office," then-District Attorney Frank S. Hogan told The New York Times in 1959. ""When they went there, they were shown photographs of Greek orphans and they selected the babies."

Prospective parents paid up to $2,800 for a child, Hogan contended.

The charges were dropped in 1960 when a judge ruled that the adoptions had been carried out legally in Greece. Scopas, now 85 and living in New York City, continues to maintain his innocence.

The U.S. Embassy in Athens says it has no records or numbers from that period, but for children to have been given U.S. visas the embassy must have had documentation that the adoptions were legal.

Early allegations about a black market in babies surfaced in Greece in the 1960s. The former director of the Agios Stylianos orphanage was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison in 1964 for involvement in illegal adoptions.

But it was only in the last year, when the methods and scale of the crime became known, that authorities finally lifted much of the secrecy that bedeviled efforts by adopted children to discover their heritage.

Balch says she has had a happy life with her adoptive family but wants to help other Greek adoptees who believe they were sold as babies and sent to unfit parents in America.

""I'm dealing with people whose lives are destroyed and fragmented," she says. ""They don't want to come back and fight and punish people. All they want to know is the truth."


i need help

how did you find out? i was sold also in korinthos greece in 1981 july 7th and i am also looking for answers and my mother

Adopted, Stolen, Who Am I

I was Adopted from Patras, Greece. Municipal Foundlings Asylum of Patrus under matriculation serial number I0866, I was declared to be a adoptive child? I had to be declared, was I or wasn't I? My name was Adamantia Karytsis, born August 19,1956. My certificate of Birth File No: ALL 083 323 Patras, Greece , I was brought to New York and yes the Magistrate was Stephen S Scopas. I just got copies of my paper work from my Mother ( step) who has raised me as her own. I had a great and wonderful child hood, but something was always missing. You could never put your finger on it, just something. I became very rebellious in my teenage years, and now I have grown up. I now have copies of my adoption papers, and looking this up on the internet has just given me about 1000 more questions. Anyone can help my number is 727-848-4818

The real difficult questions

Lisa, I hope you get some of the answers you are looking for.  As one who has been through that stage of discovery, I have learned some things from the past were not meant to be recovered.  [Names/reputations had to be protected, you know...].  With that in mind, I wish you strength and the ability to cope with the things you will discover about your adoption, your motherland, and yourself.  The process itself is not easy, but having faith that this path will make you a richer deeper  individual definitely helps.  (Too bad it has to hurt and suck so much....!)

I'd like to get on my cyber soap-box for a moment....

Lisa's comment (with 1000 more questions) is what many adoptees face, when they review some of their own adoption records and birth papers.   In my blog-piece, Adoption Myths and Realities, I pointed out a reality both international adopters and their adoptees will one day have to face:

No one knows for sure how many children have been placed in-care by child traffickers. No one knows for sure how many first-family members do not know an adoption plan has been made for a child in-care. No one knows how many parents with language barriers understand "informed consent" and the true meaning behind an adoption agreement, which, in essence, terminates all parental rights, permanently. No one knows for sure, how many of the more than 163 million orphans around the world are put in-care 'temporarily', because arrangements for child-care need to be made.

Because this is a fact, the question, "Adopted, stolen, who am I?", is a valid one... one that DOES have 1000 questions following it.

Often times, APs have trouble coping with their adopted child's "vivid imagination" or "mythical thinking".

I don't think adopters understand, in many cases, they are the ones holding onto a dream or wish that simply is not rooted in reality.  They are the ones who so desperately want to believe the child they received was abandoned, orphaned, or unwanted...  they do not want to consider any of that is or was not true!  Think how this level of denial is going to affect the child who may have a memory or two.

In any case, in Adoptionland, it is the child who must endure the worst of an adoption's aftermath... it's the child who must suffer all the consequences that go with charity and child placement organizations.  Here is the kicker --  even if the adoption-plan worked well and the child was treated with kindness and love by his/her APs, one cannot dispute or ague one other fact that remains:  it is the child who feels as though something isn't right or something was always missing.  THIS is adoption.  Adoption is the act of having to change and adapt to a given loss... a loss that may not have ever had to happen to the child in question.  This is why adoption is not something that happened, once.  Adoption is a process.  It is a process that has periods of remissions, much like cancer.  It is a process that does not end after a single generation.  Adoption is a process that continues until a new family tree has solid roots and branches.  (Picture THAT garden-landscape in Adoptionland!)

... and just think.....this adoption process is what the vast majority of well compensated adoption lobbyists in the USA want to increase, for the sake and best interest of the child. 

Come again?

Accepting Our Lives as They Are?

Why is it that we can't be happy to just be alive?  Why is finding our biological mother and/or family so important?  What a powerful thing the attachment to our mothers must be, and nothing else can replace it.  We need to make this known to the entire world!  What is the solution?

Solving attachment and family preservation problems

What a powerful thing the attachment to our mothers must be, and nothing else can replace it.

And yet, pro-lifers who advocate the adoption option will insist the bonds created through adoption are just as strong and good as those created through biology.

I'm sorry, but if all things were equal, (meaning child abuse and domestic violence were not family issues), there is no way the adopted child will feel the same sense of safe familiarity and recognition as a bio kid would feel, when alone with their parents/family.  I see it all the time -- kids who are raised by AP's or step parents lack something... their connections to others is simply different.  It is safe and distant, and not as close and personal as the surrogate parent may think or want.

Back to what can be done about this.  Is there a solution?  I believe there is room for huge improvements... we need better stronger education programs, and they need to be supported by groups and organizations from all walks of life and religious denominations.

I for one could never understand why so many members in religious groups would want to facilitate and even encourage the breaking of the mother-child bond, (via pregnancy centers and agencies like Bethany Christian Services), so a new family can be created.  I see adoption as the pro-life version of abortion... and it's an act that should be prevented and limited because I have yet to meet a mother who has not experienced a measure of guilt or regret after the decision to leave her child was made.

Let's consider how a vast majority of adoptions come to pass.  In many cases, it is the father who abandons the mother when she is either pregnant or the infant is younger than three.  In other cases, it is the grandparents who want nothing to do with the illegitimate child born out of wedlock.  In both cases, the mother is not supported.  This is a problem.... a problem the pro-life adoption lobby is not addressing properly.

If pro-lifers were all that concerned about preserving life and teaching strong family values, they would take their financial support given to adoption organizations and post adoption services and programs, and offer their time and money to family preservation programs like Nurse-Family Partnership, a program that has a positive proven track record when it comes to making a real difference in the lives of mothers and their children.

If I were to have a bottom-line about adoption, it would be this:  it's bad enough domestic violence, drug use/abuse, war and STD's are creating orphans in the world; we do not need to manufacture more for the adoption industry.   There is no good reason to encourage additional orphan-making, all for the sake of adopters wanting to do a little good in the world.   

Is that The actual date.

Is the date you state the 1956 August 19,Your paper Work Date that Your Adoptive Parents gave you when they Got You..or the One that Was ON the Documents Prior.thankyou,please get back to me.

please help me

Hello there. I potentially have an older brother out there too, and it is something I would love some assistance with. He was born in the early 60,s - my parents were told he died after the 5th day and he was buried, simple as that - no death certificate. Of course in those days, the authprity of the doctors never came into question. After they were told the baby died, they were both questioned about their respective families - health details and the like. But this almost destroyed them - it was because of this, they left Greece and settled in Australia. There was another baby which was born very prematurely, and then along came I. All of my life I was told I had 2 older brothers that died very young - but when I was pregnant I found out the truth, and it is something which hangs over me every day. Please help me.g

My little brother

I recently found out my mum had a son in greece who could potentialy be alive he was born in the year 2000 or 2001 i really want to find out some more answers please let me know if you know anything he should be mixed raced half white half pakistani when he was born my mother could hear the baby crying and was told hed died so shed been suppicous everything was stopped in 2008 to find him and realised it would be better when hes 18 and he can help us find him please email me if you know anything about my case ide be extremley grateful

Looking for my birth family born 1976

I was born in Athens I think in 1976 they say January 20 but I'm not sure about that they tell me I was in an orphanage at four days old and then was adopted right away to a Canadian family I am looking for any information at all or any help trying to find any information I only have one paper in Greek and I don't know how to read it I think it's my baptism papers if anybody could help that would be greatly appreciated thank you

I read your comment about

I read your comment about being adopted from Greece. I had a brother born in March 1976 who apparently died but we never saw the body. A birth or death certificate were never issued.. I have always doubted his death. Do you know where in Greece you were born??

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