For months the DNA test sat in the cupboard. Every time her mind would wander to the test, she would be deterred by the mounting overwhelm: What would she discover about her past? What would it all mean for the life she had created for herself? What would her adopted mum, the woman who raised her, think of her efforts to find answers?
But in April last year, the emotions associated with not doing the test, far outweighed any uncertainty she felt, and so Anna* decided to finally send off her DNA sample.
“I just really wanted to know,” Anna told Neos Kosmos. “I had things pop up in my life that I was unsure about, especially genetically, and I really wanted to know what I carried.”
Months later, Anna finally received her results. She had a number of matches, but they all shared too few centimorgans to be of any real significance.
“I had a lot of third cousins, and a lot of second cousins, nothing really; the numbers were very low,” she says.
But that all changed at the beginning of 2020 when she received an email notification; her DNA matches had been updated – there was one with over 2,000 shared centimorgans. Anna has a sister that lives in Greece.
“I really wasn’t expecting it,” she says.
“I was getting all low numbers, so it actually came as quite a shock to the system. The first thing I did was go and wake up my husband. I didn’t say anything; I just stared at him for about five minutes,” Anna recalls just days after the astounding discovery.
Her instinct was to go straight to Facebook to look up her sister’s name. When she logged on, she saw that she already had a friend request.
“I accepted straight away,” she says. “Then we both pretty much said, ‘Hi, I’m your sister’. She was doing most of the talking in the beginning because I was very shocked.”
Anna admits that when she first saw a photo of Sophia*, she didn’t see the resemblance she was expecting.
“She’s got blonde hair, so when I first saw her I thought ‘what the hell, this can’t be right’. But then I looked at her eyebrows and they were dark. I also saw a lot of facial features like the nose, the eyes, the creases in her smile and the dimples. We’ve gone back and looked at photos of each other and gone ‘wow, yeah, we actually do look alike’,” she says.
“It took us about two days before I could FaceTime, and when I saw her and she saw me we both cried, that was our first instinct.”
Anna and Sophia have just 11 months difference in age, and despite having grown up oceans apart, they can’t deny how much they have in common.
“Even down to our personalities are really the same,” Anna says excitedly. “Our tendencies to do things our way, we’re very, very much alike.”
So what now? While Anna admits that she would love nothing more than to get on the next plane to Greece, she says their reality makes that a little difficult.
“That’s what we want, to hug each other. But we’ve both got families; we’re both married, we’ve both got young children. At the end of the day we have commitments, so we can’t just pick up and go. It would be wonderful if it were that easy.”
The shock has yet to truly wear off just yet. Asked how she feels, Anna contently replies “really happy”.
Growing up, she was never told by her parents that she was adopted, but reveals that she always suspected something. Once the truth was confirmed, she started looking for answers but continued to hit a wall, until she did her DNA test.
“I don’t feel alone anymore. Even though I love my mum and my family so much, I think every adoptee that knows they’re adopted, they have that empty hole because they don’t know who they belong to; they don’t really know anything about their roots,” Anna says.
Meanwhile her sister Sophia, only discovered she was adopted 11 years ago. She started searching for answers the moment she found out, but it wasn’t until just months ago that she decided to take a DNA test. The anticipation of the results was at times more than she could bare.
“But when I finally received the results and they showed that I had a sister, my heart was flooded with joy from happiness and love!” Sophia told Neos Kosmos.
Could there be other siblings? There’s more to the story
While they have found each other, Anna and Sophia’s search continues.
They are now looking for their parents, and possibly other siblings, who are most likely in Greece or Australia.
All Anna knows of her past is that she was born in a hospital in Athens in 1981 (Sophia was born in 1980), and she was adopted by parents residing in Australia. But there are questions surrounding the legalities of the two sisters’ adoption. They have suspicions that their parents did not willingly give them up, but rather that they were told their babies had died, and were adopted on the black market.
“I believe our parents believe we’re still dead, so they don’t need to search and that they have had more children,” says Anna.
“I have seen on Facebook before, families that have not been given a death certificate, found their child and it was still alive. Some doctors did this, they stole children; they told the parents four days later that the child had passed away with no death certificates.”
Anna and Sophia are not the first to put forward such a theory. There are countless other adopted children from Greece with similar suspicions, their birth certificates baring the name of their adopted parents instead of the woman who gave birth to them. Social media has given them a platform to ask questions, and for the mothers too, who claim to have never sighted their child, nor received a death certificate.
The sisters are hoping that those looking for their own answers have the courage to have their DNA tested, in a bid to build on the existing database, in the hope of finding more connections.
“All parents without death certificates, please come forward.”
* By request, the interviewees’ names have been changed to maintain their privacy.