On 20 December, 1965, a woman gave birth to twin baby girls in Athens, Greece. But amid the joy there was heartbreak – the mother was informed that one of her baby’s was stillborn.
Young, unwed and rejected by the man who had fathered her children, she was sent home by nurses accompanied by her brother, clutching her one surviving baby girl.
She kept Fotini for six months, before handing her over to the Mitera Orphanage in Athens. At three years of age, Fotini was adopted by a Greek couple, together with another child from the orphanage, a six-month-old baby boy.
The couple soon moved to South Africa, where they raised their children as their own. Ten years later the truth was revealed, at least in part.
When Fotini was 13 and her brother 10, their adopted mother sat them down and told them a story about two children who had been adopted from Greece. At the end of the story she revealed that they were in fact the two children. To help ease the blow, she left out the detail that they were not biologically siblings.
Fotini was in shock; she felt as though her whole life had been ripped apart. Overcome with anger, she did not speak to her mother for months. But in time, she managed to regain Fotini’s trust and life went on as per usual.
Having been raised in a loving and happy home, it never crossed Fotini’s mind to search for her biological parents. She went on to finish high school and pursued further studies before going on to get married and start a family of her own.
A few years later, Fotini’s brother and adopted father passed away. She later moved to Cyprus with her husband and two children, during which time her adopted mother was diagnosed with cancer, and also passed on. It was not long after the loss of her mum that Fotini’s husband was also diagnosed with cancer, who after a long battle died in March, 2019.
Having experienced one loss after another, Fotini found herself inconsolable, her loved ones around her unsure of how to help.
That’s when her best friend of 23 years, Kathy Christodoulou, suggested that she start looking for her biological parents.
“She was reluctant at first when I mentioned it,” Kathy told Neos Kosmos, “and having no documents to go on, it would have been a huge challenge.”
But the seed had been planted.
Fotini called her adopted mother’s best friend in Greece to see whether she had any information that could assist her in beginning her search.
“It seemed we called the right person. She had the documents all these years for safekeeping,” Kathy recalls.
But when Fotini received the documents via post in Cyprus, she was hit with a couple of surprises: her brother was not biologically related, though she did have a sibling – a twin sister.
This gave the best friends greater momentum to continue their search, during which they came across the Eftichia Project, who offered their assistance.
A representative went to the place where Fotini’s birth had been registered to obtain her original birth certificate, which had more information on it, including her maternal surname.
“Once we had that information in our hands, I started sending messages to all the people in Greece with that surname, and lo and behold we found a family member,” says Kathy. ”This family had no idea of the birth of the twins, as it was kept secret to protect the biological mother at the time. They put us in touch with the biological mother’s brother who was at the birth and [had] registered the babies.”
One month later, in October, 2019, Fotini and Kathy boarded a plane to Greece to meet them in person, where the family was awaiting their arrival in anticipation at the airport, among them Fotini’s half sister. Unfortunately she had been too late to meet her mother, who had passed away a few years back.
“We had such a wonderful response; [Fotini was crying] tears of joy that she found them,” says Kathy. “They were waiting for her at the airport; the whole family was available to see her, it was an amazing experience. They said she looks and sounds just like her biological mother.”
During her visit, it was revealed that Fotini had originally been named Androniki by her mother. She was also taken to visit her mother’s grave.
This month, Fotini returned to Greece to see her family again and to visit the place she had been registered to retrieve a copy of her twin sister’s death certificate. But when she arrived, she was told there was no death certificate.
“[There was] only a birth certificate with a scribble on the top that [says] the baby died two days after the birth,” says Kathy.
The friends found this very strange given the mother had been told that her baby was stillborn at birth; how could the baby have died two days later?
Fotini has suspicions that her mother had been falsely told that her twin had died so as to be illegally given up for adoption.
Her uncle, who was present at the time, says that they had never sighted the deceased child.
“They were told that the baby died and given a wooden box. They were not allowed to open it as it also contained some chemicals,” says Kathy.
“We suspect she was re-registered two days [after her birth] and handed from birth for adoption.”
Unsure of where to turn for answers, Fotini has since submitted a DNA test and is awaiting her results in the hope that her twin sister, if in fact alive, is already in the database.
In the meantime, Kathy has continued to advocate on behalf of her friend, posting Fotini’s plight on as many sites and online groups as she can.
To assist in the search, as well as a photograph, Fotini has revealed that she has fair skin, naturally light brown hair and brown eyes with a touch of green in them. She also has a three centimetre birth mark on the back of her right shoulder that is a circular shape.
“After so much loss in Fotini’s life, I want to see my friend smile again, really smile,” says Kathy of her commitment to the search.
But for Fotini herself, finding her twin goes far beyond a smile; it would mean everything.
“I have always, for as long as I can remember, felt that something is missing,” Fotini told Neos Kosmos. “I need to feel whole. Finding my twin will complete my world.”
If you have any information that could help Fotini in her search and would like to connect, email firstname.lastname@example.org