Emotional reunion in Patras - Adopted in the USA, Merrill reconnected with relatives 68-years-later (VIDEO)

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Smiles abounded and tears flowed as Greeks that were adopted in the US gathered on August 4-6 in Nashville for the historic First Annual Greek Adoptee Reunion, hosted by The Eftychia Project.

Adoptees, some accompanied by their spouses and adult children, journeyed from as far away as Alaska, Utah, Texas, and New Hampshire for a weekend of bonding and building community, Proto Thema reported.

It was the first time so many Greek adoptees were together in the same place at the same time since they were children in their respective orphanages. While some had met via phone calls and video chats, it was the first opportunity for many to meet in person.

One of the adoptees was Merrill Jenkins, whose name when he was born was Mitsos. The difference is Merrill travelled to Greece to meet up with his relatives in Greece.

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Born 68 years ago in a small mountain village, Merrill was found a few days after his birth abandoned on the steps of a church, Panagia Pantanassa. Unique piece of identification, a handwritten note that read: “…he is baptised, his name is Mitso”.

It was on November 25th, at 6 pm when he was found and almost 24 hours later he was taken to the Patras Orphanage, from where he was adopted by an American couple when he was 11 months old, setting him on a new path in life, many thousands of kilometres away from where he saw the first light of day.

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Mitsos, later named Merrill Jenkins, received lots of love from his adoptive parents and grew up carefree riding his bike and playing endless hours with the neighborhood kids in Cedar Hill, a small town near Saint Louis, Missouri, USA.

He made his own family and even though he always knew he was adopted and he was Greek he had never felt the need to find his biological family until that morning when the tangle of his story began to unravel.

What brought him a decade and more later to celebrate his sixty-eighth birthday, for the first time with his Greek family, in a surprise party for him!

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“That morning I was sitting in front of the computer and decided to type 'Patras orphanage', looking for information. I’ve done this 2-3 times before, with nothing interesting coming up," recounts Merrill.

"This time, in the list of results appeared a New York Times article from 1996, talking about the 'stolen' children of the Patras orphanage. I had never heard anything about it. I read the article with my mouth hanging open… I felt the need to start digging into my past and see what I could find.

"I went down to the basement and looked for my adoption file, which my parents had kept, and spent the rest of the day in front of a computer screen," who immediately contacted an organisation in Greece to help him in his research.

At the same time, he looked for the file with his information in the records of the relevant US social service.

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A day after his arrival in Greece, Merrill was surrounded by dozens of members of his extended biological family (primarily cousins ​​and their children), who organised a large welcome party in a Patras restaurant to welcome their man and "drown" him in flowers, hugs, and kisses.

“The first time I met them in the tavern in Patras, it was something special. The love they showed me was unprecedented. Greeks are very warm, especially with their family," said AMNA.

"I immediately felt like I had returned home. They are all great.

“Some of the adopted children in America who are looking for their family in Greece are looking for that very warmth that they may have been missing.

"I was one of the lucky ones. I wasn’t missing anything before, but finding my Greek family is amazing. It was like a bonus from life!”

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One of the most emotionally charged moments of Merrill’s journey was returning to his village.

“I had seen what Drosia looks like on google street view, but it was another thing to see the village up close, knowing the ties you have with it. I love the mountain scenery and looking at the houses and the surrounding area I thought what it would be like if I had stayed there," he said.

"I really liked the feeling of 'belonging' that I felt when I arrived at this place,” Merrill added.

Returning to the village may have been emotionally charged, but perhaps the hardest part for him is knowing that his father died without having any more children and without knowing his own existence.

“Apparently his father was a bachelor, never knew he got some girl pregnant, got married, had no children and died not knowing that somewhere in the United States his biological son lives. In fact, he had many nieces, whom he adored,” explained Maria.

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