Adoption, Memory, and Cold War Greece

Kid pro quo?
Gonda Van Steen


This book presents a committed quest to unravel and document the postwar adoption networks that placed more than 3,000 Greek children in the United States, in a movement accelerated by the aftermath of the Greek Civil War and by the new conditions of the global Cold War. Greek-to-American adoptions and, regrettably, also their transactions and transgressions, provided the blueprint for the first large-scale international adoptions, well before these became a mass phenomenon typically associated with Asian children. The story of these Greek postwar and Cold War adoptions, whose procedures ranged from legal to highly irregular, has never been told or analyzed before. Adoption, Memory, and Cold War Greece answers the important questions: How did these adoptions from Greece happen? Was there any money involved? Humanitarian rescue or kid pro quo? Or both? With sympathy and perseverance, Gonda Van Steen has filled a decades-long gap in our understanding, and provided essential information to the hundreds of adoptees and their descendants whose lives are still affected today.
“Drawing on the fields of memory studies, cultural anthropology, Greek history, and international adoption history, Van Steen explores how Cold War anticommunism in post-World War II Greece drove the foreign adoption of Greek children, mainly to the U.S. . . . The book provides an important corrective lens, including statistics that prove how desirable Greek orphans were to U.S. families in the decades after World War II.”
—Rachel Rains Winslow, Westmont College

“A revealing window into the politics, culture, and social practices that predominated in postwar Greece. . . the author contributes to the nation's collective memory valuable insights into the impact of the civil war upon its most innocent victims. Combining meticulous scholarship with empathy, this seminal study of the selection of children for foreign adoption during the 1950s and 1960s has earned Gonda Van Steen the lasting gratitude of all students of contemporary Greece.”
—From the foreword by John O. Iatrides


Gonda Van Steen is Koraes Chair of Modern Greek and Byzantine History, Language and Literature, and Director of the Centre for Hellenic Studies at King’s College London.


Praise / Awards

  • "This is a thoroughly researched book with an impressive collection of primary archival material from under-explored sources... yet easy and fascinating to read."
  • "The Adoptions, Memory and Cold War Greece—Kid pro quo? is ground breaking. There is no other book in English that provides such an in-depth account of this difficult chapter in post- war Greek history"

    -Van Coufoudakis, American Journal of Contemporary Hellenic Studies
  • Winner of the 2019 Award for the Best Published Monograph by the European Society for Modern Greek Studies

News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: Reviewed in the American Journal of Contemporary Hellenic Issues | Feb 2021

Product Details

  • 350 pages.
  • 18 illustrations; 1 table.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2019
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-12606-4

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  • Greece, twentieth century – adoption, international – child welfare – orphan care - migration policy – Cold War history –Greece, mid-twentieth century – adoption, international – child welfare – orphan care – Greek orphanages and foundling homes – US immigration policy pertaining to war orphans – Cold War history and Greece – Greek Civil War and children – Greek adoptions in the 1950s and 1960s – illegal Greek adoptions