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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Greek Black Market Babies Return

ATHENS -- 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 says.

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 Scopas, was indicted but later acquitted on charges of selling 30 Greek children to American couples.

Maxine Deller of New York 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," she says.

"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. Balch, who lives in Arizona 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. Balch began piecing her story together in 1985. She had 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 had 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.