The Girl from the Tower, a Journey of Lies

Born in the wake of World War II during a bitter and devastating Civil War in Greece, little Joanna (Yiannoula) Metropoulou lives on the Peninsula of Pergos as a carefree child with her mother, father, sister, and brother. After the death of he father, however, the family begins to understand the cost of political stress within the country. Yiannoula’s mother is forced to make a drastic decision that will change their lives forever.

After much soul searching, Yiannoula’s mother finally agrees to put her youngest daughter up for adoption through a special program inspired by Queen Frederica of Greece and the government of United States. While nine-year old Yiannoula is old enough to participate in the festive farewells and the well wishes of the villagers, she’s young enough to experience anxiety even though she feels like a fairy-tale princess. After all, she is about to embark on a long journey and America has walking and talking dolls, chocolate, and people in America live happily ever after.

Everyone in the village tells her, “Don’t forget Pergos!” Her mother, a fine weaver from Asia Minor, makes her a special bag to carry and a prayer rug for her new mother. “Don’t forget me, Yiannoula,” she says, and both mother and daughter expect their separation to be only temporary. They are sadly mistaken.

Over the three thousand children adopted from Greece during this period are now middle aged. Many were sold, and governments falsified documents so that there was no way to trace their journeys. Those who were babies recall little about the separation from their birth families, but Yiannoula, ten by the time she entered the United States, recalls every detail.

Adopted by a dysfunctional couple of Russia and Bulgarian descent, Yiannoula does not speak English, and her new parents do not speak Greek; nor was speaking Greek allowed between Yiannoula and Peter, a boy adopted previously.