This is a hasty translation of the web page that accompanies a video report from BBC Arabic [link]. Original reporting by Nada Abdel Samad.
Dida Gigan is 29 years old. She was born in Lebanon, but at the age of two months, in the middle of the Civil War, she was transported to Cyprus, where she was adopted into a new family with a French father and a Swiss mother. She now lives in a small apartment in the capital of Lebanon, Beirut.
At the age of eight, she remembers being told: “Your original family is from Lebanon.” For her it was the beginning of a kind of fantasy, because it gets one’s curiosity up, but then she realized what it meant to have a mother somewhere in Beirut.
She returned to Lebanon to begin the search for her identity, and ten years later found her mother. Her adoptive family had given her some documents which bore the name of the hospital where she was born, and by researching the archives of the hospital she was able to find the name of her mother, and then an address.
She went to the address in Beirut, and there was an elderly woman in an old building that was almost deserted. But the name matched the building, and contact was attempted via her mother’s siblings, but then there was a worry of whether they knew or not of her existence. It was through a third party that she eventually tracked down her mother, now living in Switzerland, like her adoptive parents.
“I hesitated before making contact, but then I went through with it. It was hard at first; what do you say? ‘What do you do? What do you eat? How do you live?'”
Dida refuses to divulge details of the the story of her mother’s abandonment and the pressure that was brought to bear on her in the absence of civil laws that protect women. She does not want to explore whether she was sold or hijacked, what happened to her mother, who is her father and replies when you ask her: “I do not want to know those details now.”
Dida keeps the picture of her mother, a faded black-and-white image of a woman bearing Dida’s features. Her adoptive father also prepared a photo album for her. One picture from inside shows her adoptive mother with a crib; the picture was taken near the docked passenger ship in Cyprus’s port. The war had closed the Beirut airport and the port of Jounieh became a place of egress for those wishing to travel to nearby Cyprus.
Daniel is likewise the adopted son of an American family named Drennan. He was told that he was found in a poor area near Beirut long before the Civil War started. These mysterious circumstances surrounding his adoption did not stop his search for his original family.
His birth certificate bears the “name” of a father, but it is a name found on many such documents, proving it to be false. Daniel has not found his family, and he lives today in Beirut, where he is a professor at a private university. He is now working with Dida, and they have established an association the aim of which is to help those of unknown parentage. They have put together a list of over 150 names of those who have been adopted and are looking for their actual parents.
Daniel does not know his adoption story, but says that it is similar to other dispossessed and displaced people, and the war was responsible for increasing the number of those displaced. In the absence of a state bureaucracy, many children were easily trafficked during the war, and do not have the benefit of any documents that would allow them to regain their nationality, for example.
Daniel has regained his Lebanese nationality, and has decided to return to Lebanon for good. He has not found his family, but has assembled clues as to his origins, often based on gut feelings that strike him in certain parts of the country. Based on this he sees his origins with those who were marginalized at the time, now living primarily in the South and the southern suburbs.
He also knows a woman in the States who was adopted at the same time as he was, and thinks they might be siblings. For now this is all he has: a gut instinct to guide him.