Lebanese adoptees research their original families.

A faded black-and-white image of a woman...

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.


About Daniel Drennan ElAwar

Adoptee, rematriated.
This entry was posted in Online resource, Outspoken adoptees. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Lebanese adoptees research their original families.

  1. eagoodlife says:

    Best of wishes in your ventures.

    • Thank you. I feel the need to point out that the web site that I translated seems to be the notes for the final video piece; this explains its more personal focus and falling-off-a-cliff transition/ending. Dida’s story drives home the fact that nationality in Lebanon is passed through the father (women don’t have this right). This is a recent legal addition, and was a tactic to prevent Palestinian refugees from marrying into the population and changing the delicate sectarian balance of things here. We are hoping to work with those groups who are aiming to change this law.

  2. Anna says:

    Hi Daniel,
    My name is Anna. I´m really curious about your story. A friend of mine sent this to me. I was adopted 29.desember 1979 and was born 20.oktober 1979… me and my adopted parents live in Iceland…. is there any way you might help me… my adopted parents say that they have given me every information they have… all the papers. I have a name of the woman who brought me to them and she lives in Amsterdam, Holland. She is very old and i have contact her to get information but my adopted mother got involved and i haven´t received any answers. What do i look for in the papers i have?

    • Hi Anna, thanks for stopping by and posting. There were many children adopted to the Scandinavian countries via the Au Bon Pasteur orphanage and this woman in Holland as intermediary. I know many adoptees from the Netherlands, for example, who might know more about her. If you want, I can also look at your documents and tell you if there is anything to be learned from them. My email is at the top of the page.

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