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These sisters met for the 1st time in their 60s. Inside their reunion

Teresa Scharf says finding her long-lost sister in Greece at the age of 64 has been "really, really amazing."
Teresa and Angie Sharf.
Angie Palaiologou (right) and Teresa Scharf (left) embrace after learning that they are sisters.Courtesy The Eftychia Project

Teresa Scharf knew as a child that she’d been adopted into her American family by way of an orphanage in Athens, Greece.

As a military dependent and an only child, Scharf moved from place to place, never quite feeling rooted.

She also never felt the warm love she craved from her adoptive parents, who are no longer alive.

“I affectionately refer to them as the male and female parental units,” Scharf says in an interview with TODAY.com. “There are some people who should never have children. (My adoptive parents) happened to be some of them. They were not warm, cuddly, cozy, comfortable people. They were very negative and very critical. I could never do anything right.”

Growing up as an adopted child in a household with limited affirmation, Scharf grappled with questions of identity and belonging.

"One of the characteristics of being adopted is that there is almost an innate sense of rejection," she explains. "That took me until I was in my 30s to work through."

Scharf says that forming a loving family of her own helped. In 1978, she married her husband and had two children: A son, who is 38 and a daughter, who is 36.

"(My son) is married and has two children and a third on the way," she says with a smile. "And we have a daughter who is 36, who is married and lives right next door. We're very close with both of our children and our grandchildren."

However, it wasn't until a longtime friend's persistent nagging that Scharf actually set out on a journey to find her own roots, which took her to the olive groves of Greece. Finally, in her 60s, Scharf came into the sense of belonging she'd longed for all of her life.

Three years ago, Scharf friend sent her an article from The Greek Reporter about the Eftychia Project. The nonprofit organization, founded by Linda Carol Trotter, a Greek adoptee who reunited with her biological family nearly seven years ago, has been a beacon of hope for Greek-born adoptees looking to connect their roots.

"I immediately got on my computer and sent (Trotter) an email, thinking, you know, 'Whatever,' but she responded within two hours," said Scharf, who was 61 years old at the time.

The organization encouraged Scharf to take a DNA test, the results of which tied her to a first cousin in Chicago whom she'd never met or heard of.

In time, and after help from the Eftychia Project, Scharf was able to travel to Chicago and meet her cousin face-to-face, along with his wife and family.

"I spent a weekend with them and had a marvelous time. I learned many things," she says. "Afterward, my cousin got in touch with all of his cousins — all of our cousins — in Greece."

Within a matter of months, the Eftychia Project helped sponsor and arrange a group trip to Greece for other adoptees like Scharf. While there, Scharf's Chicago relative helped connect her to his sister, who lives in Athens.

"I met her and had dinner with her and then she invited me to come stay at her apartment with her," Scharf explains. "I was only going to stay with her a couple of days and then fly back to the U.S. The second day I was there, she said to me, 'I wish you could extend your trip because I would like to take you to the village where our family is from.'"

Scharf says that with the support of her employer and her husband, she changed her plans and headed to the village where her grandparents had lived, where she was able to meet even more first cousins.

The Eftychia Project arranged for Scharf's new-found family to take DNA tests to see if any of them yielded closer connections. All came back as first cousins. But there were two individuals who hadn't been tested.

Between Scharf’s return to the United States in late October and Christmas 2023, one of the cousins who had not tested and whom Teresa had not yet met, agreed to do a DNA test, stopping by Trotter’s home in Greece to do so.

Four weeks later, in January 2024, Scharf received a call from Trotter.

"I said, 'Are you sitting down?'" Trotter recalls to TODAY.com. "And she goes, 'Yeah, why?'"

It turns out Scharf had made a match with a sibling: 59-year-old Dr. Angeliki (called Angie) Palaiologou, a university professor.

“When I called my sister in Greece to tell her the results, we were like two 10-year-old girls just giggling and laughing and just enjoying the joy of the moment,” Scharf recalls.

Until Scharf made the connection, Palaiologou was their father’s only known child — though she often joked with her dad that he might have had another, given his active social life.

"And then, of course, immediately Teresa is planning a trip to Greece," Trotter adds.

Trotter, who spends at least six months out of the year at her home in Greece, happened to be there when Scharf was due to arrive to meet her sister. Scharf asked her to come to the airport to capture photos and videos of their first meeting, which took place at the Athens airport on March 17.

Scharf stayed with Palaiologou, where they caught up on each other's lives. Palaiologou shared details about their father, who had died 12 years prior.

Teresa and Angie Sharf
Palaiologou and Scharf meeting for the first time.Courtesy The Eftychia Project

Palaiologou was able to draw various parallels between their father and Scharf. Both share similar expressions and personalities.

"But more so, as she was talking and telling me things about him, she was describing my son," Scharf says. "(My son's) personality is almost exactly like his grandfather's."

Scharf's biological father and her son share a military background. Her father served as a colonel in the Greek army and her son recently retired from the American Army as a major.

By the end of the trip, the sisters had formed a special bond. When Palaiologou suggested that Scharf's return wouldn’t bring significant changes, Scharf disagreed. She says the entire journey had a profound impact on how she would move forward. 

Teresa and Angie Sharf
The sisters take selfies as sisters often do.Courtesy The Eftychia Project

"It doesn't change it, but it enhances it," Scharf says. "I had no identity as to who I was. I didn't know who I was part of. So this has changed everything. I absolutely now have an identity."

Scharf is actively cultivating her connection to her Greek heritage.

"I am endeavoring to learn the language," she says, logging on to Zoom from her home in Ohio to work with an instructor in Greece once a week.

"I do my I do my homework and study," she says. She's also planning a return trip to Greece, and wants to go "as often as (she) can."

"My life has changed tremendously. It's all really wonderful. To be alone and not know you have a sibling until you're 64 years old, and I just met her. It's spectacular. It's really, really amazing," she says.

CORRECTION (4/7/24 at 3:35 p.m.): This article originally misspelled Teresa Scharf's name as Teresa Sharf.