Today’s blog is thanks to an article in The Guardian, LINK>Adopted by their parents’ enemies: tracing the stolen children of Argentina’s ‘dirty war.’
Back in the 1970s, after a military coup in Argentina, at least 500 newborns were taken from their parents while in captivity and given to military couples to raise as their own. Today, Russia is accused of doing something similar with children taken from Ukraine. Jorge Videla, was known as the “Hitler of the Pampa,” after the 1976 coup. Two years ago, the Argentinian government sent hundreds of DNA testing kits to its consulates around the world in an effort to put names to unidentified victims and to find the children of the disappeared, known as desaparecidos. Many of these children are still living today but unaware of their true identity. The Abuelas de Playa de Mayo is a human rights organization whose mission is to find the children who were illegally adopted during those years. (I wrote about these Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo in a blog some time ago.)
One of those children is now a 45-year-old banker living in London. His name is Javier Penino Viñas, and his biological parents, Cecilia Viñas and Hugo Penino, were abducted in 1977. Javier was illegally adopted by Jorge Vildoza (a high-ranking Argentinian navy officer) and his wife, Ana María Grimaldos. When asked to appear in court, Vildoza fled the country in a panic, taking the child with him. “After the Videla regime, there was a democratic transition, and in that period the trials against the military began,” says Javier. “My adoptive father was quite high up in the navy, and the family knew that the transition to democracy was starting to cause problems for anyone in the military. That’s when we moved to Paraguay and ended up changing our identities.”
Some experts say that behind the illegal military adoptions was a quasi-Catholic belief that, while the parents of the children were irredeemable sinners who deserved to die, killing their newborn children would be a sin. However, the Argentinian historian Fabricio Laino believes there was a more cynical logic at work. “The military were convinced they could ‘save’ and ‘reform’ these children. They wanted to redeem them from families who, according to them, would surely have raised them in a subversive environment.”
Baltasar Garzón is a former Spanish judge and human rights activist. He believes that “The appropriation of children, as well as rape, has always been aimed at humiliating and subduing the enemy. Taking away the enemy’s child was a bargaining chip.” They change a person’s life by taking them out of their environment and away from their biological family. The method used in Argentina was especially perverse. A pregnant woman was held in captivity until she gave birth. Then her baby was taken away from her. After torturing her, she was killed and effectively made to disappear.
Therefore for decades, hundreds of children have been raised by the same people who were responsible for the torture and death of their biological parents. After the return to democracy, members of the military fled with their adoptive families – often to countries where extradition was prohibited.
It could be that the taking of Ukrainian children is due to a similar intention by Putin. To, in effect, change these children’s lives by taking them out of their environment and away from their biological family. Then placing them with a Russian family on Russian soil. Time will tell the true extent of such efforts and hopefully reveal the number of children affected. War is such a hideous exercise. My wish is that these children ultimately find their way back to family in Ukraine.