She Found Me, I Found Him – Gus Baliarda

My Adoption Story and Origin Search

The beginning

Rafael and Margarita are a Cuban couple who adopted me. In the 1950s, my parents were friends with the British ambassador to Cuba, who had just adopted a child in Quebec. They had thought about this option and when they met the ambassador, they finally made their decision. After having fulfilled all the requirements for adoption and ready to travel to Quebec, Rafael’s father passed away, forcing them to postpone their trip. Soon after Margarita’s father died, which extended the trip out even further.

In February 1956, they managed to make their trip to Quebec and went to visit the Creche Saint-Vincent-de Paul. Upon arrival, they are greeted by Sister Philipe and taken to a small room where they already have two children so that Rafael and Margarita can decide which one to adopt. Both are very excited about the children of the institution. The nun takes them around the orphanage to show them the work they do. As they walk down the corridors, a boy catches their attention, smiling at Margarita and holding out his arms as if asking him to take him. Margarita takes the boy in her arms and when trying to return him to the nun who took care of it, the boy clings tightly to her dress and does not want to let go. Margarita takes this as a signal, and they start to investigate more about this child to adopt him. In addition to determining that the child was available for adoption, they learn that he was born the same day and month as Rafael’s brother who had passed away a while back. Another sign that solidifies their decision to adopt this child.

The boy who had been given the name of Joseph Delphin Berard, by his birth mother, was given the name of Gustavo de Jesús when adopted. They returned to Cuba where Rafael and Margarita became spokespersons for adoption, helping twenty-four families adopt and later the last family in Puerto Rico where they relocated to in the early sixties.

After searching for twenty one years

In 1996, my mother, Margarita, received a letter from a cousin who lived in Miami, Florida. He tells her that he received a letter from the social services of Quebec in an attempt to find Gustavo de Jesús because his mother at birth was interested in establishing contact. He included the original letter and his answer to social services where he indicates not to be aware if Gustavo knows that he was adopted and was forwarding us this letter so that we could make a decision. After my mom read the letter, she handed it to me for me to read. What a surprise for both of us! All of a sudden what my mom talked about all our lives about was becoming a reality. What would I do if one day my birth mother would appear?

When I finished reading the letter I ran to the phone and called the number that appeared in the letter of the social service, but it was late and they had already closed for the day. The next day I called again and spoke to the lady who was handling the case. This lady asks me why I hadn’t tried to find my mother. “My mother is the one next to me” was my reply. All my life I had known that I had been adopted, I saw it as something natural and consider my adoptive parents as my true parents. They spent long nights when I was sick, cared about my future, and gave me an education and more love than any other parent could give. They were parents by choice. The lady asked me if I wanted to establish communication with my birth mother and I answered yes. A day was set for a call with a translator. Three days later the call is made. I found out who my biological mother was, Réjeanne Gagne Lapointe (1939 – 2019). Through the translator, we both ask questions and manage to hear our voices for the first time and found out that I had two half-brothers. The call ends with me offering my house if she wanted to visit me. Three weeks later Réjane came to meet me in Puerto Rico.

Secrétariat à l’adoption internationale (SAI) offers invaluable help. Not only through the process; they will spend as much time as necessary. Even after the case had been closed, they take the time to answer any questions you have.

The arrival

Réjeanne arrives in Puerto Rico with one of her sisters. Communication was quite difficult because of the language barrier; she only spoke French which I did not. In 1996, despite this barrier and today’s technological advances that didn’t exist, we were able to communicate by signs and friends who assisted with the translation. She had the opportunity to meet face to face with her son’s mother, meet and attend a school event for her first grandchild, see the schools where I got my education and how my life had developed.

Among the topics we discussed, we spoke about my biological father. When I asked about him, she replied that he had been a school sweetheart and did not want to touch on the subject anymore. Her wish was respected until 2017 when I took the DNA test with My Heritage.

A new relationship

The relationship between my two mothers seemed to be a good one but difficult because of the language barrier. During her stay in Puerto Rico, she expressed her wish that I go to live in Quebec. How could just move to a whole new culture that I barely knew? I could not leave behind a whole life, my family and friends just because. Her daily insistence on my transfer kept me very uncomfortable. She returns to Canada and continued the relationship slowly through correspondence, which made it better for her after realizing that my relocation to Canada is not an option. Communication is later lost when I relocate with my family to South Florida in 2003.

Five years later we managed to reconnect through my brothers on Facebook. This contributes to improving the relationship and communication is maintained through my brothers.

How DNA changed my life

In 2017 I decided to take a DNA test with MyHeritage. When the results arrive, I begin to share them with my brothers, they send me a copy of their family tree that contains ancestors for thirteen generations. This leads me to start creating my family tree, but the paternal side was missing. Now my brothers start helping in trying to convince our mother to disclose who my biological father is. Each time she refused to say who he is.

At the time I was a novice in DNA and genealogy matters. Due to a lack of knowledge, two communications that had arrived went unnoticed. These people are trying to contact me because we had a connection through DNA. One of them invites me to be part of the MRCA group on Facebook and tells me about putting my DNA on Reluctant to all this, I start to investigate until finally, I decided to join the group on Facebook and upload my DNA results on gedmatch. This group has been key, not only in helping me learn but in the help that all who belong to it have offered. I can’t fail to mention, the blessing it is of having found so many cousins through DNA matching and the relationship created with them. In one way or another, we are all united by a common purpose, the search for our origins.

Around April 2018, I decided to do a Y-DNA test on my youngest son. This could provide us with a clue or give us a direction to follow on the search for my biological father. The test results arrive and show the closest connection to a 1524 Boivin in France. People in the group dealing with these subjects recommend that I ignore this information since the distance from this ancestor is too far.

She finally talks

While all this is going on, the Secretariat for International Adoption (SAI) in Quebec is processing my origins investigation request.

At my wife’s insistence, my brother manages to convince our mother to say who my father is. He tells me that she didn’t know who my father was because she had been raped by three men and it was impossible to know which of the three is my father. The emotional shock was immense. To think that one’s father was a person capable of doing such a violent act was very hard. Finally, I was able to understand her reasons for not speaking. At that moment I decided to travel to Canada to meet her again and meet my brothers for the first time. At the end of July of that year, I traveled to Canada accompanied by my youngest son whom they did not know.

Before the trip, I receive a call from the SAI to tell me what they had found during the investigation. Of course, it was confirmed who my mother was, although this had already been confirmed utilizing a DNA test. In the file, they found papers from the orphanage with all the information related to the progress of the newborn until the moment it was given up for adoption.

The father’s name was not included but there was a description. It said that at my birth, October 1955, he was 21 years old, 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighing 135 pounds, had blue eyes and black hair, studied attended school until the seventh grade, and worked in a mill in the city of Chicoutimi. His characteristics claimed to be a hard-working and honest man. Already at this point, I noticed a conflict between the SAI information and what my mother was saying. A rapist is not an honest man. She may have provided false information about him when she arrived at the orphanage.

The first trip 2018

The trip, in late July, was exciting. My brother who lives in Montreal met us at the airport and we stayed at his house. After a couple of days, we drove to Chicoutimi for about six hours. The experience of meeting my brothers was fabulous. At last, I had them in front of me!

One day while we were traveling by car, my brother tells me that not long ago our mother had told him that she had seen a man whom she believed to be my father, but it turned out not to be. Here I find the other conflict. If you thought you saw him, you remember who he is. If three men raped her, which of the three is the one that got her pregnant?

During that same year, I received an invitation from the SAI (Secretariat a l’Adoption internacionale) to attend a world conference that they were organizing, which would take place in May 2019 and which I gladly attended.

Réjeanne suffered a relapse with cancer in early 2019, which had spread throughout almost her entire body.

The second trip 2019
The conference

In May I return to Canada to attend the SAI conference where I would present my story in front of dignitaries from 200 countries. This conference was exclusively for government adoption agencies. I had the honor of participating in workshops prepared to help other countries improve their research systems on adoptee origins. By witnessing these, I was able to understand the extensive and delicate work involved in these investigations at the government level. It is a titanic and loving work that these professionals carry out, worthy of being admired. I will share these processes at another moment.

At last, it was time for me to tell my story, but what we did not count on was that my birth mother decided to tell her own story. And yes, she offered the version of sexual assault. This made me think that maybe this was the true version. But months later, a few weeks before she died, told my brother a totally different and false version. She told him that my father is her brother. Based on the DNA tests, it is proven that her brother is not my father, since the results would have been different. In gedmatch, with one of the options, you can determine if the parents of a person are related. In my case, and due to endogamy (inbreeding) in the region, my parents are related, but at a distance of nine generations.

On September 29, 2019, my biological mother passed away. I attended funeral services and accompanied my brothers through these difficult times.

The story continues

Currently, communication with my brothers continues to progress despite the language barrier. I continue to search for my biological father. In the process, I also help others who are on a similar journey. This search has led me to create a Facebook group, AACDQ (Adoptés à la Crèche du Québec) to create a database of adoptees in the Quebec area that will serve others in their research.

Each person is a world apart, some want to search, others do not. We must respect what everyone thinks or wants, in the same way, that our thoughts and desires must be respected.

If you want to search, let nothing stop you. Keep in mind that for most this is distressing, desperate, painful, and takes endless hours of detailed work. Remember to respect other’s wishes and be willing to accept the results of your search. Lots of times it is not what we expect. Always go to government adoption institutions, which do an extraordinary job of investigating our applications, these being the most reliable sources of information. Have lots of patience because you will need it.

I want to thank God first for giving me the parents who raised me, my real parents, Rafael and Margarita Baliarda; my wife who has endured my absence dedicating endless hours to my research; to my son Javier who is always willing to listen to my findings; to the professional caseworkers of the Quebec International Adoption Secretariat who with such dedication and love do an exceptional job and; to the blood cousins that I have found along the way in my search.


Visitor’s comments

Helen LeBlanc Frederick
(Helen Nichols Frederick)

Dear Cousin Gus,
Your story gave me goosebumps! I am so happy I sent a request in for your group, not sure that my father’s adoption would even be accepted, as he was born in the USA but his roots go back to Quebec. I love your story and what you do. I myself have always tried to help people and I have found the mother of two different people, One a classmate born the same year as me, and a 1st cousin of my husband, who kept popping up on and my husband kept saying I have never heard of her and I know all my first cousins.. she was then about 85 and her sister 95, and they called me finally and said I had solved the mystery of their mother’s birth and adoption in 1905. It is very close to my heart, and my father never having met a blood relatives makes me very sad. I love the work that you are doing! Cousin Helen

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