Tuesday, June 28, 2022
Media Contact: Terry Tush | Director, Marketing and Communications | 405-744-2703 | [email protected]
There are a lot of questions when you don’t know your past.
Adoptees may be curious about their family history. You wonder if you are more like your mother or your father, if you have brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts or uncles. The search for answers can take a lifetime, but if you’re lucky you’ll find a person or maybe two who will know exactly how you feel because they’re wondering too.
Lily Bolka is a 2022 Oklahoma State University accounting graduate who was adopted as a baby from China and discovered through DNA testing that she has two cousins who also have been adopted and in the United States. Together, they embarked on a journey to find connections with their biological families. in China. Bolka and her cousins, Chloe Lipitz and Sadie Mangelsdorf, stars of the Netflix documentary, Found.
film for Found ended in early 2020 and could not be entered into film festivals due to the pandemic. Netflix was interested in the film and won the auction. Found premiered in October 2021 on Netflix to positive audiences and critical reviews. The film receives praise from film critics for the New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, The ChicagoTribune and the Los Angeles Time as well as websites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.
In high school, Bolka became curious about her past as emotions and feelings began to come to light as she grew older. She took a DNA test and was pleased with the results, not expecting to find out any other family history. A few months later, she was contacted by a director who told Bolka that she had two cousins around her age who had also been adopted and lived in the United States.
The director, Amanda Lipitz, is Chloe Lipitz’s aunt.
The cousins all grew up in the United States: Bolka was raised in Oklahoma City by a single mother as an only child, Mangelsdorf’s family lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and Lipitz lives in Phoenix. The cousins were all adopted from Guangdong province in southern China. Bolka and Lipitz were in the same orphanage a few years apart.
The cousins first met via a video call coordinated by the film crew. As they got closer, all of their calls stopped being filmed and they got a chance to really get to know each other.
Bolka filmed throughout his college career, and the film crew often came to the Stillwater campus on game days, as well as to Oklahoma City to film with his mother.
Bolka experienced ups and downs during filming and struggled with the desire to reunite with her biological family and get the answers to her long-held questions, while balancing school and other responsibilities. Bolka often had to miss classes to film and travel. Filming could be tedious at times and weighed on her emotions, but she found her teachers to be very accommodating of her schedule and her sanity.
“One of the things that stood out to me was when [Professor Rachel Domnick] asked how my mental health was during a Zoom meeting. A teacher had never asked me that,” Bolka said. “For me, [filming] was really scary at times, but I got so used to it. So it was really nice that she made sure I was okay and checked me in.
“We’re all very close now and we got really close while we were in China. We had to do some pretty tough things emotionally. It was something the three of us understood to be embraced. You could count one on the other. “
The cousins worked with genealogist and private investigator Liu Hao, who works in China to find answers about identity and possibly find DNA matches with families who have had to abandon their children due to the China’s one-child policy.
Between 1979 and 2015, China implemented the one-child policy to help curb the country’s population growth. The one-child policy meant that many second children were abandoned due to the country’s strict enforcement of the law. Parents who broke the law had to pay costly penalties and fines, ranging from three to six times a family’s annual income.
Female babies were disproportionately abandoned. Men inherit the family name and property and are traditionally responsible for the care of the elderly. The number of babies left behind is unknown; it is believed to be between hundreds of thousands and millions according to research conducted by Daniel Goodkind.
The one-child policy continues to have a major impact on Chinese culture and its people. Declining birth rates and even loss of female fertility have affected China’s current population, raising concerns about who will take care of its aging population and shrinking workforce. .
The cousins and their families traveled to China, where they spent the 2019 winter vacation together. Each cousin was able to travel to the place where she was discovered as a baby and to the orphanage where she spent his early years. They met nannies and aunts and spent time together while their families reminisced. The trip also gave each of them the opportunity to visit China’s sights like the Great Wall and temples.
Bolka and his cousins knew the chances of finding relatives would be slim, but they wanted to know more about their birthplace and culture. Traveling to China brought back memories and emotions that can only be understood by those who have had similar experiences.
Having Lipitz and Mangelsdorf by his side made the tough times easier, Bolka said.
“We’re all very close now and we got really close while we were in China,” Bolka said. “We had to do some pretty difficult things emotionally. It was something the three of us understood being embraced. We could count on each other. »
During his ancestral journey, Bolka learned that Liu Hao had found a potential match for his biological family and was awaiting DNA results. Bolka dreaded finding her biological family for fear of meeting a family that had abandoned her. Although the DNA didn’t end up matching, Bolka and his cousins met the family while in China.
“It was something I never thought I would do in my life,” Bolka said. “It was a bit sad not only for me but also for them. It brought up a lot of emotions that I didn’t know how to deal with, but it was really good to have Chloe and Sadie with me as a support system because that it was something I couldn’t talk about with my mom or the camera crew.”
Bolka explores her options to further her education with a Masters in Accounting and study for the CPA exam. Bolka and her cousins remain close and are in the early stages of their partnership with the Asian American Girl Club and Blue Shift Education. They are also collaborating with chef Kristen Kish to promote the film and share their story.
Bolka is not currently looking to find his biological family. She maintains a typical OSU student lifestyle and joined Alpha Chi Omega sorority and Beta Alpha Psi, an accounting fraternity. Her DNA is available to any family that seeks her out, but for now, she’s soaking up her first few months as an OSU graduate and looking forward to the future.