My Name is Victoria: The Extraordinary Story of one Woman's Struggle to Reclaim her True Identityby Victoria Donda
Argentina’s coup d’état in 1976 led to one of the bloodiest dictatorships in its history—thirty thousand people were abducted, tortured, and subsequently “disappeared.” And hundreds of babies born to pregnant political prisoners were stolen from their doomed mothers and “given” to families with military ties or who
Argentina’s coup d’état in 1976 led to one of the bloodiest dictatorships in its history—thirty thousand people were abducted, tortured, and subsequently “disappeared.” And hundreds of babies born to pregnant political prisoners were stolen from their doomed mothers and “given” to families with military ties or who were collaborators of the regime. Analía was one of these children, raised without suspecting that she was adopted. At twenty seven, she learned that her name wasn’t what she believed it to be, that her parents weren’t her real parents, and that the farce conceived by the dictatorship had managed to survive through more than two decades of democracy.
In My Name is Victoria, it is no longer Analía, but Victoria who tells us her story, in her own words: the life of a young and thriving middleclass woman from the outskirts of Buenos Aires with strong political convictions. Growing up, she thought she was the black sheep of the family with ideas diametrically opposed to her parents’. It wasn’t until she discovered the truth about her origins and the shocking revelation of her uncle’s involvement in her parents’ murder and in her kidnapping and adoption that she was able to fully embrace her legacy. Today, as the youngest member of congress in Argentina, she has reclaimed her identity and her real name: Victoria Donda. This is Victoria’s story, from the moment her parents were abducted to the day she was elected to parliament.
“Donda deftly leads readers through Argentina’s Byzantine history of guerrilla groups, dictatorships, coups and military policies, providing a solid foundation for understanding the political and social upheavals underpinning her story…Donda’s captivating account of her surreal role in pulling back the curtain on one of the darkest periods of Argentine history merits a wide readership.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A powerful story of a woman who defies all odds and learns her true identity, and succeeds. Victoria Donda’s journey to claim her identity is exemplary, and refreshing. She represents a generational change and promise for Argentina. I highly recommend this book. You will come out stronger and full of optimism about life. The narrative is spellbinding.” —David Cox, CNN journalist, author of Dirty Secrets, Dirty War and Unveiling the Enigma: Who Stole the Hands of Juan Peron
“This extraordinary book is a gift from the generous heart and bright intellect of Victoria Donda, who was the 78th grandchild identified by the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo. Victoria’s triumph is to take us to the core of her resilience–her determination to fight for her dignity and her identity, while she leads the reader through the maze of Argentine politics and history. Empowered and empowering, My Name is Victoria sheds light on our quest to recover from a collective tragedy, to resist destruction at the hands of the powerful, to keep loving when an avalanche of hatred threatens our sanity.” —Alicia Partnoy, author of The Little School: Tales of Disappearance and Survival
The youngest member of the Argentine National Congress reveals the gruesome story of her uncle's involvement in her birth parents' murder, her kidnapping and adoption and the shock waves the truth created in her life.
Born in captivity in a military prison to a mother she never knew, Donda chronicles the painful discovery of her true identity. At the age of 27, the author learned that she was the daughter of one of the "disappeared," one of "the thirty thousand people who were kidnapped, tortured, and eventually killed" by the military dictatorship beginning in the 1970s. Analía, as she was known, always perceived a gulf between herself and the couple she knew as her parents. "From my earliest years, I've had a rebellious, contentious nature that was diametrically opposed to that of the man and woman who raised me whom I believed to be my parents," writes the author. At an early age, Donda became active in social-justice movements and helping the poor. As her political commitments deepened during the '90s, the author rebelled against the right-wing ideology of her middle-class suburban parents. When she learned the identities of her real parents and how they died, she was forced to confront the truth: "I was thus raised in a brazen lie, knowing nothing of my true roots and loving the very people who benefited from the tragic fate of my real parents." Donda deftly leads readers through Argentina's Byzantine history of guerrilla groups, dictatorships, coups and military policies, providing a solid foundation for understanding the political and social upheavals underpinning her story. As "the first baby stolen by the military to play an official role in the political life of her country," the author serves as a witness to its horrific past and its hopeful future.
Donda's captivating account of her surreal role in pulling back the curtain on one of the darkest periods of Argentine history merits a wide readership.
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Read an Excerpt
I was twenty-seven years old when the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo finally tracked me down and informed me of my true identity, thanks to an anonymous tip from a woman who remembered seeing a soldier hand over a baby with blue thread tied through her earlobes.
According to the testimony of certain survivors, I was born between August and September, 1977. In a desperate attempt to make sure I would be recognized, my mother used a sewing needle to pierce my ears with blue surgical thread she had been given in case she experienced complications during labor. Fifteen days later, I was taken from her arms. She never saw me again. She was subjected to one of the infamous “transfers,” in which prisoners were injected with sodium pentothal, a powerful form of anesthesia, before being loaded onto military planes and thrown into the sea alive. Like all his colleagues at ESMA (the Superior School of Naval Mechanics), which had been transformed into one of the most sinister torture centers in the heart of Buenos Aires, my own uncle had approved her “transfer.”
I was thus raised in a brazen lie, knowing nothing of my true roots and loving the very people who, to a greater or lesser degree, were responsible for the tragic fate of my real parents. Despite this, I grew up, constructed my own personality, and managed to find my place in life through political activism, never once suspecting that I was following the path my biological parents had chosen long before.
Meet the Author
Victoria Donda is a human rights activist and legislator. She is the first daughter of a disappeared person, born in captivity, to become a member of the Argentine National Congress. She is also the youngest woman to hold that office.
Magda Bogin is a novelist, translator, and journalist. She is the author of Natalya, God’s Messenger, and The Women Troubadours, and has published numerous translations, including House of the Spirits. Fluent in Spanish, English, French, Italian, and Russian, she is the founder and director of Under the Volcano.
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I ENJOYED READING THIS BOOK, LOTS OF INFORMATION BUT ALSO A VERY HUMAN STORY, I ADMIRE VICTORIA'S STRENGTH AND ABILITY TO SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH ABOUT HER PARENTS NO MATTER WHAT. I HAD HEARD A LOT OF STORIES ABOUT THE POLITICS IN SOUTH AMERICA WHILE IN COLLEGE, THIS BOOK MADE THE STORIES REAL AND THE PEOPLE INVOLVED MORE REAL.