Monday, February 21, 2022
Bailey Stacy | Communications Coordinator, Marketing & Communications | 405-744-2700 | firstname.lastname@example.org
There are a lot of questions when you don’t know about your past.
Being adopted can stir up feelings of abandonment and curiosity about your family
history. Wondering if you look more like your mom or dad, if you have any siblings,
cousins, aunts or uncles. Searching for answers may take a lifetime, but if you’re
lucky you’ll find one person or maybe two who know exactly how you feel because they
are wondering too.
Lily Bolka is an Oklahoma State University accounting senior who was adopted as a
baby from China and discovered through DNA testing she has two cousins who were also
adopted and in the U.S. Together they embark on a journey to find any connections
to their birth families in China. Bolka and her cousins, Chloe Lipitz and Sadie Mangelsdorf,
star in the Netflix documentary, “Found.”
Filming for “Found” wrapped in early 2020 and missed out on being entered into film festivals due to the
pandemic. Netflix was interested in the film and won the bid. “Found” premiered in October 2021 on Netflix to positive audience and critical reviews. The film maintains
high praise from movie critics for the “New York Times,” “The Hollywood Reporter,” “The Chicago Tribune,” “The L.A. Times,” as well as websites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.
During high school, Bolka was curious about her past as emotions and feelings began
to reveal themselves as she grew older. She took a DNA test and was satisfied with
the results, not expecting to uncover any more family history. A few months later,
she was contacted by a film director who told Bolka she has two cousins around her
age living in the U.S. who were also adopted.
The film director, Amanda Lipitz, is the aunt of Chloe Lipitz.
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 the south China region of Guangzhao. Bolka and Lipitz were at the
same orphanage only a few years apart.
The cousins met for the first time through a video call coordinated by the film crew.
As they grew closer, all of their calls stopped being filmed and they had a chance
to really get to know each other.
Bolka filmed throughout her college career and the film crew often came to the Stillwater
campus during game days, as well as Oklahoma City to film with her mom.
Bolka experienced highs and lows during filming and battled with the desire to find
her birth family and get the answers to questions she had long been asking — all while
balancing school and other responsibilities. Bolka often had to miss class to film
and travel. Filming could sometimes be tedious and took a toll on her emotions, but
she found her professors to be very accommodating to her schedule and her mental health.
“One of the things that stood out to me was when [Professor Rachel Dominick] asked
how my mental health was during a Zoom meeting. I had never been asked that by a professor,”
Bolka said. “For me, [filming] was really scary sometimes but I just got so used to
it. So it was really nice that she made sure that I was OK and checked in on me.”
The cousins worked with genealogist and private investigator Liu Hao, who works in
China finding answers in identity and possibly finding DNA matches with families who
had to give up their children because of China’s one-child policy.
Between 1979 and 2015, China implemented the one-child policy to help curb the country’s
seemingly exponential population growth. The one-child policy meant many second children
were abandoned because of the nation’s strict enforcement of the law. Parents who
did not adhere to the law were expected to pay expensive penalties and fines, ranging
anywhere between three to six times a family’s annual income.
Female babies were disproportionately given up. Males inherit the family name and
property and are traditionally responsible for caring for the elderly. The number
of babies that have been given up is unknown. It is thought to be anywhere from the
hundreds of thousands to millions, according to research conducted by Daniel Goodkind.
The one-child policy continues to have major repercussions on Chinese culture and
its people. Lower birth rates and even loss of fertility in women have affected the
current population in China, raising concerns for who will look after its aging population
and the shrinking workforce.
The cousins and their families traveled to China where they spent the 2019 winter
holidays together. Each cousin was able to go to the place where they were discovered
as babies and the orphanages where they spent their early days. They met nannies and
aunts and spent time together as their families reminisced. The trip also gave each
of them a chance to visit the tourist spots in China like the Great Wall and temples.
Bolka and her cousins were aware that the chances of finding any relatives would be
slim, but they wanted to learn about where they were born and their culture. Traveling
to China brought back memories and emotions that could only be understood by those
who have had similar experiences. Having Lipitz and Mangelsdorf by her side made the
hard moments easier, Bolka said.
“We are all really close now and got closer while we were in China,” Bolka said. “We
had to do some pretty hard things, emotionally. It was something all three of us understood
being adopted. We could rely on each other.”
On her ancestral journey, Bolka learned the genealogist had found a potential match
for her birth family and was waiting for DNA results. Bolka was apprehensive about
finding her birth family for fear of meeting a family who had abandoned her. Although
the DNA did not end up being a match, Bolka and her cousins met the family while they
were in China.
“It was something I never thought I would be doing in my life,” Bolka said. “It was
a little sad not just for me but for them, too. It brought on a lot of emotions that
I didn’t know how to handle, but it was really good having Chloe and Sadie there with
me as a support system because it was something I couldn’t talk about with my mom
or the film crew.”
Bolka is exploring her options to continue her education with a master’s in accounting
and studying for the CPA exam. Bolka and her cousins remain close and are in the early
stages of partnering 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
Bolka is not currently pursuing finding her birth 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 looking for her but, for now, she is
soaking in her last few months as an OSU student and looking forward to the future.