StoryCorps at SHC: Dania Saarony & Leah Groppo

“I just think the world of you

Dania Saarony (DS): So Leah, can you tell me when you first knew that you were adopted?

Leah Groppo (LG): Yeah, of course. I am of South Korean Asian descent. I have long black hair and brown eyes. And if you were to look at my family, everybody has green eyes and either brown hair, blonde hair or red hair. So as I was growing up, I always knew. I just never looked like my family and so it was never a big conversation that had to be unleashed when I was older, it was always like, you were really chosen, that you came from a place and became part of our family. And I have two siblings, two brothers, and we're just a family. You're either adopted or you're not adopted, but you're all family. What about you?

DS: I also grew up knowing. I had cousins who were adopted. My best friend who was two doors down on my street was adopted. So in my life it was just a very celebrated part of who we were. And I also have a brother. He was born five years after I was adopted. So my parents always say, I was their greatest gift and he was their biggest miracle, because they just were not able to have babies.

LG: How old were you when you were adopted?

DS: I was three weeks old and I was adopted into this big Italian family in Upstate New York. And there's like this really sweet story that my parents went to the foster home to visit me and that I was just like a pink little rosebud. So that was my nickname for a long time.

LG: When I first came to America from Korea, I was actually three months old. We have so many parallels. I flew into LAX and my parents at the time they lived in Livermore. That is probably a 10 to 12 hour drive with young kids, but they drove to LAX and they actually arrived five hours early because they just didn't want to miss the flight. And I was like the last baby to come off the plane. And they always say their life was never ever the same after I arrived.

DS: Wow. How unreal, they drive to LAX as a family of four and they leave as a family of five.

LG: Yeah.

DS: I wanted to ask, when you were younger, did your family celebrate the day that you were adopted? Some people call it a got you day.

LG: Yeah, we call it the got you day. Yes. And we would always have Korean food, so we'd go to a Korean restaurant and we would literally order everything and we would have this huge feast and whoever can come comes and it's super fun. And so now in my career I'm a dietician, so I'm all about food, all about eating and experiencing the world through food.

DS: Yeah. And I do think that's part of the reason why I went into nutrition, right? Because so much of everything that was celebrated was anchored in food. I would spend so much time with my grandparents cooking and baking from when I was really young and it just became such a big part of who I am.

LG: I mean, my adopted family is also Italian, and so food is like the center. And I think both of our philosophies on nutrition even are just that food really nourishes our body and our soul, and I think that that really stems maybe from our childhood.

DS: Yeah, it's interesting. Even though our stories are different in a lot of ways, I feel very similarly to you with such a special connection we share and we've got to see each other grow a lot over the past 10 years. And I've always just loved spending time with you and I cherish our friendship and I just think the world of you.

LG: It's so mutual, so mutual.

Sound Editor: Emily Hsiao

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