MINNESOTA (WCCO) – A Minnesota father is feeling complete this holiday season after meeting the family he never knew.
Born into extreme poverty in Romania, Alex Magaard’s mother put him up for adoption.READ MORE: Linda Johnson, 66, Identified As Victim In St. Paul Beating Death
Magaard has spent his life in Northern Minnesota. But, 23 years later he traveled back to Romania to meet the family that he has never forgotten.
More than 20 years later and their small faces still haunt.
Don Shelby’s reports exposed life in Romania after the fall of a communist ruler. Cramped orphanages filled with children living in deplorable conditions.
A half a world away, in the tiny town of Nevis, Minnesota, Wanda and Dick Maagard were watching.
“I just thought if we could help one child that would be really special,” Wanda Maagard said.
Unable to have children of their own, within months they were on a plane bound for Bucharest.
“Before we went over there we thought about a boy, and if we had a boy, we were going to name him Alexander,” Wanda recalled.
When the Maagard’s arrived in Romania they were led to a small village and inside a run-down home where they were handed a picture. A curly-haired, brown-eyed boy named Alexander.
“My heart just went out to him. We just knew it was him,” Wanda said.
They adopted Alex when he was 10-months old and ever since have filled photo albums of memories similar to many Minnesotans.
Alex is 24 now and lives in Detroit Lakes where he sells boat lifts and docks for a living.
“Even though we have the snow and the cold, it’s a great place to live,” Alex said.
He grew up always knowing where he came from. The Romanian flag flew outside his childhood home.
“Romania is important. They did this for us,” Dick Magaard said.
But, Alex would wonder about that life left behind.
“I did get more upset when I was younger about, Why couldn’t you leave me some sort of trail? Why couldn’t you be easier to find,” Alex said.
Feelings that only grew stronger when he had a daughter of his own.
“That’s my child. For me to give up her, it would have to be pretty dire circumstances to ever even consider putting her up for adoption,” Alex said.READ MORE: Domestic Assault Suspect Fled St. Cloud Police, Threatened Officers With Sword, Knife
This past spring, a Romanian TV show picked up on his story. The producers were tracking down what’s called that country’s lost generation.
Children that were either adopted, or forced to grow up in those overcrowded orphanages after the fall of Nicolae Ceusescu.
Within two weeks the show found his family.
Last month, with his parents, Alex flew to Romania to meet them.
“Just kind of nervous about the whole situation. I’m really looking forward to it, though,” Alex said.
As soon as he arrived, cameras clamored to follow his every move, and millions watched as he finally met the mother he never knew.
“You can see the sadness. You can see the wear and the tear of so many years,” Alex said.
His mother told Alex she regrets her decision to give him up every day. Without any money, she wasn’t allowed to take him home from the hospital.
“Now I understand why they did it and why they were put in the position that they were,” he said.
Alex also met his eight siblings. Their similarities are striking.
“That’s a part of me, and I’ve never been able to feel that before. It’s nice to feel that for once,” he said.
There are countless changes since that time 20 years ago. Still, for thousands from his generation it came too late.
“We often have talked and wondered where would he be today–if he would even have been alive today,” Dick said.
Many of the children who were never adopted now live on the streets. Even in Alex’s own family, his siblings finished just two years of school.
It’s why despite their deep connection, there is a feeling of gratitude.
“We’re grateful that she gave us a gift,” Wanda said.
The gift of family fate delivered.
“Thank you for giving me the life you gave me, and thank you for choosing what you chose for me,” Alex said to his birth mother.MORE NEWS: 3 Killed In Weekend Crash In Western Wisconsin
Alex hopes to go back to Romania next year with his long-time girlfriend to get married.