In 2009, during a late-night internet search, Chris Valdheims discovered a website dedicated to his grandfather – Latvian geometric artist and philosopher Zanis Waldheims.
Since being adopted from foster care at seven years old, Chris knew little about what had happened to his biological family. The site he found held many answers – but raised disturbing questions about the historical tragedies and systemic forces that culminated in Chris being separated from his family as a child.
Ultimately, Chris’ discovery led him to seek answers in North America and Europe while connecting with distant relatives from Russia, Latvia, and Germany who could illuminate his family’s fate.
Chris characterized his discovery process as a “hero’s journey” that ultimately helped him learn more about himself and his place in the world. He turned the whole experience into a book he is editing for publication.
During this journey, Chris learned more about his mother, Valda Valdheims, whom he had not seen since being adopted and who passed away when he turned 18. He learned about her life as a child in Latvia, her time as a refugee following the Second World War, and finally, about her work as a radical activist in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Chris’ father was a Black physicist whom his mother met while working as a librarian at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chris is currently confirming his father’s identity, an undertaking complicated because his father may have been one of the astronauts who died aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986.
Chris reverted to his birth name in 2022 after going by his adopted name since 1984. Chris also has six adopted siblings, each from different birth families.
He currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two boys. He is the founder of Counsel for Creators (a law firm that pioneered offering legal services to creatives on a subscription basis). He produces a podcast about creativity and his story called Hypermemoir.