Maria mystery: Tests confirm Bulgarian Roma couple are her parents

Mother claimed she gave birth to a girl while working in Greece but could not afford to take her back to Bulgaria

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The Independent Online

DNA tests have confirmed that the child known as Maria is the daughter of Bulgarian Roma couple Sasha Ruseva and Atanas Rusev, Bulgarian officials have announced.

The discovery of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl living with a Roma family in Greece last week sparked an international investigation after DNA tests proved the girl was not biologically related to a couple who initially claimed to be her parents.

Speaking to Bulgarian TV yesterday, Ruseva said that she gave birth to a girl while working in Greece but that she had to leave the child because she didn't have enough money to take her home at seven months of age.

“I intended to go back and take my child home, but meanwhile I gave birth to two more kids so I was not able to go back,” Ruseva said, insisting that she did not get paid for giving up the girl.

Ruseva was tracked down to a Roma settlement in Nikolaevo, Bulgaria by Greek website who published Ms Ruseva's identity card and what they claimed was a birth certificate for Maria, which registered her date of birth as 31 January 2009.

Maria is currently in the care of Greek charity The Smile of the Child. They were unable to comment on what would happen to the child now the identity of her biological parents had been established.

Christos Salis and Eletheria Dimopoulou, aged 39 and 40, have been arrested and charged with abduction and document fraud. They claim they received the child from a destitute Bulgarian woman and raised her with her own five children.

Under Greek law, child abduction charges can include cases where a minor is voluntarily given away by its parents outside the legal adoption process.

Costas Katsavos, the lawyer representing the Greek couple said Friday they planned to seek legal custody of the fair-haired girl, according to the Associated Press.

"Provided what we said is borne out, that it was not an abduction, then logically they will be released from prison and they will be able to enter a proper (adoption) process. They truly and ardently want her back," Katsavos said.