A BULGARIAN couple have been found to be the biological parents of a blonde child found in a Roma camp in Greece.
Tests found that the DNA of a woman thought to be Sasha Ruseva and her husband, Atanas Rusev, matched that of the child, Maria, who was found earlier this week at a Roma settlement outside Farsala, central Greece, a week ago.
Bulgarian prosecutors are investigating whether the mother agreed to sell her child in Greece.
Ms Ruseva, also a member of the Roma community, denies this, saying she left a seven-month old baby in Greece – where she worked as an olive-picker – in 2009 because she could not look after the child and needed to return to Bulgaria.
She since has had two more children after Maria.
“DNA analysis proved that Sasha Ruseva is the biological mother of the girl named Maria,” Interior Ministry chief commissioner Svetlozar Lazarov said. “It also showed Atanas Rusev as the biological father.”
Reports have shown the Rusev family – who are believed to have up to nine other children as well as Maria – living in a single room house in a Roma settlement in the village of Nikolaevo in Bulgaria. It has been claimed that Mr Rusev has an albino gene in his family, which could account for the blonde hair and fair complexion of Maria and some of her siblings.
Minka Ruseva, a 14-year-old who is one of the family’s children, said from her home in Bulgaria that she saw pictures of Maria on TV and thought she was her sister.
“I like her very much, she looks very much like me and I want her back home. We will take care of her and I can help my mother,” she said.
The Greek couple who originally claimed to be Maria’s parents have been jailed pending trial, and are also suspected of fraudulently obtaining birth certificates for 14 children..
A lawyer representing the Greek couple said yesterday that they planned to seek legal custody of the girl whom, he said, they regarded as their own daughter. The couple have told authorities they had received Maria after an informal adoption.
Under Greek law, child abduction charges can include cases where a minor is voluntarily given away by its parents outside the legal adoption process.
“Now that they’re in prison, there’s not much they can do,” their lawyer, Costas Katsavos, said.
“But 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.”
Maria, whose case has reminded some of the disappearance of three-year-old Briton Madeleine McCann in Portugal in 2007, is being looked after by a Greek charity, which says it has received more than 10,000 calls with leads or from parents of missing children.
Costas Yannopoulos, director of the children’s charity Smile of the Child, said that he had no comment on what will happen to her.
“We are dealing with the humanitarian side of this issue, looking after a young girl,” Mr Yannopoulos said.