Bulgarian woman says she may be mother of blonde ‘Maria’
Sasha Ruseva says she left child in Greece because she could not feed her
A poster of four-year-old girl “Maria”, who was found living with a couple in a Roma camp in central Greece, in the office of the Smile of the Child charity in Athens. Photograph: John Kolesidis/Reuters
Bulgarian police have questioned a Roma couple who say they may be the biological parents of the blonde girl named “Maria” found in a Roma camp in Greece last week, state television said today.
Local media in Bulgaria identified the Roma woman as Sasha Ruseva (38), from the town of Nikolaevo in the country’s south. She is believed to have given birth in a hospital in central Greece in January 2009, Bulgarian National Television BNT said.
Bulgarian police declined to comment. Footage shown on BNT showed the woman speaking outside a police station.
“I do not know whether she is mine or not. We had a child. We left it in Greece as I had nothing to feed her,” she told reporters. “I did not take any money. My daughter left with a man, so there was no one to look after the other children.”
Ms Ruseva and her husband, Atanas Rusev (36), have 10 children, five of whom are blonde and closely resemble the four-year-old girl found last week, BNT said, adding the woman had recognised “Maria” as her child after seeing TV footage.
The discovery of blue-eyed “Maria” during a police sweep in a Roma settlement in central Greece on October 16th sparked a global search for her real parents after DNA tests showed the Roma couple she was with were not her blood relatives.
The 40-year-old woman and 39-year-old man in the Greek case have been detained pending trial on charges of abducting a minor, but deny the accusations, saying the girl’s biological mother gave her up willingly because she could not look after her.
According to BNT, Ms Ruseva said she left her seven-month-old baby to a woman in Greece four years ago when she and her husband worked in the Greek town of Larissa but needed to go back to Bulgaria to take care of their other children.
The family lives in extreme poverty in a two-room home in a Roma camp in the southern town of Nikolaevo, BNT said.
Ms Ruseva said she was not completely certain that “Maria” was the child she had left in Greece, but that she would like to take her back if DNA tests prove the blonde girl is her child.
There are an estimated 10 million Roma - one of Europe’s oldest minorities - living across the Continent.
The Council of Europe, which monitors human rights, says they are also the most discriminated against minority on the Continent.