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DNA from Roma girl 'Maria' matches that of Bulgarian couple

By CNN Staff
updated 5:21 PM EDT, Fri October 25, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: DNA tests back Bulgarian Roma couple's claim to be Maria's parents
  • NEW: It's unclear what will happen to the girl, who's now with a Greek children's charity
  • In a separate case, a Greek couple is accused of buying a Roma baby
  • The couple said they wanted the baby because they had no children, authorities say

(CNN) -- DNA tests prove that a Roma couple living in Bulgaria are the biological parents of a blond, blue-eyed girl seized from another Roma couple in Greece, the Bulgarian Interior Ministry said Friday.

The DNA tests confirm that Sashka Ruseva and Atanas Rusev are the biological parents of the girl known as "Maria," according to the Interior Ministry.

Sashka Ruseva came forward Thursday to say that she is the girl's mother and that she left her in the care of a couple she had worked for in Bulgaria in 2009.

"We gave her, we gifted her, without money," she told Bulgaria's TV7 on Thursday. "I didn't take any money. I didn't have any food to give to the kid. I saw it yesterday and I've been sick. I haven't eaten since last night."

Hard times for Greece's Roma
Mystery girl found in Greece

What will happen to the girl now is unclear. She is in the care of the Greek children's charity Smile of the Child, said the group's spokesman, Panagiotis Pardalis.

Authorities took her from the Greek Roma couple last month after her appearance raised questions about her origins. Her features didn't appear to be similar to those of the couple, who have darker complexions typical of Roma.

Greek authorities charged the Roma couple living in Greece -- Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, and Christos Salis, 39 -- with abducting the child. They appeared in court Monday and were remanded into custody pending trial.

Medical tests showed she wasn't their daughter, authorities have said. Their lawyers said the couple took Maria, believed to be 5 or 6 years old, into their home after her biological mother, who they say was from Bulgaria, was unable to look after her.

CNN visits Roma community where 'Maria' was found

Residents of the Roma community where the girl lived said the story is true.

"Maria used to play here with the other children and go to the store with her mum; Maria was not hidden away," Maria Kaleas said. "The mother gave her away and Eleftheria was enchanted by Maria's beauty. She shared the food for her own children with Maria."

Roma, who descended from Indian nomads, face widespread discrimination in Europe.

Longstanding prejudice in Greece and elsewhere in Europe depicts them as a people who steal children for forced labor, Amnesty International has said.

Authorities have produced no evidence that that was the case with Maria, although the Greek government news agency raised "the possibility of the existence of a ring bringing pregnant women to Greece from Bulgaria and then taking their children for sale."

Photo blog: The plight of the Roma

The agency cited past reports that empty coffins had been found for infants who supposedly were stillborn to foreign mothers in Athens.

In a separate case, a Greek couple was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of buying a Roma baby from the child's mother, Greek police said Friday.

The suspects, ages 53 and 48, are accused of buying the child in March for 4,000 euros ($5,510), police said in a statement. They were to appear in court Friday to face charges.

The couple is alleged to have sought the baby because they had no children of their own, police said.

In yet another case involving Roma and children, Irish authorities this week returned a blond, blue-eyed girl to her Roma parents after DNA tests confirmed she is their daughter, a source familiar with the case's legal proceedings told CNN on Wednesday.

Police, acting on a tip, had removed the 7-year-old from a home Monday and placed her in protective care before returning her to her parents.

The Roma: A thousand years of discrimination continues in Europe

Journalist Elinda Labropoulou contributed to this report.

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