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See 'Maria's' Roma community
03:27 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

"They didn't sell the girl," says boy who claims to be Maria's brother

"I didn't have any food to give to the kid," purported mother says

DNA test will be done Friday to determine if Bulargian woman's claim is true

Greece authorities took Maria from Roma home last week

CNN  — 

A Bulgarian woman claims she is the mother of the blond, blue-eyed girl taken by police from a Roma couple in Greece last week.

The mystery of “Maria,” who is believed to be 5 to 6 years old, prompted an international search for the girl’s biological family and answers to how she ended up in a Roma community in central Greece.

The woman told Bulgarian investigators that she left the girl in Greece with a family she worked for in 2009, Bulgarian Interior Ministry General Secretary Svetlozar Lazarov said Thursday.

“We gave her, we gifted her, without money,” Sashka Ruseva told Bulgaria’s TV7 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.”

Maria’s photograph has been broadcast worldwide.

Her 15-year-old son also spoke to reporters outside of the police station where they were questioned. Isak Ruseva said his mother “became sad and started crying” when she saw the child in television Wednesday.

“They didn’t sell the girl,” he said. “They didn’t have money to come back and that’s why they left her.”

CNN visits Roma community where ‘Maria’ was found

DNA testing set for Friday

A DNA sample will be taken from Ruseva on Friday for comparison with the child in Greece, Lazarov told CNN. Greek officials did not respond when CNN asked if they were providing the child’s DNA results to Bulgarian authorities.

Greek authorities charged the Roma couple who had Maria until last week – Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, and Christos Salis, 39 – Roma couple with abducting the child. They appeared in court Monday and were both remanded into custody pending trial.

Authorities initially asked questions about Maria because she has fair skin and blond hair, while the couple who said they were her parents have darker complexions typical of Roma, a people descended from Indian nomads and who face widespread discrimination in Europe.

Medical tests showed she wasn’t their daughter, authorities have said. The girl’s DNA didn’t match any profile in Interpol’s database, the international law enforcement agency said Tuesday.

Their lawyers say the couple took the child into their home after her biological mother, who they say was from Bulgaria, was unable to look after her.

Residents of the Roma community backed that assertion in interviews with CNN.

“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.”

Interpol said Greek authorities have asked for its help in finding out Maria’s identity. “Until now, a comparison of the girl’s profile against Interpol’s global DNA database has not produced a match,” Interpol said in a news release.