The Bulgarian Roma family, who wrongly reported a girl named Maria to be an abducted western European child when she was found in Greece last week, wants her back but fears social services will keep her forever.
“Give us Maria! We will take her home and share our bread with her,” her eldest sister Katia Ruseva said Saturday in the central Bulgarian town of Gurkovo, where she lives with her husband and two children.
“We will not give her away for anything in the world,” the 20-year-old said.
After she was found living with a Roma couple in a camp in Greece on October 16, Maria’s blond hair and green eyes were beamed on TV screens worldwide, making her a poster child for dozens of Western parents with missing children.
However, on Friday DNA testing confirmed the parents of “the little blond angel” to be a Roma couple living in dire poverty in central Bulgaria.
The case revealed entrenched prejudice toward the Roma community and revived investigations into child trafficking but the girl’s sister, who also has hay blond hair and freckles, insisted her parents did not sell Maria.
“I used to care for my eight brothers and sisters when my parents worked in Greece. When they came back, mum told me they had left a baby there. She did not have the money to pay for its passport,” Katia said.
Her parents, Sasha Ruseva and Atanas Rusev, disappeared from their home in the nearby town of Nikolaevo on Friday morning, together with three of their children.
Police said they were still in Bulgaria and not under arrest.
Maria’s mother had told Bulgarian media earlier that she would take her daughter back if the DNA results were positive. However, she is now under investigation for allegedly selling her girl in 2009, when Maria was seven months old.